In a world that is saturated with sugar and processed food you may well have heard the term ‘sugar detox’ and wondered what it’s all about?
Why should you need to ‘detox’ from something as innocent as sugar? It’s not like it’s alcohol? Or tobacco? Or even drugs…is it?
How much are you eating? What is it doing to you? Can you stop? Why do people do the 21 Day Sugar Detox Program?
Well read on, because you might be surprised!
There are literally millions of people around the world who are addicted to sugar, and most simply have no idea just how deeply they are dependent on the stuff. Because sugar is everywhere, and comes packaged in bright sweet wrappers, fun looking boxes of cereal, cool bottles and cans of soda or tempting looking packs of cookies and cakes, it has just become an everyday part of our normal daily lives.
People consume it daily in so many different forms without giving it a single thought, completely unaware that they may have a sugar addiction.
But once you get past all of the obvious ‘sweet’ foods and drinks, you might be surprised where else you can find sugar, and you may well be eating it without even knowing, because it also hides in places you might never expect.
Often sugar will be hidden in foods that claim to be ‘healthy’ like ‘low fat’ yoghurt, where the taste from the fat has been replaced with loads of sugar.
Or crunchy oat or nut bars that are filled with as much honey and sugar as a regular chocolate bar but are packaged to look ‘healthy’.
What about pasta sauces? Or chicken tikka massala? Or salad dressing, cheese biscuits and bread?
The list goes on and on and if your diet consists of mainly processed foods then your sugar intake could be way, way over the healthy limit.
So if you think you might have an issue with sugar, and think that maybe you are eating too much and then you should consider doing a sugar detox.
But What Is A Sugar Detox?
In a nutshell, a sugar detox is the process of removing all forms of sugar from your diet, and therefore your body, over a brief period of time. The process enables your metabolism to recalibrate it’s tolerance to sugar whilst breaking any cycle of addiction that may be there.
Once the detox is complete, you will have removed any cravings for sugar as well as resetting your palate - so much so that even a small amount of fruit or sugar will now taste very sweet, making it far more difficult to eat large amounts of sugar.
A sugar detox basically resets our bodies back to how we were hundreds and thousands of years ago, when sugar was extremely scarce and when we barely consumed it.
And why did we barely consume it? Because A) it was very hard to find and B) our bodies simply don’t need it! But more on that later…
Who Should Do A Sugar Detox?
Anyone who thinks that they may have a problem with too much sugar in their diet should consider a sugar detox to prevent both short and long term negative health effects.
It’s very easy to eat more than the recommended amounts of sugar without even knowing it because there is so much sugar hiding in our foods now.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend no more that 25g (7tsp) of sugar for a woman and 35g (9tsp) for a man. Anything over that amount on a regular basis and you will start to suffer from the many health issues that sugar can cause.
So if you think you might be eating too much, especially on a regular basis, then you really should consider a detox.
And if the thought of not eating sugary sweets, treats and snacks makes you feel uncomfortable then you may have a problem with sugar.
If you often eat whole packets of sweets or biscuits, or if you feel sick or guilty about your eating habits, sugar may well have more of a hold over you than you think.
I have a blog post here that goes into more detail about some of the telltale signs that suggest yo might be addicted to sugar: Are You Addicted To Sugar - Easy Ways To Tell.
And even if you do think you have an issue with sugar, don’t worry, there are literally millions of people around the world who have become dependent on sugar, so even if you do need to do a detox, you’re not alone!
So Why Should I Do One?
There are a whole host of negative health issues caused by sugar and there really are few dietary changes that can have such a huge and positive impact on your overall health and looks.
Excessive sugar consumption can affect your energy levels, your weight, the way you think, your moods, your skin, your teeth, your sleep patterns, your memory and even your sex life. And that’s without even mentioning the more serious issues like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
For more information on what sugar does to you check out my blog post : Why Is Sugar So Bad For You?
And remember, sugar has only been introduced into modern diets in substantial quantities on the last hundred or so years - prior to that humans barely ate sugar at all.
That’s around 200,000 years without sugar and then suddenly it’s everywhere - and the truth is our bodies have yet to adapt properly - we just can’t cope!
What Exactly Is Sugar?
There are over 60 different names for all of the many varied types of sugar. The most common form of sugar is the white granulated table sugar that we see everywhere.
But believe it or not, brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, fructose glucose syrup and all of the other names it comes under, all break down to the same thing once they enter the body - 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
Below is a list of all the different names for sugar that you might see on the back of a food label, but no matter what it’s called, once you eat or drink it, to your body it’s all the same.
What Is Glucose?
Glucose is the vital energy source that powers all living cells, from plants to animals to humans. It can be processed by any cell in the body and is what gives us the energy to live. Quite simply, without glucose no living thing would survive.
But glucose doesn't just come from sugar, it comes from starchy vegetables like potatoes, as well as grains in things like bread, along with some dairy products too.
When we eat these foods, the carbohydrates convert into glucose. And the reason it's important to eat wholemeal what products is because the carbohydrates are released slowly and evenly into the bloodstream, which keeps the blood sugar levels steady.
White flour products such as white bread and pastries convert their carbs into sugar much more quickly, causing spikes in your blood sugar.
The human pancreas creates a hormone called insulin which takes the glucose molecules to the cells and if we consume too much glucose on a regular basis, we start to need to create too much insulin to take the glucose out of our blood stream.
Eventually, over a longer period of time, a person can become insulin resistant which means they have become Type 2 Diabetic.
But glucose isn’t even the real villain here. It’s the fructose, which is the other component to sugar, and this is what causes most of the problems.
So What Is Fructose?
Unlike glucose, fructose is totally unnecessary to humans in any form and can only be processed by the liver. In small amounts this isn’t a problem, but in larger amounts, the liver becomes overloaded and can’t cope, and so it simply stores the sugar as fat.
Which is why constantly eating sugar drinks and foods will make you gain weight.
This process, when repeated many times over, creates visceral fat, which is the worst and most dangerous type of fat, because it lives inside your body, gathering around your organs. Too much fructose can also cause the liver to become diseased with what is called Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
Consumers have been led to believe that fat causes us to get fat, but the right types of fat are actually health and good for us.
The truth of the matter is plain and simple, too much sugar makes you fat.
What Are Some Of The Immediate Effects of Eating Something With High Sugar Content?
As soon as you eat or drink something with a high sugar content, you can compromise your immune system by up to 50% for up to 5 hours - and studies have shown that this drastic level of lowering of our natural defences against infection comes with the consumption of just 100g of sugar.
Thats’ just three times the male daily recommended amount and four times the female daily amount. And millions of people are doing that every day, often without realising.
Sugar is an empty substance in that the calories and completely empty - sugar contains absolutely no minerals or vitamins - instead sugar can actually strip your body of minerals and vitamins.
It also triggers the release of cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers, creating a continued state of low level stress on the body.
And What About The Long Term Effects?
Constantly eating too much sugar eventually prevents the body responding to insulin as it should, leaving too much glucose in the blood stream, which eventually damages the nerves, blood vessels, kidney and the heart resulting in Type 2 Diabetes.
Because sugar also gets turned into fat, excessive sugar is also responsible for high rates of obesity, which is the world’s biggest preventible cause of cancer, behind smoking.
And would you believe that sugar can make you look older? Every time you eat a large quantity of sugar, a process called glycation occurs, which, has a microscopic effect on how old you look.
This is where sugar molecules in our blood react and create enzymes that actually break down the elastin and the collagen in our skin.
And the reason this makes you look older is because elastin is the protein that keeps the elasticity in your skin and collagen is what keeps it plump and firm.
So you might be spending a fortune on beauty products and daily routines, meanwhile you are undoing all of your good work with a morning muffin.
Quitting sugar can actually start to make your skin look fuller and more taught within 72 hours. I have a blog post for more information on how sugar can affect your skin: Does Sugar Make You Look Older?
What Are The Other Health Benefits Of Quitting Sugar?
As soon as you reset your body back to ‘normal’ levels of sugar consumption, you immediately bring you body’s immune system back to normal levels of operation (assuming you are healthy and have no other underlying medical conditions).
You will no longer have be triggering low level inflammation inside your body on a daily basis. Glycation will stop and your skin will start to look healthier within days.
There really are so many benefits to quitting sugar and I have another blog post here that outlines more of the benefits : 17 Amazing Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Sugar.
In the long term your health will improve an many ways. Within weeks you can often expect weight loss, as all of that fructose you were eating was getting turned into fat.
And when you cut sugar out of your diet, your body has to start burning the fat that is already stored as energy, so you stop storing fat and start using it instead, which is a win, win!
So If It's So Bad, Why Is There So Much Sugar In Our Diets?
Sugar is addictive and food manufacturers know it. Plus it’s cheap and it makes foods ‘taste nice’. So if people keep on buying it, the big food corporations will keep on making food products with sugar in them, it’s that simple.
And sugar has sneakily found it’s way into so many of the diets around the world that our palates are changing as humans, and we are slowly becoming more and more accustomed to tasting sugar in all kinds of foods, while at the same time, opting for the convenience of processed food.
And Is It Going To Get Any Better?
Many countries politicians are starting to realises the negative impact sugar is having on children and adults alike and the introduction of a sugar tax is intended to slow down the levels of obesity.
But this really only applies to soft drinks and sodas in certain countries, and it’s all of the hidden sugar in processed foods that will still cause problems.
And unfortunately, just switching out sugar for artificial sweeteners can also come with their own health problems.
So don’t rely on the makers of processed foods to come to your rescue because manufacturers include sugar in some of the most unlikely foods simply to try to make it taste better.
You really have to take your fate into your own hands and start cooking more from raw ingredients so that you can control what you eat.
And at least learn about where sugar hides in foods by learning to read food labels. If sugar, or any of it's alternative names, is in the top five ingredients then put that right back on the shelf as it's high in sugar.
Also check the 'Carbohydrate of which sugars' and look at how much there is per 100g. Try to stick to foods with less that 5g per 100g.
How Do I Know If I Have A Problem With Sugar?
First off, I’m guessing you think you may be eating too much sugar simply because you are reading this blog - so something inside you is telling you that this might be the case.
Maybe you already know it but are too afraid to accept it or even address it?
I know I was trying to ignore my addiction for years and years. It was a nagging feeling I always had, craving sweet things and then feeling ill after I’d eaten them, knowing full well that what I was doing was bad for me and knowing full well I’d just do it again and again. And all because, quite simply, I couldn’t stop.
It was a horrible cycle, and one that I am finally happy to have escaped from!
Like any form of addiction, the first and most important step is to actually accept and understand that you do have a problem, because until that moment, you will blindly carry on as you were.
Or like me, you will simply make up excuses for your sugar addiction and stick your head in the sand instead of doing something about it.
I also have another blog that goes into more detail about why it took me so long to quit: 6 Stupid Excuses That Kept Me Addicted To Sugar.
Why Don’t I Just Cut Down?
Of course the simple solution would be to just cut down, and that certainly is an option, but here’s the problem - sugar is highly addictive.
So much so that lab tests have shown sugar to be more addictive than cocaine in studies done with rats.
If you feel that you are able, then of course, cut down your intake. I have written a blog here outlining some easy steps you can take to help you reduce your daily sugar intake: 7 Simple Steps To Cut Down On Your Sugar Today
Take a look at exactly what you are eating and drinking every day - the best way to do this is to keep a food diary. Even if you only do it for a couple of days, you’ll get an idea of how much sugar you are eating.
I have plenty of recipes with no sugar or no added sugar on my recipes page. You could try making a change from rice to cauliflower rice instead. The carbohydrates in rice convert to glucose when eaten, and so a simple recipe like this can make a simple, yet tasty change.
If cutting down works for you, and you educate yourself about where sugar might be sneaking into your diet, then this certainly is an option, but if you feel that sugar may have more of a grip on you and that you find cutting down is a problem then you should consider a detox.
You’ll know if you have more of an issue with your sugar intake if you start to get cravings for sweet things while you are trying to cut down.
So How Do I Do A Sugar Detox?
You can basically decide to do a detox with a program like the one I offer, or simply have a go at it yourself! There’s plenty of advice on how to go about it completely free of charge on this website on all of my blogs, as well as sugar free recipes, or recipes with no added sugar.
Try and find out as much information as possible - read the blogs on this website, or do your own research, and really get to understand sugar and what it might be doing to you.
I have written a blog here: How To Stop Eating Sugar - Your Ultimate Guide To Quitting which is a fully detailed outline of the whole process.
If you feel that you may need a little more support or that maybe you won’t be able to cope with the cravings, I have a full 21 Day Sugar Detox Program available on this website, providing all the support you need to successfully complete your detox.
It has meal plans and recipes that have been specifically put together with ingredients containing vital vitamins and minerals to reduce cravings. It also includes guided meditation sessions that will prepare you for the detox as well as help you through it.
I also send you daily video briefings and tutorials along with email support to guide you through the whole process, along with charts, cheatsheets and plenty of tips!
Either way you decide to do it, alone or with a program, a sugar detox is best done in two separate parts - preparation and then the detox itself.
How Should I Prepare?
There are a few things that are essential to the success of your sugar detox. Firstly you must decide that you really want to do this. Sugar is highly addictive and quitting can take quite a strong will and a good bit of will power.
Then you need to completely remove all traces of sugar from your home and workplace. No biscuits lurking in the cupboard that will call out to you when a craving hits. No soft drinks and sodas screaming ‘drink me!’ when all you can think about is sugar!
By completely removing any temptation, you will make life so much easier for yourself and the easiest place to start is at the supermarket - if you don't but it, you can't eat it! So no more treats while you do your detox.
Tell as many of your friends, family and work colleagues as possible about your plans to quit. This has a couple of benefits, one being that they will support you, especially if you suffer from any of the possible sugar withdrawal symptoms you might experience.
The other reason is to create accountability, which is a great motivational tool. Not wanting to fail in front of others when you have said you are going to do something can often be the difference between success and failure!
Will I Need To Cook?
Yes you will, and this is one of the key elements to enjoying a quality, healthy life, sugar or no sugar. Constantly eating fast food or processed foods will have a detrimental effect on your health and wellbeing over time anyway - too much salt, sugar and the wrong types of fat that are often found in these types of food just aren’t good for you.
But hey, you didn’t need me to tell you that!
By cooking your own meals you are controlling exactly what you are eating and there are so many incredible things you can eat without sugar. Remember, when you give up sugar, you aren't really giving anything up, you are just opening up a whole new world of wonderful, healthy food, along with all of the health benefits that brings.
When Do I Actually Quit Sugar?
In my program I build up to D-Day with a week program of preparation so that that you are in the best possible state to start the sugar detox.
If you are doing this yourself, then just make sure that you have cleared your house of all sweet treats and snacks, then pick a day and just go for it!
How Is A Sugar Detox Likely To Make Me Feel?
There are going to be two parts to how you feel doing a sugar detox. The first, short part might make you feel a little uncomfortable, but the good news is that the second part will make you feel amazing.
Initially, as your body withdraws from a substance it has been addicted to for possibly many, many years, you might experience some withdrawal symptoms.
These symptoms, if you even get them at all, will only last for a brief period and then once you finish your detox, you start to feel great, often in ways that you may not even remember because for some people, their addiction has been for so long. I know that’s how I felt, having been hooked on sugar most of my childhood and then adult life!
But first, you’ve got to get past the cravings…
What Exactly Is A Sugar Craving?
Unfortunately it’s the fructose found in all sugars that causes the craving sensation when we cut it out of our diets. When we eat sweet things, the fructose triggers the release of our ‘happy hormone’ called dopamine, creating the sensation of pleasure. This can form very strong habits, as we eat more sugar to get the dopamine hit.
So when you do your detox, you will get cravings for sugar, and it’s here where you need to be strong.
So How Do I Cope With Sugar Cravings?
Depending on how long you have been eating sugar and just how much you’ve been eating, you might only get a few mild cravings over a day or so, or you might suffer quite intense cravings that might last for a good few days.
Either way, the first and foremost advice is not to let yourself get hungry, so you need to be prepared with savoury snacks at all times. Hunger is the number one enemy if you are suffering from a sugar craving! A handful of almonds makes a great snack to give you a protein kick and help you through.
Drink plenty of water, which both makes you feel fuller as well as flushing out any toxins, and try to get plenty of exercise and plenty of sleep. Taking on a sugar detox can be stressful for a day or two, so be kind to yourself while you are doing it! But remember, it's all so worth it, so hang on in there. A couple of days of mild discomfort to free yourself from a lifetime of addiction is worth it - right!?
Eat meals that have plenty of protein and fat, both of which will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
You can also look at taking supplements like Chromium and Magnesium to help ward of cravings.
I have a blog here that goes into more detail about the vitamins and minerals that can help you through a detox, and in my 21 Day Sugar Free Program I included meal plans that incorporate ingredients that are rich in these vitamins and minerals in order to minimise cravings.
How Long Will I Need To Do The Detox For?
Again, this largely depends on just how long you’ve been eating sugar and how much of it you ate. Some people can get over their cravings in a couple of days whereas other need a little longer. My program takes a week to prepare and then three weeks to actually detox completely, re introducing fruit into the third week.
So your own personal situation will largely dictate how long it will take you to detox, but I would suggest that you try to do at least fourteen days without any form of sugar whatsoever.
What Will It Feel Like Once I Finish It?
Honestly? You’ll feel great, for so many reasons. Just being a slave to anything was never going to be fun was it? Now you will be able to make sensible food choices based on what you really want to eat, and not driven by some crazy craving.
I always seemed to succumb to anything sweet that was put in front of me, and now it feels so much more empowering, knowing sugar just doesn’t have the same hold over me anymore.
Within days of quitting sugar, you will also often see an improvement in the quality of your skin and over the coming weeks and months you should notice some weight loss, with higher energy levels, better sleep and a clearer head.
Is It All Worth It?
If you don’t have a problem with sugar then of course a sugar detox isn’t something you need to even think about. If you are completely in control of your diet and can take or leave sugar or any type of sweet food or drink, then it’s safe to say you aren’t addicted to sugar.
But if you have read this whole blog, then it’s safe to assume that either yourself, or someone you know, could well be hooked on the white stuff and should consider going sugar free.
I’ve said it before and I’ll happily say it again, there is literally no other dietary change that you can make that can have such an impact on so many aspects of your overall health and looks.
And you may be surprised to know that once you do a sugar detox, it doesn’t mean that you can never eat anything sweet again. I understand that a muffin is tasty. I love chocolate. But once you are back in control, you won’t crave these things and more importantly, you just won’t want them very often.
So last question…
Why Don’t You Do Something About It?
Why not quit the cycle of sugar addiction and get back in control of your healthy eating habits with my 21 Day Sugar Detox Program.