Sugar is one of the most habit-forming substances we consume in our everyday lives. In fact, research shows that our sugar cravings stem from sugar convincing our brains we want more and more. Today, added sugar isn’t just in desserts and sugary drinks. It can be found in every meal, from the vinaigrette in your seemingly healthy salad to Greek yogurts to, yes, even foods claiming to have “no sugar added”.
Feeling sluggish? Is your skin not as radiant as before? Trying to lose those extra five pounds? A sugar cleanse might be just what you need to hit restart and slay that sweet tooth! Learn why quitting sugar is good for your overall health, the symptoms of sugar withdrawal, and how to stop your sugar cravings below!
Benefits of Cutting Out Sugar
Easier Weight Loss
One of the benefits of cutting sugar is that less-sugary food tends to be lower in calories. In addition, less sugar means decreased insulin levels. Increased insulin causes your body to store calories with extra fat cells. By decreasing your intake of refined carbs and added sugar, and increasing healthy fats, insulin becomes stable and fat stores decrease.
Lowered Bad Cholesterol
Those who consume a large amount of sugar are more likely to have higher levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, and blood fats called triglycerides. Additionally, they have lower levels of HDL – the good cholesterol that helps carry LDL cholesterol back to the liver where it’s broken down. By normalizing your cholesterol levels, you improve your heart health.
Decreased Heart Disease Risk
Many studies show that the risk of suffering from heart disease is increased with the consumption of sugar. Added sugars high in fructose are the enemies here, as they create dysfunction in metabolic performance, which increases blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation. Even by cutting out sodas, you are much less likely to suffer from heart disease.
Improved Brain Function
Research shows that added sugar in your diet can impair your cognitive function. Additionally, excessive sugar can lead to a reduction in the proteins necessary for responsiveness and memory. By reducing the amount of sugar in your diet, less sugar is metabolized, meaning more energy, better memory, and increased responsiveness.
Glycation happens when sugar in your bloodstream forms advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, when it attaches to proteins. This process damages the collagen and elastin that are responsible for firm, healthy skin, and can also make you more susceptible to sun damage. By cutting out sugar, your skin can become clearer, firmer, and brighter.
Lowered Risk of Diabetes
Drinking one to two sugary drinks a day increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 26 percent, according to research done in 2010. Excess sugar in your diet can lead to high insulin resistance, leaving sugars in the bloodstream instead of being absorbed into cells. Pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes can be avoided with better management of sugar intake.
The bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath thrives on sugar, so reducing your sugar intake can prevent the bacteria from feeding and growing, thus improving your breath. Your mouth also sees improvements in overall health, as sugary foods make your teeth more susceptible to cavities and enamel erosion.
Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
Studies show that sugar can be addictive, especially when consumed in large quantities. Because of this, some may start to feel symptoms of sugar withdrawal. While studies have primarily been done on rodents, the symptoms don’t seem far fetched from how humans may react: tremors, aggression, and headaches. However, there isn’t enough human evidence to prove true symptoms from sugar withdrawal.
Many complain about headaches when cutting sugar from their diets, but those can be caused by a number of factors. For example, if your morning coffee typically contained flavored creamer prior to your sugar detox and you don’t enjoy black coffee, headaches may be caused by a lack of caffeine. Similarly, if your normal food intake has decreased during a sugar cleanse, lightheadedness and headaches may arise in the absence of your regular nutrition.
How to Stop Sugar Cravings Naturally
Go Cold Turkey
One of the simplest ways to go about cutting sugar is quitting cold turkey. While this might be the simplest way, however, it is not the easiest way to stop sugar cravings naturally. In quitting cold turkey, the first 2-3 days can be filled with the sugar withdrawal symptoms above, along with difficulty ignoring cravings. If this route does not sound like it will fit your lifestyle, there are plenty of other ways to slay your sweet tooth.
Moderate & Substitute
Many will find it easier to gradually decrease sugar intake to the point of not craving it anymore. Through this, you can still allow yourself a treat here and there, but in moderation. Kerry Neville, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and ADA spokeswoman, suggests combining healthy foods with sugary ones. For example, if chocolate sounds too good to ignore, have a few chocolate chips mixed with nuts. If you can, try substituting added sugars with natural ones. Put honey in your tea instead of sweetener, or grab a banana instead of a candy bar. Nature has plenty of delicious snacks that are naturally better for your diet!
Another tactic is to distract. Distract yourself from sugar cravings by drinking water when the craving hits, taking a walk around the block, or chewing gum. These all distract you in different ways, including refocusing your energy on a healthier action, filling your stomach with something other than sugar, distracting your body with physical activity, or giving your mouth an action that only requires chewing.
Use a Sauna
An unexpected natural remedy for sugar cravings is sauna use. Inflammation and blood sugar imbalances are linked, and decreasing one can help decrease the other. Far infrared sauna use helps decrease inflammation, and therefore can aid in regulating insulin fluctuations. Doing a sugar and a sauna detox at the same time can help lower the effects of sugar withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, sauna use can help you sleep better. Better sleep means more energy throughout the day, which in turn cuts down on your sugar cravings.
Sugar Cleanse Food List
If you decide to go cold turkey, whether it’s forever or for a 21-day sugar cleanse, follow these general guidelines to help detox sugar from your diet:
|Allowed||Not Allowed||Limited Quantities|
Your sweet tooth stands no chance with these sugar cleanse tips! Even taking simple steps to reduce your sugar intake will have wonderful impacts on your life, from helping you feel more confident in your skin to reducing your risk of various health conditions. A little sugar won’t hurt, but remember the key to living a happy and healthy life: moderation!