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While “experts” continue to warn us that detoxing is a load of old tosh I can find absolutely no dispute about the value of doing a sugar detox.
If you are one of the many people who have piled on the pounds over the festive season then a sugar detox is the ideal way to trim your waistline and improve your health.
You may not realize it but refined sugar is slowly killing you. It has not been called pure, white and deadly for nothing so let’s first have a look at what we mean by sugar and why it’s bad for you.
When I say sugar I am not talking about the sugars like glucose, fructose and maltose that occur naturally in fruit and vegetables but the processed white stuff you sprinkle on your breakfast cereal or add to your tea or coffee and the hidden sugar you get in so many of the foods you buy.
You will find sugar in places where you least expect it like soup, savory sauces, ketchup, pies, snacks, salad dressings, ready meals, bread and even in so called health foods like energy bars.
Then of course it’s in cookies (biscuits), cakes, ice cream, candies (sweets), chocolate, puddings, desserts, pies, breakfast cereals, canned fruit, yogurt, sodas, other soft drinks, energy drinks, store bought smoothies, milk shakes and many more
Next time you go to the supermarket take a look at the labels of the products you normally buy and see how many contain sugar. Don’t be fooled if you see the words glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, corn syrup, invert sugar, evaporated cane juice, lactose, maltose, malt, mannitol or sucrose. They are all forms of sugar and bad for your health.
When it’s in so many things you might begin to wonder how you can detox from sugar. Well it’s not easy that’s for sure but when you understand why it’s so bad for your health you will want to make the effort.
Why is sugar so bad for you?
- Sugar adds “empty” calories and is a nutrient robber. Most of the vitamins and minerals that are needed to metabolize sugar in your body have been removed when sugar is refined. If you have a lot of sugar over time your body stores of certain nutrients are depleted leading to deficiencies.
- Sugar causes you to put on weight. If you can’t use it for energy straight away it’s eventually stored as fat.
- Sugar causes a rapid rise in blood sugar which over time can lead to diabetes.
- Sugar saps your energy. Sugar quickly raises your blood glucose that can be used for energy but it will be short lived as your pancreas releases insulin to bring it down again. Before you know it you’ll be feeling tired and craving the next boost.
- Sugar increases triglycerides in your blood. These are the fats that are a risk factor for heart disease.
- Sugars promotes tooth decay. Within minutes of eating sugar, bacteria in your mouth start to produce the acids that cause tooth decay.
- Sugar suppresses the immune system. The white blood cells of the immune system are adversely affected for several hours after eating a lot of sugar such as is in a bottle of coke or a candy bar.
- Sugar promotes aging through glycation. Molecules of sugar hook up with fats and proteins causing fibers to become stiff which results in age-related diseases and wrinkles.
- Sugar promotes inappropriate inflammation that is the underlying cause of many chronic diseases.
- Sugar promotes the desire for sweet foods.
Just to give you an idea of how much sugar you might be consuming surveys have found that the average American consumes around 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar every day, Australians on average 31 teaspoons of sugar (both added and natural) each day and the British about 16 teaspoons added sugar a day. In the UK researchers found that obese people who ate the most consumed as much as 52 spoonfuls hidden in everyday foods.
The American Heart Association recommends that women eat less than six teaspoons of added sugar every day, men should not eat more than nine and for children it’s 3. Our hunter gather ancestors consumed the equivalent of 20 teaspoons per year, not per day. Makes you think doesn’t it?
Do you know where your sugar is lurking?
30g cornflakes = ½ tsp sugar
1 Hot Dog bun= 3 tsp sugar
1 iced cupcake = 16 tsp
1 tbsp tomato ketchup = 1 tsp
1 tbsp salad cream = ½ tsp
400g chiken tikka masala ready meal = 3½ tsp
1 slice bread = ½tsp – 3tsp
1/8 quart Ice cream = 23 tsp
Soft drink, 375 ml = 7-10 tsp
What’s high sugar and what’s low sugar?
Sugar is usually written as grams on labels and not as teaspoons but here is a good rule of thumb to go by:
Anything over 15g of sugar is high.
Between 5g and 15g is medium.
Healthier options have 5g of sugar or less.
So how do you detox from sugar?
1. Avoid sugary foods
Clear your cupboards of unhealthy foods that contain sugar for a start so you are not tempted. Buy healthy alternatives to sweet treats such as fresh fruit, health bars sweetened with fruit juice or dried fruit, fresh unsalted and unroasted nuts and seeds, Look for no added sugar muesli and add fresh fruit.
2. Avoid sugary drinks
Sodas and soft drinks are full of sugar and and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is a processed food product which consists of glucose and fructose. They are both absorbed straight into your blood stream where glucose triggers insulin and fructose goes straight to your liver where it triggers the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol. It also causes “fatty liver” which affects 70 million people.
It’s often hard but not impossible to find soft drinks in the supermarket that do not contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are not recommended as many have harmful health effects and are believe to cause hunger and promote cravings for sweet foods.
Instead drink pure water with a slice of lemon or lime, green tea, iced tea or coffee (but not too many because caffeine can disturb blood sugar balance for some) herbal teas, coconut water, fresh vegetable juices, diluted fruit juices, raw kombucha and green smoothies.
3. Do more home baking
Find recipes that call for natural sweeteners that do not play havoc with blood sugar such as Xylitol, or Stevia. There is controversy over Agave syrup and people are turning to coconut sugar instead. Pure maple syrup is better than sugar as it contains more vitamins and minerals and is 54 on the glycemic index. Commercially produced honey has a glycemic index of between 58 and 69. Untreated honey from local suppliers is better.
4. Eat whole foods
Make sure your diet includes whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and vegetables. A diet of complex carbohydrates and protein will help to stabilize your blood sugar level and minimize your desire for sugar.
Try a protein breakfast, such as organic eggs with rye bread, vegetable omelet, a protein shake, plain yoghurt with fresh fruit and seeds.
If you have hypoglycemia or are having trouble getting your sugars under control you might need to start your day with a meal of only vegetables and lean protein. If you can’t process sugar having lunch or dinner for breakfast is often better than eating whole grains and fruit.
Snack on nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seeds between meals.
When your body is well nourished and you are eating right for your metabolic type your cravings for sugar and sugary foods will disappear.
5. Take the pledge and banish the alcohol
Alcohol behaves like sugar in the body. It gets absorbed very quickly and causes rapid blood sugar fluctuations causing mood swings and cravings for sweet foods.
The liver is the only organ that processes and detoxes alcohol. It takes precedence over fat metabolism which slows down so fat can build up in the liver.
Replace alcohol with healthy drinks as mentioned above.
The best way to to break the habit of wanting sweet things is to avoid concentrated sweetness such as sugar, candies, sweet desserts, dried fruit and undiluted fruit juice. Removing sugar from your diet with a sugar detox is the fastest way to lose fat and increase your energy.