Quitting sugar is one of the hottest health topics in recent years. But it’s hard to know exactly how to quit sugar when it’s in so many of our foods.
However, it’s hard to ignore the cold hard facts of sugar’s harm on human health. Countless studies, public health announcements, health experts, and various food and beverage companies are exposing and promoting the dangers of this substance.
But while we’ve been well-informed in recent years of just how bad it is, with it being linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and teeth and bone damage, it can seem easier to ignore the truth than to do something about cravings for sugar.
What’s in this quitting sugar guide:
- Why is sugar so hard to quit?
- How to quit sugar in 5 days
- Natural sugar vs. added sugar
- Quitting sugar in 6 steps
- What to know about sugar detox
- Symptoms of sugar detox
- Managing sugar withdrawal
Why Is Sugar So Hard to Quit?
There has been a lot of research recently on sugar and its effects on the mind, brain, and body. What studies have shown is that sugar does in fact have habit forming properties.
Some studies have even pointed to the fact that sugar is as powerful as some controlled substances because it activates dopamine receptors.
That’s serious business and something you want to get a handle on before a full-blown sugar habit takes hold.
How to Quit Sugar in 5 Days
Quitting the sweet foods you know might seem like a punishment, but added sugar is likely harming your health. Cutting back on added sugar cold turkey might seem like a giant obstacle.
That’s why we’re talking in-depth about how to quit sugar in a smart, sustainable way – cold turkey can be way too jarring for most people. So before you say no to the notion of a no-sugar shopping list, keep in mind that it only takes a mere 5 days to lessen your need for refined sugar.
In that timeframe, your taste buds have the ability to reacclimate to less added sugar, sweet foods, and you will start to enjoy sugar-free options more than you could have expected.
During your sugar-free journey, you will absolutely notice some sugar cravings, but there are ways to combat blood sugar spikes, cravings, and the discomfort of quitting sugar. Below are five ways to kick sugar to the curb, but first let’s discuss natural sugar versus added sugar.
Natural Sugar vs. Added Sugar
To quit sugar for good it’s important to first know the facts about sugar. Natural sugar is the sugar found naturally in foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Alternatively, added sugars are those that are added to food by manufacturers or what you might add to a recipe.
Think white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, honey and many more. In fact, there are over 50 different names for sugar so you have to make sure you’re checking your labels thoroughly.
The key is to avoid added sugar. There’s no need to stop eating fruits and vegetables (please don’t!) or drink a glass of milk (unless you’re lactose-intolerant, of course). These items are not what we refer to when we talk about avoiding sugar.
These foods also have naturally occurring fiber which means that they are more slowly absorbed into your system and don’t spike blood sugar like added sugars do.
So now that you know the difference and what to avoid, here are 5 surefire ways you can decrease added sugars in your diet and kick the habit for good!
How to Quit Sugar in 6 Steps
First off, we don’t believe in harsh cleanses, detoxes, or crash diets. So is it possible to do a sugar detox? The steps below are a gentle sugar detox
1. Say goodbye to sugary beverages.
First and foremost, you must cut out the most unnecessary and easily-missed of all the forms of sugar: the liquid kind. Whether it’s sweetened waters, fizzy sodas or dessert-like coffee beverages, you’re only causing your blood sugar levels to spike, which in turn just triggers your brain to crave MORE sugar.
Instead, opt for seltzer water, buy your own soda streamer, or choose unsweetened coffee.
2. Give sugary junk foods the boot.
Have a sudden desire for a mid-morning or late-afternoon snack? Don’t we all! This is your body’s way of telling you it needs an energy boost.
Often when we deprive ourselves of fueling up, waiting it out until mealtime, we get lethargic and distracted, which hinders us from completing our work and following through with various other priorities. When hunger strikes, often the easiest options are the unhealthiest ones, like cookies, candy bars and granola bars.
Pinpoint these highly sugary snacks and switch them for healthier options that are sure to give you energy as opposed to make you crash. Try starting with fruit when the craving for sugar hits.
Also incorporate high protein, fat and fiber foods that keep the body full for longer, like eggs, nuts, avocados and hummus.
3. Eliminate simple carbs.
Whether it’s pasta, bread or chips, simple carbs serve as sugar for the body. Identify all the refined foods you incorporate into your diet, and try to eliminate them one by one so it doesn’t feel entirely overwhelming or depriving.
For instance, if pasta is your pal, try cutting your serving in half and adding in zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. It’s an easy swap that still feels satisyfying, but give you way more nutrition to boot.
Vegetables are complex carbs, so they’ll keep you satisfied much longer than the simple kind. Adding in leafy greens is also a must, as they’re also slow-digesting foods that keep you full without weighing you down.
4. Pinpoint “hidden sugars.”
Most of us know what’s high in sugar, what’s full of junk, and what’s simply not doing our body a whole lot of good besides giving us an immediate satisfaction to our cravings.
But there are plenty of other sugary culprits that you could be missing, like condiments, salad dressings, sauces and more.
Some of the biggest added sugar offenders might shock you. Even so-called “healthy” items can be packed with added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and even corn syrup.
Watch out for whole-grain cereals, English muffins, low-fat salad dressings, store-bought smoothies, and yogurt.
Be a nutrition label sleuth. Terms like evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose, glucose, and sucrose point to sneaky sugar ingredients.
Try, instead, to incorporate sour additions to your sandwiches, as your sides, or in a meal. Good options that combat sugar cravings are fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi.
Bonus: They’re great for gut health!
5. Rethink dessert.
Whether you’re just a creature of habit or your sweet tooth is on point after dinner, dessert can really be a bummer if you’re trying to quit sugar. But fear not; there are healthier treats you can look for to slowly curb your sugar cravings over time.
Rather than chew on a candy bar, or slurp back some ice cream, try incorporating dark chocolate instead. Make sure to look for a bar that’s high in cacao, however. Bakers Cooking Chocolate, for instance, is 100 percent cacao.
Plus, there’s only one gram of sugar in a half-cup serving of raw cacao, and it’s chock-full of so many incredible health benefits.
But most of us can’t handle the bitterness of 100% cacao, so if you’re used to milk chocolate or other sweets post-dinner, start with about 65% dark chocolate and work your way up.
The health benefits really start to kick in above 70% so the higher you can go, the better off you’ll be! Oh, and stick to about 1 oz. per serving, not the whole bar!
6. Sugar cravings? Hydrate with water.
It’s so hard to quit sugar when sugar cravings can be so powerful. Your secret weapon is free and always available – water.
There are so many reasons why water is important for vitality, including its ability to kick sugar cravings. Have you ever had a sudden sweet craving or sudden and unexpected hunger come on? Perhaps you ate not too long ago, and so this simply doesn’t make sense.
When you’re dehydrated, the body often confuses this with hunger, and so you likely overeat or reach for unhealthy foods. Drinking enough water makes you feel full and flushes out excess sugar from the body, therefore keeping cravings at bay.
Sugar Detox: What To Know
A sugar detox, even if it’s sensible and gentle can be uncomfortable. When you reduce your sugar intake, your body takes notice.
When you significantly reduce your sugar intake you may experience physical symptoms and discomfort. This is sugar withdrawal.
The withdrawal symptoms are not dangerous, but they can be bothersome. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms of detoxing from sugar.
Sugar Detox Symptoms
Some of the symptoms to watch for when you reduce sugar in your diet are:
- Sugar withdrawal headache
- Loss of focus
- Extreme cravings
The symptoms will depend on how much refined sugar you were taking in through sweetened foods and beverages.
Stress may trigger cravings for sweet stuff, so you may find that your symptoms feel worse during times of stress. Some people find that their symptoms last from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Your body adapts to a low added sugar diet over time and your added sugar intake becomes less frequent, so your symptoms and cravings are likely to be less intense, such as between meals and less frequent times of the day, when sugar is not in use at all at the time of certain times of day.
Tips for Reducing Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
Mindset is Key
Quitting also takes time because you will need your detox period or your brain chemistry to adjust and crave less sugar as well as develop healthy new habits.
The point is for a lower sugar lifestyle to be something you actually enjoy doing rather than feel like it’s being forced upon you.
Without these things in place, any dietary change may lead to failure long-term – or worse, backslide into old patterns of behavior.
Shake up Your Hydration
To make your detox more tolerable be sure to focus on hydration. In order to avoid sugar withdrawal headaches, be sure to stay hydrated with water throughout the day!
Try adding some new flavors to your water (sugar-free of course!). Cucumber and herbs taste refreshing in water.
You can also make your sugar withdrawal a little easier if you make sure to stay distracted. Plan something to do the days you plan to reduce sugar.
Make sure it’s not something highly physical or important, as you may not feel the best. But an engrossing distraction will definitely help!
How Long Does a Sugar Detox Last?
The sugar detox process usually lasts anywhere from a few days to one week. However, more severe symptoms may last for weeks if not months.
You’ll know when you’re done because your cravings will disappear and you won’t feel like going on sugar rampages anymore! What a relief!
How to Quit Sugar? Focus on Health, Moderation, and Substitution
Quitting sugar can seem like an impossible task. Added sugar is part of our daily lives. However, the American Heart Association makes it clear that reducing your intake of added sugar should be a high priority.
There are ways to keep sweet treats in your life without loading up on sugar. First, focus on substitutions for sweeteners. Add more naturally sweet foods like fruits to your diet.
Once you notice the amount of energy you have and how even your blood sugar levels are – a lower sugar lifestyle will start to feel easy and enjoyable.
There are lots of health benefits waiting on the other side of sugar. You don’t even need to eliminate all sugar to feel the benefits. Bodies need sugar, after all, just in appropriate amounts.
A sugar detox is more than just quitting sugar cold turkey. It’s about learning what causes your body to crave it in the first place so you can make long-lasting changes that will free you from cravings for life.