Be it for health reasons, weight loss, or just to overcome an addiction to sweets, many people are looking to cut sugar out of their diets. If that’s you, you may have questions about managing the detox process. The first question that comes to mind is “how long does it take to detox from sugar?” After all, if you love sweets, you know how hard it is to go even a day or two without a fix.
This article will answer that question and help you to know what to expect during your sugar detox.
So, how long does it take to detox from sugar? The short answer is about a month; if you approach it correctly. That said, there are stages to the withdrawal and detox process as well as varying food restrictions. However, if you are diligent, you can kick the habit in about 30 days.
By the end of your detox, your flavor receptors will reset. You will be able to enjoy the full flavor of naturally sweet foods the way you would candy or cake, eliminating the need to turn back. Even better, your skin, weight, and overall health rapidly improve.
Still, preparation is nine-tenths of the battle, especially when the largest part of your detox will be your mental connection to sugar. Below, we will arm you with the tools you need to make this detox a success.
It is important to note that when we say sugar detox we do not mean “no sugar.” Our bodies require some natural, unprocessed sugars (or, more properly, carbohydrates) to function.
The problem is that we tend to get an enormous percentage of our carbohydrates from refined white sugar and grains. Ten percent of the United States population are bonafide sugar addicts: our sugar consumption must be checked.
Refined and processed sugars trigger high levels of reward and craving cycles and wreak havoc with our immune systems and blood sugar regulation. These cycles are much like those tied to drug addiction.
Children are vulnerable to sugar addiction, as well. They reap the same benefits from detox as their adult counterparts. So if you are a parent, you can involve your family in the process and get healthy together!
What many people do not realize is it is not just the obvious sugars that contribute to addiction. Processed foods are often high in sugar, even when they are not “sweets”. This even includes many condiments like ketchup, salad dressing, and even bread. Your body is likely getting a constant feed of sugar throughout the day virtually without interruption.
It will be a shock to your system to suddenly cut off the sweet flow. Some people find the process more difficult than others. Nevertheless, the best way to start is to go cold turkey.
Going Cold Turkey
The best way to start a sugar detox is to go cold turkey for at least three days.
As we said before, you do have to consume some sugar; however, in the beginning, moderating your intake won’t work. This is especially true if you have a sugar addiction.
Constantly exposing yourself to sugar in moderation provides a constant temptation.
It is best to avoid that struggle for the first three days so you can gain your footing. After all, you would not tell an alcoholic to kick their drinking habit by having one glass of wine a day.
Let us be clear: by cold turkey we mean no sugar and no artificial sweeteners. None. No refined sugars, no processed sugars, no condiments, no refined foods at all, and that includes chips, crackers, and anything from a box or package.
Also, you must cut out bread, all grains, fruit, dairy, and alcohol, including wine. Some veggies are also off the menu, like carrots, corn, peas, sweet potatoes, and even squash. This allows your pallet to be recalibrated so you will find greater satisfaction in whole foods.
You may be wondering what is left for you to eat! Surely we don’t plan for you to fast for three days?
Well, there are some delicious foods allowed. You can have meats that are not processed, like deli meat or sausages. Eggs, poultry, fish, broccoli, kale, spinach, unsweetened tea, and black coffee are all on the menu. We know: that’s not the most exciting meal plan, but it won’t last forever.
Once your three-day detox is over, you will be able to add whole foods, fruits, and veggies back into your diet. You’ll find that the foods will have a richer and sweeter taste. Beyond the health benefits, rediscovering the flavor of natural foods is one of the greatest rewards of a sugar detox.
Once you pass over the cold turkey hump, you can add something small and naturally sweet back to your diet. Apples are a good choice. Correction, one apple. Only one daily. You don’t want to overexcite your system.
You can also have one dairy product, eaten in moderation. Any dairy you do eat should be full fat, not light, fat-free or otherwise. Dairy has a natural sugar known as lactose, and by removing the fat from dairy you cause the lactose to hit your system like a freight train, with no fat to cushion the blow!
You also can’t have anything that is sweetened.
During your first week in, and following your 3 days off sugar, you can begin to add in vegetables that contain a higher sugar content. These would include carrots, corn, peas, sweet potatoes, and cucumbers. Squash and starchy foods like potatoes are still restricted.
If you must, you can also have up to three glasses of red (not a sweet red) wine. If you can avoid crackers it would be best; but if you must indulge ensure they are whole grain and high fiber.
Week two of your diet will become less restrictive. The new additions should help to curb most of your mental cravings. You can add a variety of raw berries, not dried, to your meal plan. Starchy vegetables can be reintroduced as well.
However, cook them without adding additional sweetener. Anything not in the categories not explicitly mentioned here or above is still restricted.
Week three will be an exciting week. You will be able to add grains back into your meal plan. Barley, quinoa and oatmeal are all good choices. Rice is permissible, but we encourage you to try other grain options. Again, whilst you can add fruit to your oatmeal, for example, honey, sugar, artificial sweeteners, or maple syrup should not be in your diet.
You can also add in additional fruits like grapes and oranges. For all of you chocolate lovers, an ounce of dark chocolate is allowed daily. Again, stay within the permitted foods list. Cheating may set back your progress.
You’re almost there! At this point, your mental cravings likely outweigh your physical ones. That will lessen with an uptick of starch intake, up to two processed starches like wholegrain bread or high-fiber crackers in a day.
If you can avoid maxing out on permissible foods, do.
Week four represents what your overall lifestyle will be going forward. Embrace it and enjoy the new, cleaner foods you have come to love. Being able to have a sandwich or a glass of wine, but not overdoing it, is key to a healthy diet change for life.
Let’s talk about what withdrawal looks like. Your symptoms, if any, will depend on your level of sugar addiction. The more severe the addiction, the more prevalent and intense the symptoms will be. It is possible you will feel:
- Brain fog
Children face special challenges and may experience the above in addition to anxiety and irritability. Try to stay well hydrated and push through. The feelings will pass. If it is too intense, have a piece of fruit.
However, remember that you can trigger worse desires that are harder to combat if you don’t stay the course of that first three-day cut.
The most obvious benefit of a sugar detox will be seen in your midsection. Your stomach will decrease in size and flatten. You will also feel more alert and refreshed. Food will become more enjoyable, and familiar foods will take on a new life. It is also wonderful not to be ruled by cravings, and with your newly found self-control comes confidence.
The best part is that this is not a diet.
You can still eat food; just cleaner and whole foods. Yet you will be fully satisfied because your pallet is not being thrown off by processed foods with high concentrations of sugar. And when you feel satisfied, it is easier to not fall back into old habits.
It is important to remember that you can do this! As you see your waistline shrink and your energy increase, you will feel empowered and rewarded. Good luck on your journey to a healthier you.