How to Detox from Sugar

Use this four-step process to cut down on your sugar consumption.

We won’t sugar-coat it: The white stuff contributes to weight gain and chronic disease. According to Dr. Jennifer Stagg, “Higher levels of refined sugar intake have been consistently shown to increase the risk of most chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Simply put, sugar ages you prematurely. If you want to stay healthier for longer, low refined sugar intake is part of the equation.”

While nutritionists and doctors praise whole grains (such as farro and barley), they agree that refined varieties (like white flour and regular pasta) and sugars should be limited. Even “good” sugars (as in fruit and 100 percent whole-wheat bread) should be consumed in moderation. After all, carbohydrates turn into sugar after digestion, and too many can lead to weight gain.

Unfortunately, white flour and sugar underpin the standard American diet, with its breakfast breads and sugary coffee drinks in the morning; sandwiches at lunch; and pizza or pasta at dinner. Although cutting down on sugar might seem like an insurmountable challenge, we’ve gathered strategies from experts to ensure your success. After all, what could be sweeter than improved health?

Four-step sugar detox process

Step 1: Clean out your pantry

“The most important and helpful way to break a sugar addiction is to stop buying sweets and junk food,” says Rebecca Lee, RN, of Remedies for Me. “If you don’t have snacks at home, you won’t be eating snacks at home.”

When deciding what to nix, read labels. Keep in mind:

Once you read the labels of packaged products, you’ll probably notice lots of sugar hiding in dressings, protein bars, granolas, smoothies, sauces, juices, peanut butters, crackers, yogurts and cereals. For instance, “just one tablespoon of conventional barbecue sauce has about six grams of sugar,” says Metzgar.

Step 2: Stock your home with healthier substitutes

If you keep the following items on hand, you’ll be prepared when cravings strike.

Step 3: Start cutting sugar gradually

Cutting sugar out entirely can be difficult. Try starting with just one small change each day, like swapping out a can of soda with a piece of fruit. Once you are successful in making that change, go after another.

If that sounds too rapid, try winnowing out a different item each week. Stagg advises eliminating sweetened beverages and all sweeteners from coffee and tea drinks during the first week, desserts in week two, packaged foods with sweeteners in week three and all products with flour in week four.

“To eliminate sweeteners from tea and coffee, every few days, reduce the amount you add by a quarter until you are off it,” she advises. She also recommends first switching to a lower-sugar brand of flavored yogurt, and then later to plain yogurt (and adding fruit to it). For desserts, she counsels cutting the portion size in half and pairing it with a small serving of nuts.

Slowly, your palate should adjust. “Once people cut the added refined sugars from their diet, their taste for sweetness tends to change,” says Stagg. “Foods with natural sugars, like berries, begin to taste sweeter than they ever did before, and can be a very satisfying and healthy substitute.”

Step 4: Try these strategies to stay the course

What a few experts have to say about the sugar in fruit.

Photo credit: Duka82, Thinkstock