Did you find out that you eat too much sugar? Or, did you already start to cleanse, and experienced sugar withdrawal symptoms?
The Sugar Cleanse Program below (also called sugar detox) is a 14-21 day plan designed to help you cut unhealthy sugars from your diet, avoid symptoms of sugar withdrawal, and reset your taste buds.
It is important to understand that sugars can have a dramatic negative impact on one’s health and well-being. So much, that many people need an actual sugar cleanse, rather than simply stop eating sugars. We hope this guide can help to increase the awareness of the sugar problem we have in our society, and the various tools you can use to address these.
No, It’s Not Your Fault. And, You Are Not Weak Either
The bitter truth about sugar addiction
Have you ever tried to reduce your sugar intake but simply couldn’t?
Not only you are not alone, but according to science, there may be a simple reason for this. Studies have found plenty of evidence that point us towards a problem of sugar addiction. In fact, the research suggests that sugars can cause the same behavioral and neurochemical effects as cocaine, nicotine or alcohol.
So, it is very important to let any guilt go, and understand that sugars are a type of drug. Just like people face challenges with alcohol, cigarettes or even can’t stop drinking coffee. In a nutshell, that is sugar bitter truth.
As a society, we have a problem with sugar addiction. And under the hood, behind the attractive packages, there’s an ultra processed food with large amount of sugars that make us all addicted and sick.
Just to give you an example, one study found that Oreo cookies activate more neurons in the pleasure center of the brain than cocaine does!
So, sugar addiction is real. But, what can you do about it?
Are You Addicted to Sugar? A Simple Sugar Cleanse Test
While you may know the answer in your heart, the test below can help reveal some valuable insights.
The objective of the sugar cleanse test is to help you understand how much of a sugar problem your body may experience at the moment.
Additionally, these questions can help you become aware of important warning signs your body is sending you, which you can then address during the sugar cleanse.
The sugar “bag of truth” test
The average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar in one year. Can you believe it? This means 3 pounds of sugar, every week.
So, how far are you from this statistics? Just grab all sugary items you have in your home, gym bag, car, home office, that you normally eat, and put in a plastic bag. Then, put the bag on a scale. This includes snacks, cereals, ice creams, meal replacement bars/powders, and drinks.
Everything that has sugars in it goes into the bag.
(Not including fresh fruits).
We have heard from people that needed several bags! So, as a kind reminder, you are definitely not alone. Science has already proven that we, as a society have a big problem with sugars.
Three warning signs to watch for
- Your taste buds. Do this simple test first thing in the morning. Eat a fresh ripe sweet fruit by itself, like one banana, a few grapes or a mango. Does it taste sweet or do you feel you need to add more sugars to it?
- Sugar binge & cravings. Do you think about carbs or sugars, even after meals or when you are not hungry?
- Sugar crashes. Do you experience hunger, mood swings, memory issues, “brain fog”, or low energy after your meals? Or, are there times where you feel that you got to have a sugary snack or a drink to function?
These observations are important tools that an help you notice improvements during the sugar cleanse.
The Sugar Cleanse Plan
Three steps to detox sugars:
1. Expose (and Avoid) Hidden Sugars
Here’s a fact that surprises many people, and make a lot of health experts very concern.
The research data has shown that 75% of packaged foods contain sugars!
So, first and foremost, put your attention to any food that comes in a package. Unfortunately, the list is long. Think about cereals, yogurt, “healthy bars”, energy bars, meal replacements snacks and shakes. Even green tea and “healthy” probiotics drinks are often loaded with sugars.
So, for best results, during the cleanse, avoid packaged foods and drinks all together. Or, look at the list of ingredients. If there are sugars in it, or you can’t tell what the name of the ingredient means, you should probably not have it.
It is always best to prepare in advance when you are out of the house, with healthy options (see the sugar cleanse diet in this guide). If, however, you got yourself in a situation where you have absolutely nothing to eat but packaged foods, here are a few tips:
- Firstly, read the label and check the sugar content.
- Look for different names of processed sugars hiding on food labels. In particular, look for high fructose corn syrup, rice syrup, maltodextrin, glucose, and fructose. Also, anything with the words “nectar”, “sugar”, “syrup”, or “concentrate” probably means sugars.
- Beware of sugary beverages. Especially, when eating out. Many teas and other innocently looking drinks are packed with sugars. Remember, we live in a culture that uses sugar everywhere!
The bottom line
There are more than 250 names for sugar that are hidden in processed foods and beverages. Often with very attractive terms such as “non-GMO”, organic, natural, etc. Don’t let these marketing tricks fool you. These fancy terms don’t change the fact that these are all sugars.
So, the best and most simple approach is to avoid processed foods and beverages all together during the sugar cleanse. No need to play the sugar detective role. Especially since that detective role may not be that easy.
On that note, the Hypoglycemia Support Foundation is a great resource to learn more about the list of common sugars.
2. Avoid the trap of artificial sweeteners
The terms sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners may sound innocent, but at the end of the day, we are talking about lab made chemicals that trick your brain to mimic the effect of sugar in taste.
And according to research, there’s a price for this trickery. Animal studies have proven that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain, brain tumors, bladder cancer and many other health hazards.
But there’s more to it. When you have these unnatural substances, your taste buds get used to an extreme level of sweetness, a level you will never get from natural whole foods.
Similarly to sugars, artificial sweeteners often hide in product labels with many creative names. The devil, as they say, is in the details. Some of the names include saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose.
During the sugar cleanse, it is best to also avoid sweeteners to help reset your taste buds. So, you can enjoy the natural sweetness of whole foods without the need to add sweetness. Speaking about freedom!
After the cleanse, if you want to add some sweetness to your drinks, smoothies or meals, look for natural alternatives such as pure 100% monk fruit or stevia.
3. The Sugar Cleanse Diet
What can you eat on a sugar cleanse?
Below are some guidelines to help you get started. Since there’s no one diet that works best for everyone, use these to tailor the diet to your likes and needs.
Keep in mind, the sugar cleanse diet is not a diet for life. It is a healthy eating plan that can help restore balance and reset your taste buds. So, the idea is not to restrict yourself forever. After the 14-21 days, you can still enjoy some sugars and high carbs treats if you wish. And, you will probably appreciate the way they taste even more.
Foods to Eat
Greens and vegetables
3/4 of your plate, raw, or lightly steamed
Greens and non-starchy veggies are rich in fiber, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, but low in sugars. They can help balance your blood sugar levels, make you feel full, and at the same time, support your gut health.
Good options include: leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, non-starchy veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage, and mushrooms,. Fruits-like vegetables such as zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers are also great options.
About 20-35 grams each meal*
Most people know that protein supports lean muscle and the repair process of the body. In addition, healthy protein can help control appetite and make you feel satiated.
Be mindful about the source of the protein you eat, however. Unfortunately, the epidemic of ultra processed foods has significantly affected our protein sources too.
Some of the better options of protein for the sugar cleanse diet include:
- Unprocessed meat from grass fed beef, pasture-raised free-range chickens, and wild caught small fish, such as Alaskan salmon. Limit fish to 2-3 times a week to minimize mercury, though.
As for vegan protein sources that are low in carbs, good options include:
- Raw pumpkin seeds (2 oz, 18 grams )
- Raw sunflower seeds (2 oz, 12 grams )
- Hemp seeds (2 oz, 18 grams )
- Fresh unroasted unsalted almonds (2 oz, 12 grams)
*As a rule of thumb, 0.6 grams protein per pound of body weight is a good starting point for most people. For example, 120 grams of protein for a 200 pounds male, and 90 grams for a 150 pounds female. Athletes and active people, however, may need more.
Moderate amount with each meal
Despite their bad reputation, not all fats are bad for you. In fact, not only fats are essential to our health, they can make us feel satiated and control blood sugar levels.
Healthy fats include: fresh raw nuts and seeds, avocado, coconut meat, wild caught small fatty fish, and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.
Coconut butter in particular, (a paste made from the coconut meat), can help blunt sugar cravings. You can use it as a base to thicken and enrich other nut based puddings, or mix it with with your steamed veggies just before serving.
Spices and seasoning
Reducing sugars and carbs doesn’t mean eating plain boring meals. Use the following to spice up your meals:
- Himalayan pink salt
- Garlic, onions
- Cayenne pepper
- Sumac (a powerful antioxidant, tastes great on salads when you mix it with olive oil, lemon and salt).
- Raw apple cider vinegar, (add to your salads, or water)
Examples of recipes for the sugar cleanse
- The noatmeal (low carb oatmeal alternative for breakfast)
- Cauliflower rice
- The healthy detox guacamole
- Colon/gut detox salad
- Chocolate mousse
Can I still eat carbs during the sugar cleanse?
Now that we covered the basics, it’s time to address the topic of carbs on a sugar cleanse diet. After all, the body is going to convert all carbs to sugars, right?
If you find that you struggle with sugars and carbs it is best to limit carbs too. The usual sign is that you are constantly hungry, never truly feel satisfied after your meals. So, you may eat a big bowl of rice, for example, only to find out you are hungry two hours later. Or, looking for a sugary snack right after the meal.
If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to try a lower carb approach and free your body and mind from this horrible vicious cycle. And it doesn’t take long for the body to get used to this, usually in 3-5 days. After that time, the blood sugars become more stable and you will have less cravings.
This is usually the point during the cleanse, where most people start to feel happy with good consistent energy.
With that said, there’s a reason it is called a sugar cleanse, rather than a carb or keto cleanse. If you don’t have a specific problem with carbs, you can try a gradual approach. So, you include moderate amounts of beans or legumes with your meals. While these still have carbs, they have a more moderate effect on blood sugar level. Plus, they are also loaded with fiber and protein.
If you like fruits, have one serving of low glycemic fruits as your first meal, always on an empty stomach. Good options include fresh berries and apples. Try to sprinkle cinnamon on the apples. Watch how you feel. If you find that eating fruits trigger hunger, avoid fruits as well.
Additional foods to avoid during the cleanse
- Inflammatory foods. In particular: dairy, gluten, grains, and soy. Most people have sensitivity to one or more of these foods. So, give your body a break from having to constantly process these foods. Especially, as it tries to restore balance during the sugar detox.
- Processed foods & beverages. Even if these don’t have sugars or carbs, processed meats and other packaged foods are loaded with chemicals and artificial ingredients that can confuse your body and taste buds and disrupt your gut microbiome. Even worse, these chemicals may lead to cravings and hunger pains.
Supplements for Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
Certain supplements may help prevent and manage sugar withdrawal symptoms. Just like the diet, use these guidelines below to personalize your plan to your needs.
Do not wait until for the symptoms to appear! It is better to support your body during the sugar cleanse, and start your morning (or night) with these natural ingredients below. Especially, if you know you have a tendency to experience the following issues:
Depression, headaches, migraines & “brain fog”
Hands down, mood swings, low cognitive function, and headaches are the most common sugar withdrawal symptoms. After all, sugar does release dopamine and your brain may have become used to the high levels of sugars and dopamine.
BrainOn is a wonderful natural green blue algae extract that is high in two natural components that can help in these situations:
- Phenylethylamine (PEA). Helps regulate dopamine and support mood, focus, and brain function.
- Phycocyanin. The blue pigment in blue green algae, may help with inflammation, pain, headaches and migraines.
Take 1 scoop of BrainOn in the morning and when needed, up to 2-3 times a day.
Stress, anxiety, irritability, nervousness, sleep issues
During the first few days of the sugar cleanse, you may feel that you have less patience than usual. The actual symptoms may vary from one person to another. Some people may feel slightly irritated, others may notice stress, anxiety and sleep issues.
Below are a few natural supplements that may help in these scenarios:
Take 1 dropperful of Tulsi extract in the morning, and when needed, up to 2-3 times a day.
For stress, anxiety, sleep issues and sugar cravings
CBD is well known for its ability to promote homeostasis (balance) throughout the body. In particular to the sugar cleanse, this ability of CBD can help with anxiety and sleep and even with sugar cravings.[7,8]
Dr. Group Full Spectrum CBD (Hemp Extract) is a great source of CBD, which contains all the naturally occurring phytocannabinoids in hemp. It is certified organic from US grown hemp and has no added fillers or binders.
Take 1 dropperful, hold in mouth for 1 minute and then swallow, up to 2-3 times a day. When taken before bedtime, you may notice more restful sleep.
- Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake
- Connecticut College, Are Oreos addictive? Research says yes
- New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), How Much Sugar Do You Eat? You May Be Surprised!
- Department of Pharmacotherapy, Washington State University College of Pharmacy, Spokane, WA, Sugars
- Sugar substitutes: Health controversy over perceived benefits
- Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons
- Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series
- Cannabidiol, a Nonpsychotropic Component of Cannabis, Inhibits Cue-Induced Heroin Seeking and Normalizes Discrete Mesolimbic Neuronal Disturbances