Let’s face it, sugar is fun! It’s awesome! Ask any kid! Where would a custom made birthday cake or fine european chocolate be without, yes, SUGAR! BUT, for those that have made sugar part of your regular diet, you may want to read on. Because, yes, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Sugar detox is good for your body and long-term health, but it isn’t easy.
There is no pill, magic exercise, or cookbook that guarantees you can kick your sugar habit. Reducing the amount of sugar you take into your body—in all forms—is rough work. So, if cutting out, or cutting down sugar is not going to be easy, why bother with sugar detox?
Facts on the physiology of sugar detox
We take sugar for granted. It is readily available in many forms, and added to a great number of foods you would not suspect such as peanut butter, ketchup, soups, sauces, barbecue sauce, dressings, and many more. For the brave souls who totally cut sugar out of their diet for a period of time, one of their first complaints is that “food Is boring!”
But if you stick with it, your taste buds and your body will thank you.
There are good reasons that we like sugar so much. Glucose, a form of sugar that the body can make by itself, is an important brain food and fuel for your entire body. However, your body can manufacture glucose by itself, from the other good foods that you eat. There’s no need for this added sugar.
In only a few hundred years, sugar has gone from being a relatively rare treat enjoyed primarily through naturally sweet foods, to the bane of the health care profession that is partially responsible for our burgeoning problem with obesity.
Here are some points worth considering about sugar:
- Eating sugar tastes and feels good: Because sugar is, well, candy-coated, most people do not consider it a dangerous food additive. Yet, in individuals who routinely consume large amounts of sugar, or those sensitive to sugars, the sweet treat can be considered addictive. Humans trying to stop eating sugar—or those cutting down their intake—sometimes suffer symptoms like headache, loss of energy, cravings, malaise, and nausea.
Basically, your brain is hardwired to love sugar. Consumption of sugar bumps up production of the “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine, in your brain, seemingly making the world a general, all-around better place to be. After all, life is good when you’re on a sugar high! But everything comes crashing down when your body cleans out the sugar from your blood…oh the pain…the pain.
- Excessive sugar is dangerous to your health: Eating too much sugar makes you vulnerable to weight gain and metabolic disorders, including heart disease, fatty liver disease, diabetes, stroke, and some types of cancer. Plus, when your body develops a dependence on sugar, it will continue to require more in order to satisfy cravings and ward off the symptoms of withdrawal—a vicious cycle. The pleasure of eating sugary foods and drinks is brief, but the physical damage of unchecked sugar consumption can be permanent and life-threatening.
- Sugar is cheap and available everywhere: Nothing sells faster than sweetened drinks and foods. It is estimated that Americans individually consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar daily. New federal guidelines released in the last year recommend no more than 12 teaspoons of sugar per day. As a means of comparison, a can of Coke contains approximately 10 teaspoons of added sugar. Excess sugar in the American diet mostly comes from sugary beverages, sweet snacks, and desserts.
While new federal dietary guidelines are targeting sugar reduction, recently released documents reveal that the trade-advocacy group, the Sugar Association, paid good money to influence public opinion about sugar for decades.
While scientists were beginning to understand the connection between sugar and heart disease in the 1950’s, the Sugar Association paid Harvard researchers to misdirect the world and point the blame finger at saturated fat. The beverage industry, including Coca Cola, have been known to fund research to disprove the link between sugary drinks and childhood obesity. Similar claims are made about candy manufacturers and influence-peddling to distract attention from the unhealthy impacts of sugar.
Sugar detox: What can you do?
Shifting your eating patterns away from high sugar consumption takes patience, resilience, and support. The internet is a good source for cold turkey stories—but like dieting, eliminating sugar completely from your diet may not be your best long-term solution.
Consider these steps:
- Understand what you eat and why: Journal, talk, or actually take a moment to think about what you eat each day, when you eat it, and why. For many, sugary treats provide an energy boost or a reward, but there are good alternatives to sugar for both.
- Identify the sugar: Get into the habit of reading labels. Where is the sugar coming from? What kinds of sugar? Artificial sweeteners can be unhealthier than natural sugars. The real task is exploring a world with more taste and less sweeteners of all kinds.
- Give yourself a break: Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet is serious and takes time. Gradual change towards better, healthier eating habits often reduces your weight, your blood pressure, and your disease profile. Small, healthy changes can have a big, lasting impact. A common mistake people make is eating more carbs to replace the missing sugar; so be aware of this potential pitfall since being aware is half the battle.
- Notice and appreciate your new sensitivity to sugar: After a while of being on the wagon from sugar, you will become more highly sensitized to it. So when you do use sugar you will find you only need a small fraction of the amount you have used in the past. Instead of 2 teaspoons in your coffee, you’ll be amazed to find out ½ teaspoon is plenty.
Once you have your sugar addiction and consumption under control, for goodness sakes, “have your cake, and eat it, too! “
Eating less sugar is a habit for life. Help yourself or a loved one explore the ways to make life sweet and healthy—without so much sugar.