Sugar is ubiquitous, cropping up in most of the processed foods and beverages on the market. Too much added sugar in your diet can depress your immune system and increase your risk of obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It can also promote depression, anxiety and cognitive problems. If you’re feeling dependent on the sweet stuff and want to kick the habit, you can cleanse your body of refined sugar by cutting it out of your diet for a specific length of time.
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Preparing for Your Cleanse
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of “The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet,” sugar is more addictive than cocaine. With that in mind, Hyman advises that the best way to cleanse your body of sugar is by going cold turkey for a set period of time, such as 10 days -- eliminating the substance completely, as you would if you were trying to beat alcohol or drug addiction. That means not just avoiding table sugar, but also the sneaky sugars in processed foods and sweetened beverages like soda, bottled tea, fruit juice and sports drinks. Read labels and get rid of any foods or beverages in your pantry containing ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, nectar, those ending in “-ose” and those ending in “sugar” or “syrup.”
You may be tempted to replace the sugar in your diet with artificial sweeteners, but this could backfire. Artificial sweeteners may provide a very short-term solution when you’re weaning from regular sugar, says the Harvard School of Public Health, but the jury is still out on whether artificial sweeteners over the long term actually promote overeating, weight gain and metabolic changes that can lead to Type 2 diabetes. In addition, Harvard Health Publications cites animal studies that suggest artificial sweeteners may be addictive, too.
Whole Foods Regimen
Hyman says the best way to detox from sugar is to commit to a whole foods diet -- those foods that don’t come in boxes, cans or bottles. Whole foods include fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meat, fish, nuts, seeds and healthy fats like avocados and olive oil. Hyman stresses protein in particular because it keeps you satiated and helps curb cravings. In one small study of teenage girls, published in “Obesity” in 2011, those who increased their protein intake at breakfast for one week reduced both their appetites and their reward-driven eating behaviors.
Choosing Good Carbs
When you’re cleansing your body of sugar, you don’t have to avoid carbs -- you just need to choose the right ones. Avoid refined carbs like white breads, pasta, sodas and baked goods, and opt for carbs from vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, eggplant, artichokes and peppers. For the best results, Hyman recommends avoiding grains, beans and starchy vegetables for the duration of your detox, while you reset your internal sweetness monitor. If you must have something sweet while you’re avoiding refined sugar, opt for a small piece of low-sugar fruit like an apple or orange.
- AskDrSears.com: Harmful Effects of Excess Sugar
- Psychology Today: 4 Ways Sugar Could be Harming Your Mental Health
- Dr. Hyman: Top 10 Big Ideas: How to Detox From Sugar
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Are Added Sugars?
- Harvard School of Public Health: Artificial Sweeteners
- Harvard Health Publications: Artificial Sweeteners: Sugar Free, but at What Cost?
- Obesity: Neural Responses to Visual Food Stimuli After a Normal vs. Higher Protein Breakfast in Breakfast-Skipping Teens