Candy, bread, tomato sauce, granola bars. Know what these have as a common ingredient? Sugar. It is everywhere these days. The average American eats roughly 22 teaspoons of sugar daily, whereas the American Heart Association recommends an intake of 6-8 teaspoons or less per day. Excess sugar consumption can lead to a myriad of health problems including obesity, tooth decay, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
So what can we do about it? Enter, the sugar cleanse. The aim of a sugar cleanse is to eliminate added sugars from your diet. These added sugars are the sugars that are found in processed foods, sodas and sweets. A common misconception is that to do a sugar cleanse, all types of sugars need to be eliminated. This isn’t true; sugars that are found naturally, such as in a piece of fruit, have very little effect on your blood sugar and can even provide many health benefits.
One would have to eat 5-6 pieces of fruit to equal the amount of sugar found in one soda.
Sugar plays upon the addiction center of your brain, triggering the pleasure centers; therefore, when you initially decrease or cut out sugars and sugary foods, you may feel deprived; a similar feeling happens when you attempt to quit smoking or stop drinking caffeine.
As great as it may sound, a sugar cleanse is only beneficial if it is treated as a lifestyle change, rather than a temporary ‘diet’ or detox.
There are many different ways to do a sugar cleanse, but here are some steps to get you started:
- The first thing to eliminate is soda, fruit juices, energy drinks and other sugar sweetened beverages. Aim to increase your intake of water.
Avoid sugary snacks such as candy, pastries and other desserts.
Limit intake of processed foods and condiments, as these have hidden sugars.
- Read the nutrition facts label ingredients. Look for high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, brown sugar, maltose, barley malt and evaporated cane sugar. A quick rule of thumb is to avoid any ingredient with “–ose” at the end of the word.
Increase intake of lean protein and complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat bread, pasta, brown rice and beans.
If you do have a sugar craving, opt for a piece of fruit.
- Aim to eat three meals per day- start with the meal that is easiest to adjust- and gradually work yourself through the day until you are eating three balanced meals without added sugars.
Try mixing unsweetened Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and a small drizzle of honey or agave for a sweet treat, or mix 1/2 cup olive oil with 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar for a quick, sugar free salad dressing.
As you start your sugar cleanse, you will see many health benefits. You will see weight loss, improved skin and will have more energy. You may also notice that you are sleeping better and are less moody. Another important benefit from a sugar cleanse is that you will begin to notice the natural flavors of foods and will be able to appreciate other flavors more.