As a Holistic Nutritionist, many clients seek out my services in search of an effective detox plan. Undergoing a cleanse or detox program has become all the rage in recent years, but the key to truly reaping the benefits of any detoxification plan lies in a genuine understanding of the how and why.
Remember, not all detox programs are created equal, and embarking on a cleanse or detox without the proper knowledge can actually do more harm than good.
While there are tons of approaches and pre-designed programs that you can purchase online and follow, when deciding which detoxification program is right for you, know that the first step to any good detox should absolutely begin with breaking sugar addiction.
What are the dangers of sugar?
To understand why it is of utmost importance to focus your detox efforts on sugar detox first and foremost, let’s take a look at 5 of the many ways in which sugar reeks absolute havoc on the body:
1. Sugar is an Anti-Nutrient
The term “anti-nutrient” refers to a nutrient that offers no benefits to the body, and actually takes away nutrients. Another common term for this is an empty calorie. In fact, we end up using up more nutrients in the energy it takes to process and assimilate refined sugar in the diet than any benefit it might give us. Sugar contains no protein, no essential fatty acids, and certainly no vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients.
2. A Diet High in Fructose Harms the Liver
One of the primary reasons that a good cleanse should begin with sugar detox, is that sugar is high in fructose, which goes directly to the liver upon consumption. As opposed to glucose, which is found in nature and is a type of sugar that the body actually needs (to a certain extent), there is no physiological need for fructose. In his excellent documentary titled “Sugar, The Bitter Truth,” Dr. Robert Lustig explains that fructose can only be metabolized by the liver, which can cause serious problems if consumed in excess. (1)
3. Excess Sugar Consumption Can Lead to Insulin Resistance
Insulin is the hormone that escorts glucose (blood sugar) into our cells, and sends our cells the message to burn glucose instead of fat. However, if you have chronically high blood glucose levels (which is actually toxic in and of itself) this can lead to serious complications like diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
4. Sugar Suppresses the Immune System and Could Cause Cancer
Contrary to popular belief, a giant glass of orange juice when we are sick is not the best way to get better. In his widely known research conducted in the 1970s (2) , Linus Pauling discovered that sugar and vitamin C have similar chemical structures, and the two (very different) compounds actually compete for space in our white blood cells. This means that the more sugar we eat, the lower our vitamin C content becomes. Vitamin C is a powerful immune-boosting and infection-preventing antioxidant, and is put directly in harms way when being forced to compete with sugar. As noted above, sugar also has devastating affects on our metabolism, which can also lead to cancer cell proliferation.
5. Sugar is the Leading Cause of Obesity
Plain and simple, sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption makes you fat. Sugar directly affects insulin and cortisol, two hormones that play a key role in fat storage. A study released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition connects consumption of high-fructose corn syrup with America’s obesity epidemic (3), and other forms of sugar certainly have similar outcomes. Read my article on common weight loss mistakes to learn other leading causes of obesity, and weight loss resistance.
And remember, these are just a few of the reasons that sugar detox is essential for health! If you’re not convinced yet, check out this article by Authority Nutrition, which includes even more scary reasons to avoid sugar like the plague.
Do I need a sugar detox?
Take a look at this list and consider if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• Foggy brain/poor memory
• Frequent sugar and carbohydrate cravings
• A history of refined sugar consumption
• Regular headaches
• Low energy/energy dips and spikes
• Mood swings and excessive irritability
• Muscles pain not associated with exercise
• Excessive thirst
• Increased hunger
In reality, even if you are one of the lucky ones who do not experience some or all of these symptoms, the truth is that everyone can benefit from a simple sugar detox.
How to Do a Simple 24 Hour Sugar Detox
Start with 24 hours, and if you feel good and motivated to keep going, please do! Most habits (dietary and other) can be both created and broken within approximately three weeks, so a three to four week sugar detox is even better.
The goal of your sugar detox is to maintain stable blood sugar levels by breaking the vicious cycle of a high carbohydrate and sugar-based diet. Foods that consist mainly of carbohydrates (and particularly when not accompanied by high quality protein and fat), instantly work to spike our blood sugar levels, which energizes us for a short period of time, and then causes a sudden energy dip. We then find ourselves craving more of the same foods and beverages in order to recover our crashing energy levels, and thus repeats the cycle.
For 24 hours, minimize not only refined sugar, but all foods that provide a sweet sensation:
• All sweet sensations add to a spike in insulin levels.
• Artificial sweeteners are linked to a host of problems such as migraines, dizziness, mood disorders, vision and heart problems, insomnia, and more. Best to avoid.
• While fruit contains natural sugar, during a sugar detox, it is best to avoid.
Completely avoid for 24 hours:
• Aspartame (equal)
• Saccharin (sweet n low)
• Stevia that is white (truvia)
• Sucralose (splenda)
• HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)
• Maple syrup
• Agave syrup
• Date, palm, and coconut sugar
• Fruit juice
• All Fruit
• All packaged/processed foods (if it has an ingredient list, avoid it)
• Refined carbohydrates including bread, bagels, brownies, cakes, candy, cereal, chips, cookies, crackers, cupcakes, muffins, oats, pasta, spaghetti, pastries, pizza, popcorn, tortillas, and couscous.
• No diet or sugar-free foods (highly processed)
• Vegetables to avoid include potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, corn
Foods to include in your sugar detox:
• All meat (opt for grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised whenever possible)
• Wild caught fish
• All vegetables except those mentioned above
• Raw nuts and seeds and their butters including almonds, walnuts, pecans, sesame, hemp, and flax seeds.
• Good fats including avocado, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, olive, sesame and flax oils.
• Herbal teas
• Unsweetened almond and coconut milk
While any detox can certainly be challenging, the beauty lies within the fact that the better we feel, the more we are motivated to create long-lasting diet and lifestyle changes. Breaking sugar addiction through a simple sugar detox is an excellent place to start, and might just lead you to a lifetime of healthier eating.