The holidays are over and we indulged.
It is hard to cut out sugar, but studies have linked a high added sugar intake with various medical conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as poor dental health.
Sugar may also reduce your energy levels, leading to fatigue and reduced alertness during the day, and eating sugar may even be a factor in depression, according to a 2019 review.
Cleanses and detoxes are similar in that they both center on a diet of clean, healthy foods that are light and nutrient-dense. Although their outcome may be slightly different based on the protocol you choose, both promote for feeling “better” afterward, especially in regard to energy, cravings and bloating.
A “cleanse” often describes a clean eating program that’s loaded with real, wholesome and minimally-processed foods. While cleanses typically last a week or less, some may span an entire month, if not more. With a primary goal of giving the digestive system a much-needed rest, cleanses help fight bloating while supporting bowel regularity.
The average American consumes about 20 teaspoons of added sugar per day. This is a far cry from the recommended amount of six for women and nine for men.
Remember, not all sugar is bad. In fact, it occurs naturally in many types of vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy. But, health problems arise when most of our sugar comes from added sugars, like those in cookies, cakes, bread, plant-based milk, condiments, and more.
A sugar detox is when you abstain from eating sugar, specifically added sugar, for at least a week and up to a month in order to reduce sugar intake, curb sugar cravings, and improve overall health.
There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to sugar detoxes, but your focus should be on cutting out added sugars from your diet: that means paying attention to nutritional facts and avoiding sugary sodas, most desserts, processed foods, and even some condiments like ketchup, which can include four grams of sugar per tablespoon.
“There’s now lots of emerging research that too much sugar can lead to
In fact, a 2017 study estimated if Americans cut their added sugar intake by 20% for 20 years, about 20 fewer people per 100,000 would develop type 2
Unfortunately, it is HARD to stop consuming sugar.
About 10% of the US population are true sugar addicts, according to Robert Lustig, professor of pediatrics and member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco. What’s more, research suggests that sugar induces rewards and cravings that are similar in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs.
One of the biggest concerns is the amount of added sugars in our diets, which are often hidden in foods. Although ice cream cake is an obvious source of sugar, other foods that may not even taste sweet such as salad dressings, tomato sauces and breads can be loaded with sugar.
“There is not one person who wouldn’t benefit by eliminating added sugars from their diets,” Lustig said.
Children can benefit, too. Lustig’s research revealed that when obese children eliminated added sugars from their diets for just nine days, every aspect of their metabolic health improved despite no changes in body weight or total calories consumed.
Brooke Alpert is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Sugar Detox: Lose the Sugar, Lose the Weight – Look and Feel Great.”
“Early on in my practice, when I would notice that people had real addiction to sugar, we’d start trying to wean them of sugar or limit their intake or eat in moderation … but the word ‘moderation’ is so clichéd and not effective,” Alpert said. “It was just ineffective to ask people to eat less of something when they’re struggling with this bad habit. You wouldn’t ask an alcoholic to just drink two beers.
“What was so successful in getting my clients to kick their sugar habit was to go cold turkey. When they would go cold turkey, I wasn’t their favorite person – but the number one positive effect was that it recalibrated their palate,” she said. “They could now taste natural sugars in fruits, vegetables and dairy that they used to be so dulled to.”
So for the first three days on a sugar detox, Alpert recommends no added sugars – but also no fruits, no starchy vegetables (such as corn, peas, sweet potatoes and butternut squash), no dairy, no grains and no alcohol. “You’re basically eating protein, vegetables and healthy fats.
Snacks include an ounce of nuts and sliced peppers with hummus. Beverages include water, unsweetened tea and black coffee.
Though they don’t contribute calories, artificial sweeteners are not allowed on the plan, either. “These little pretty colored packets pack such a punch of sweetness, and that’s how our palates get dulled and immune and less reactive to what sweetness really is,” Alpert said.
Consuming artificial sweeteners causes “you not only (to) store more fat,” Lustig explained, “you also end up overeating later on to compensate for the increased energy storage.”
Once the first three days of the sugar detox are completed, you can add an apple.
“By the fourth day, an apple tastes like candy,” Alpert said. “The onions are sweet! Almonds are sweet! Once you take sugar away from your diet cold turkey, your palate recalibrates, and you start tasting natural sugars again.”
Starting with day four, you can add one apple and one non-dairy item like a coconut yogurt, full fat and unsweetened. “Fat, fiber and protein slow the absorption of sugar, so taking out fat from dairy will make you absorb sugar faster,” Alpert said.
You can also add some higher-sugar vegetables such as carrots and snow peas, as well as a daily serving of high-fiber crackers. Three glasses of red wine in that first week can be added, too.
During week two, you can add a serving of antioxidant-rich berries and an extra serving of a non-dairy product like a vegan cheese. You can also add back starchy vegetables such as yams and winter squash.
For week three, you can add grains such as quinoa and oatmeal, and even some more fruit including grapes and clementines. You can also have another glass of red wine during the week and an ounce of dark chocolate each day.
“Week three should be quite livable,” Alpert said.
Week four is the home stretch, when you can enjoy two starches per day, including gluten free bread and rice, in addition to high-fiber crackers. Wine goes up to five glasses per week – if you need it.
“You can have a sandwich in week four, which just makes things easier,” Alpert said. “I want people living. Week four is the way to do it.”
Week four defines the maintenance part of the plan – though intentional indulgences are allowed, such as ice cream or a piece of cake at a birthday party. “Because the addictive behavior is gone, having ice cream once or twice will not send you back to square one,” Alpert said. Additionally, no fruit is off-limits once you’ve completed the 31 days.
“The whole purpose is to give people control and ownership and a place for these foods in our life,” Alpert said.
10 Foods for Detoxing
The good news is your liver and kidneys do a great job at cleansing without juices, fasts, or strange concoctions.
Here are a handful of foods with impressive detoxifying properties. Many foods that are rich in vitamins and antioxidants can assist your body’s natural ability to cleanse and detoxify itself. Not only can these foods help your body remove toxins, but they also are powerhouses for nutrients.
How to Buy
You should be able to find all the food on this list at your local co-op.
Please buy local and organic when possible.
How to Store
Lemons – will last a month in the refridgerator.
Ginger – in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. If part of the ginger has been cut or peeled, be sure to blot it dry with a paper towel before storing.
Garlic – at room temperature in a dry, dark place that has plenty of air circulation, like in a wire-mesh basket or open paper bag in a cupboard or pantry.
Artichokes – sprinkle with a few drops of water and store in and open silicone bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If cooking them on the day you buy them, leave them at cool room temperature. Once opened, marinated artichoke hearts will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Beetroot – in a cool, dark place for up to three days, or in the crisper section of the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Green tea – keep sealed in a clean, odor-free, airtight container, and should be opened as little as possible to minimize its exposure to the elements. The container should be as small as possible to keep the amount of air in contact with the leaves to a minimum.
Cabbage – best stored whole and unrinsed until you’re ready to use it. Cutting into it will cause it to lose vitamin C, which will lead to faster spoilage. To store a head of cabbage, place it in a silicone bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. A head of cabbage will last up two months when stored this way.
Brown rice – store in your pantry for 3 to 6 months before you need to be concerned about rancidity. To get the most from it you should store brown rice in a dry area in an airtight container. Your storage area should be out of bright light and kept at room temperature or cooler.
Asparagus – store them as you would store cut flowers: Trim the bottoms and stand the spears up in a glass or jar with about an inch of water. Refrigerate them for up to 4 days.
Broccoli – mist the unwashed heads, wrap loosely in damp paper towels, and refrigerate. Use within 2 to 3 days. Do not store broccoli in a sealed container or plastic bag.
Grapefruit – if you won’t use within about 5-7 days, it’s best to keep them in the refrigerator. Once you cut or peel grapefruit, it should be stored in the refrigerator in a glass container.
Avocado – refrigerate an avocado that is ripe or close to it. If you refrigerate an unripe avocado, it will ripen eventually, but the texture and taste may be compromised. If your avocado is ripe, place the whole, uncut avocado in an airtight container or in the produce drawer in the refrigerator.
Collard Greens – store unwashed greens in moist paper towels and place in sealed silicone bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. They will keep about three to four days.
Spinach – wash, and dry it, pulling out any bad leaves. Place it in a glass container or resealable silicone bag. Then dampen doubled paper towels, wring them out, and lay over spinach. Seal the container and refrigerate spinach up to two weeks.
How to Cook
These foods are all best fresh.
Sauté a couple together with a splash of avocado or olive oil. Add Miso Paste and plant butter, or tamari sauce.
Warm Beet and Spinach Salad
- 8 cups baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 2 plum tomatoes chopped
- 2 tablespoons sliced Calamata olives
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 cups beets sliced or cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper