10% of people in the U.S. are addicted to sugar. The word addiction is no accident; studies now suggest that sugar induces a reward stimulus in the brain similar to that of illegal drugs.
This makes the brain dependent upon sugar, and induces cravings, which in turn, feed the brain’s dependency on sugar. It truly is a vicious cycle.
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a sugar addict, the body and brain can always benefit from sugar reduction. Here is where the “sugar detox” comes into play.
Any sugar detox should also include artificial sweeteners. Even though they don’t technically contain “sugar”, they have a big impact on brain and body. Recent studies have found that artificial sweeteners actually cause the body to hold onto more body fat, and can increase appetite and encourage over-eating.
Expect to be moody and cranky when you first give up sugar. The brain and the body are not going to be happy that you are taking that stimulant away, however, once you get through the “withdrawal period” you’ll have more pep and energy than ever before.
Having trouble remembering your grocery list, your boss’s wife’s name, or where you left your keys? Research has shown that a diet high in sugar can hinder memory and learning ability. Over time, consuming excess sugar can actually cause damage to the cells in your brain and affect the way they communicate with the body.
Not only will your brain work better without sugar, but your entire body will benefit, as well. Excess sugar doesn’t just affect your pancreas, insulin, and blood sugar levels. It triggers elevations in blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate, and can make you more susceptible to certain forms of cancer.
By quitting sugar, you will not only improve your blood sugar, but you may also benefit from a decrease in cholesterol and blood pressure. This will reduce risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, cancers, and a host of other diabetes-related complications.
When you decide to take control of your health and quit sugar, there are many considerations to take into account. Let’s talk about what 30 days with no refined sugar would look (and taste) like!
In the first three days, you would consume no added sugar, but also no fruits, starchy vegetables (like corn, sweet potatoes, or peas), no grains, no dairy, and no alcohol. The key is to focus on protein, healthy fats, and vegetables. Drink plenty of water, along with black coffee or unsweetened tea if desired.
On day four, add an apple and one dairy product every day. That apple will taste like candy after three days with no sugar! Keep in mind that all dairy products should be full-fat and unsweetened. The less fat something contains, the more sugar it contains. This is especially crucial for diabetics.
Higher-starch vegetables like carrots and snow peas can be added back too, along with three glasses of red wine per week.
During week two, you can add a serving of fresh berries and an additional serving of dairy. Starchier vegetables like sweet potatoes can also be re-introduced at this point.
For week three, you can bring back grains like quinoa, barley, and oats. The additions of a fourth glass of wine per week, and an ounce of dark chocolate a day make week three quite pleasant indeed!
Week four is maintenance mode. Whole-grain breads and brown rice can come back, along with high-fiber wheat crackers. After 31 days, all fruits are up for grabs, and you are free to enjoy five glasses of red wine per week!
Now keep in mind, this is one of many “sugar detox” guideline examples. By no means does it mean that this one is the right one for you. It’s always best to speak with your healthcare team before embarking on diet changes, especially those of the “detox” variety.
One thing is for sure, a reduction in sugar equals an improvement in health!