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I guess it turns out, that too much of everything can indeed be a problem. And that includes the sweet stuff we love to have in our meals and drinks almost every day.
Of course I’m talking about sugar, and specifically, added/artificial sugar.
Added sugar, as it turns out, has found its way into most of the food items we love to consume today. From fruit juices, to prepackaged foods, to our yummy treats, and so on.
Due to that, a lot of people are beginning to consume this sugar in massive amounts, sometimes even without knowing.
And unfortunately, this comes with a number of downsides, both physically, mentally and otherwise.
One good step towards combating the ill-effects of this excessive sugar intake, is via a sugar detox.
In this post, you’ll discover how too much added sugar affect us, as well as a simple 7-day sugar free detox challenge to help you curb your high sugar intake, and hopefully set you out on the right track.
Let’s dive in.
Table of contents
- How too much sugar affects us
- The 7-day sugar detox challenge
- How it works
- What to eat and avoid
- Tips for a successful sugar detox
How Too Much Added Sugar Affects Us
Once upon a time, it was believed that “fats” were the major source of our health-related problems, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and so on.
Thanks to good research and advancing nutritional knowledge, we now know that isn’t exactly the case, and it’s actually quite a bit different.
Following the fat-scare, added sugar became the new sort of “holy grail” of nutrition, and made its way into most of the foods we see today.
The thing is, this added sugar, isn’t exactly the healthiest thing to be consuming, especially in the massive amounts that we do today.
As a matter of fact, there have been a number of health issues associated with an excessive intake of added sugars. Here are a couple of them, starting from the most obvious.
1) Energy Spikes And Crashes
When you eat something, your body works to break it down in order to provide you with the energy you need. But here’s the thing. The way this energy is released can affect us.
The glycemic index, for example is a good metric that shows us how different foods can affect our blood sugar levels after a meal, which in turn affects our energy as well as other things.
Sugar seems to be on the high side of the glycemic index, meaning it can cause blood glucose levels to rise and fall sharply after eating.
This is often referred to as the “energy rollercoaster” and isn’t exactly a wonderful feeling to look forward to.
Plus, it can leave you feeling tired and disoriented, and craving more of sweet stuff that eventually repeats the whole process all over again.
2) It Can Cause Weight Gain
Going by the basic weight theory, eating more calories than you burn can lead to weight loss, and eating less than you burn can lead to weight gain.
Although there’s a bit more to it, that is the basic principle our bodies seem to follow.
It is no doubt that people are consuming more calories nowadays. These extra calories sneak into our meals through a number of ways. And one of them, is added sugar.
While these stuffs help to tickle your sweet tooth, they also contain calories, which when consumed in large amounts can add up quickly, and lead to weight gain over time.
3) Higher Risk Of Cardiovascular Diseases
Heart disease as it turns out, doesn’t only come from eating unhealthy or processed fats.
A diet high in added sugars can contribute to things like high blood pressure, an increase in triglyceride levels, and a couple of other factors, all of which could raise your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Other notable ill-effects of excessive sugar consumption include;
- A greater risk of certain skin conditions, like acne
- Can cause inflammation
- Affects cognitive health
- Higher risk of dental issues like tooth decay
- Mood swings, etc
7-Day Sugar-Free Detox Challenge
Okay, let’s get down to business. What exactly is this sugar detox challenge, and how does it work?
Well at a simple level, it involves avoiding foods containing high amounts of added sugars for 7 days.
The point of all this, is to give your body a break from the high-sugar diet we’re used to and its downsides, and help develop healthier eating habits, that our bodies will actually appreciate.
How It Works
Sure, there are lots of sugar-free challenges out there, and the rules can vary from one to another.
This version is not a precise meal plan, where we strictly tell you exactly what meals/recipes to eat and when. No. we believe that’s totally up to you.
However, this challenge shows you what foods to eat, and which ones to avoid, what to watch out for, and other useful tips to help you out along the way.
While this sugar detox challenge says “7-days”, you can certainly go longer than that if you wish. In fact, I’d recommend it.
Plus, I wouldn’t advise going back to the same sugar-laden lifestyle you were on before the challenge, as that would negate all your efforts, and place you back at square one.
What To Eat (And Avoid)
For this period and beyond, you want to be focusing on nutrient-rich, whole foods like;
1) Veggies – being rich in nutrients and fiber, vegetables easily form part of any healthy diet. You’ll want to ensure you’re getting enough veggies on your plate.
2) Whole grains – they’re richer in fiber, and are more nutritious than their processed counterparts
3) Healthy fats, protein and legumes
4) Fresh Fruits – not all sweet stuff are bad. Natural sugars found in fruits can actually be good for you, and therefore most fruits can be enjoyed freely.
NOTE: However, you might want to be careful, since some fruits contain more sugar than others, and can also cause your blood sugar to spike due to their sugar content.
Generally, I’d personally advice opting in for more fruits which have a lower glycemic index, and less of the ones with a higher GI. You can find more about them in this GI chart.
Here are some foods you’ll generally want to avoid
- Fruit juices
- Sugary drinks
- Refined carbohydrates
- Sugar-filled condiments
- Prepackaged snacks
What To Expect From A Sugar Detox
Choosing to cut out, or drastically reduce your added sugar intake is always a good thing. Here are some of the good stuff to expect along the way.
- More energy – with energy dips and crashes out of the way, you can expect to feel more energized throughout the day
- Less hunger cravings – a diet that focuses on rich whole foods is generally more satisfying, and better at controlling hunger cravings
- Better cardiovascular health – reducing or eliminating excess sugar from your diet can help lower your risk of heart disease and other related issues.
- Potential weight loss – while this is not a guarantee or promise or any kind, cutting out foods high in sugar and focusing on nutritious whole foods can help you eat less calories in general, which can aid weight loss.
- Blood sugar control – without the sharp rise and fall in blood glucose levels related to high sugar intake, you can expect more stabilized blood sugar levels, as well as better insulin sensitivity.
These are just some of the benefits to expect when you choose to reduce or do away with all that added sweetness. But are there some other things to expect?
Just like any other addictive thing, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms depending on how heavy your daily consumption might have been.
Symptoms can range from feeling tired and fatigued, to feeling light-headed or anxious, having trouble concentrating, or even having issues with sleep.
These symptoms can vary from person to person, and can depend on how much you were consuming per day.
No need to worry, as there are certain steps you can take to mitigate these symptoms, which will be discussed below.
Tips For This Sugar-free Detox Challenge
I assure you, this thing is way easier than you think. Here are some useful tips that will help you out along the way.
1) Plan Your Meals Ahead Of Time
During the period of this challenge (and beyond), you’re going to want to focus on rich whole foods, since processed and prepackaged foods tend to contain added sugar.
With this in mind, the safest way to ensure your meals are added sugar-free, is to prepare them yourself.
But considering how busy most of us are today, you can’t expect to just pop into the kitchen every 4 to 5 hours to prepare something to eat.
That’s where meal prepping comes in.
Through effective meal prepping and planning, you’ll save yourself the stress of wondering what to eat.
Plus, you’ll also better control what exactly you eat, and when, which can help you stay focused and deal with cravings and temptations along the way.
Don’t worry if you’re new to this. Our compete beginner’s guide to meal prepping shows you everything you need to know about effectively planning your meals for success.
2) Eat Enough Protein And Fiber
Getting enough protein and fiber is important for any healthy diet, and it is particularly helpful if you’re trying to detox from sugar.
Let’s start with protein. Foods high in protein are known to increase satiety, and keep you full for longer, and also help reduce hunger cravings.
Getting enough protein in your meals will increase your feelings of fullness, and you won’t be bugged with sudden energy dips during the day.
Similar thing goes for fiber. It helps slow digestion, which not only helps with satiety, but also helps to prevent blood glucose spikes and crashes, since the energy is released gradually.
Meals rich in enough protein and fiber can help deal with the sugar withdrawal symptoms. Since your body will be getting the energy it needs.
3) Exercise Helps, Greatly
The benefits of exercise are pretty self-evident, and are being preached about almost every single day, so I won’t waste your time with that.
When it comes to a sugar detox or cleanse, exercise can also help you deal with some of the withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, issues with sleep, and low mood.
This is because after a good workout, your brain rewards you with lot of “feel good” chemicals that can help you feel relaxed, boost your mood, reduce stress and promote good sleep.
You don’t need a gym member ship to get that sweat in. You can try some simple home workouts, or even step outdoors for your sweat sesh. I promise it’ll be worth it.
4) Drink Enough Water
Water is essential to life. Always has been, always will be. It is important to always stay hydrated, regardless of whether you’re on a sugar detox or not.
Sufficient water intake helps to aid digestion, and can also work to reduce cravings.
Also, with sugar-laden drinks like fruit juices and sodas off the list, it is important to remember to always keep yourself properly hydrated.
Drinks like plain tea or coffee, normal or sparkling water, or even herb and fruit-infused water are great options.
5) Watch Out For Sneaky Sugars
You’d be surprised at the number of food items that contain hidden sugars.
A lot of packaged food items today contain sneaky sugars you might not even notice unless you look closely.
With over 50 names for added sugar, it is important to always check your nutrition labels before buying something.
Check out this infographic which lists out over 50 sneaky names for added sugars.
6) Try To Remove/Avoid Temptation
The best way to beat temptation, is to avoid it in the first place.
There’s no doubt you’re going to have some cravings every now and then. A good way to avoid this temptation is by clearing your pantry of these sugar-rich foods, or making them more difficult to reach.
Also, you can have some tasty snacks on hand to enjoy when the cravings hit.
Fresh fruit like berries make a great snack option, as they are both naturally sweet and nutritious. Nuts and seeds are another tasty and healthy snack option to enjoy.
7) Manage Stress And Get Enough Sleep
Too much stress, and not enough sleep is one of the culprits of emotional eating and sugar binges.
You should always try to make sure you’re getting enough sleep every day, and also do your best to avoid unnecessary stress.
Things like yoga and exercise and great ways to reduce stress, and can both help improve sleep quality.
Managing your stress levels and getting enough sleep can help you become more mindful about what you eat, and also help prevent sugar cravings.
Summing It All Up
Given the nature of our standard everyday diet, and the health effects of excess sugar intake, added sugar consumption is something we really need to keep in check.
Drastically reducing or cutting out this added sugar can help curb cravings and improve health, among other things.
This 7-day sugar detox challenge and others like it are excellent ways to start.
And remember, going back to the same unhealthy lifestyle after a challenge like this only puts you back at square one.
Rather, work towards positive lifestyle changes that you can always stick with on the long run.
If you have any questions, don’t hold them in. feel free to shoot me a few in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer them.