Mmm...donuts. When it comes to sugar, Homer Simpson is the everyman. His drooling reaction to donuts might as well be any of us at the grocery store, staring at racks of cupcakes, candies, and sodas. Collectively, we're a nation addicted. But you don't have to be.
Why should you be worried about the white stuff? Because it's doing a number on your body. As soon as you swallow that first bite of that cinnamon bun or chocolate bar, your blood sugar levels spike, forcing the body to create more insulin as it attempts to burn sugar for fuel instead of fat. Over time, overconsumption can lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Sugar also does a number on the liver; eating too much of the sweet stuff can cause your liver to stop storing sugar as glucose and start converting it to fat, increasing your body fat percentage, weight, and putting you at risk for liver failure.
All the reasons to ditch sugar from your diet are staring you in the face, yet you still can't seem to say goodbye to your vanilla latte. Kick your sugar habit in three days with these five simple steps.
1. Know where sugar is lurking in your daily diet
Are you snacking right now? Cool, us too. Bear with us for a sec. Take a look at the nutrition label on the back of your munchies. Under the “Total Carbohydrates” section, you should be able to find “Sugars”, with a measurement in grams that represent how many grams of sugar are in each serving of what you’re eating. So far so good.
Scroll down to your ingredients and take a gander at first five additives in your snack—if you see sweetener, syrup, fruit juice concentrate, or anything ending in "-ose" (like dextrose, glucose, maltose), that's bad news… Sugar is one of the main ingredients in what you’re chowing down on. For the next three days, steer clear of anything with more than 5 grams of sugar on the nutritional label, or anything that has more than one of these sweeteners in the ingredients list.
You’d be shocked at how much added sugar is in not-so-sweet things like salad dressing, corn chips, and even pickles. Be on the lookout for sugar everywhere, especially in foods that have added flavoring.
2. Figure out what you actually want to eat
As soon those sucrose-laden foods are cut out, you’ll notice that you almost seem to crave them more than you did before. It’s called addiction, people! And yes, sugar really does have the same addictive effect on your brain as cocaine.
But stay strong, and don’t give in to your cravings; instead, decide why you’re craving sugar and find something even better. If you love the crunch of a Kit Kat bar, try celery dipped in peanut butter. If a soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie is more your speed, try making some oatmeal with almond milk and cinnamon. You can even throw in a few cacao nibs for your chocolate fix.
3. Ride out your detox
Depending on how much sugar you eat on a daily basis, you might experience detox symptoms like headaches, irritability, shakiness, and even nausea in the first 24 hours after you go cold turkey. Acknowledge that these feelings will pass as soon as all the excess sugar you have in your system is eliminated, and try drinking a peppermint tea to help with symptoms.
4. Avoid artificial sweeteners and eat more real food
If you’re starving, you’re way more likely to cheat, so stay full and satiated by eating real food. If you need to, up your protein and healthy fat intake—both will help you feel fuller longer than loading up on carbs will. Stay far away from artificial sweeteners, as they tend to actually be more sweet than real sugar and will ignite your sugar cravings… and you definitely don’t want that!
5. When you get back to sugar, take a chill pill
After three days, you can continue to avoid sugar if it feels easy for you and you like the way that you feel. Typically, after a sugar detox your taste buds will actually change, as will what you crave. The candy that you used to gobble down will taste sweeter than it used to, soda might seem too syrupy, and even saltier foods will taste more intense. That’s exactly what you want—even if you crave sweetness, you’ll be more satisfied by the smaller bites of sweet foods that you do indulge in.
Photo credit: Tatiana Lapina via Unsplash