Sugar Detox: Hype or Hope?
A trendy sugar detox diet promises to end your craving for sweets and help you lose weight. But does it work? Here’s the truth about sugar cravings and how to tame your sweet tooth.
Can You Really Be Hooked on Sugar?
Some people use sugary foods in ways that aren’t healthy, even though it may not be an actual addiction. Some signs: You crave sugar, lose control, and eat more than you planned.
Your Brain on Sugar
Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you often eat a lot of sugar, you’re reinforcing that reward, which can make it tough to break the habit.
Quick Sugar Highs …
Why do you get a rush when you eat a midday candy bar? The sugar in it — called a simple carbohydrate — is quickly turned into glucose in your bloodstream. Your blood sugar levels spike. Simple carbs are also found in fruits, veggies, and dairy products. But these have fiber and protein that slow the process. Syrup, soda, candy, and table sugar don’t.
…And Sugar Lows
Your body needs to move glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells for energy. To do this, your pancreas makes insulin, a hormone. As a result, your blood sugar level may have a sudden drop. This rapid change in blood sugar leaves you feeling wiped out and shaky and searching for more sweets to regain that sugar “high.” So that midday sugary treat has set you up for more bad eating.
Starch Can Equal Sugar
Think you don’t have a sweet tooth, but crave bagels, chips, or french fries? These starchy foods are complex carbs that the body breaks down into simple sugars. Eaten without better foods, starches can make blood sugar surge and crash like sugar. White rice and white flour do this. Highly refined starches like white bread, pretzels, crackers, and pasta are worst.
Do Sugar Detox Diets Work?
Can you beat your sugar habit by quitting cold turkey? Some sugar detox plans urge you to avoid all sweets. That means all fruit, dairy, and refined grains. The idea is to purge your system of sugar. Diet changes like this are too drastic to keep up. Changes that you can do only for the short term mean you’ll fall back to your old habits.
Retrain Your Taste Buds
You don’t need sugar as much as you think you do. In fact, you can train your taste buds to enjoy things that aren’t as sweet. Try cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. For example, pass on dessert after dinner. Start putting less sugar in your coffee or cereal. Over time, you will lose your need for that sugar taste.
Choose Good-for-You Sweets
You don’t have to give up sweetness. Just get it from other sources. Try fresh berries or pureed fruit on oatmeal instead of sugar. Explore fruit that’s dried, frozen, or canned (without too much added sugar). A glass of low-fat milk or low-sugar yogurt can help.
Kick the Habit in Baby Steps
If you make small, simple changes to your diet, it’s easy to keep them up. Start by eating more fruits and vegetables. Drink extra water. Check food labels, and pick those that don’t have a lot of sugar. Cut out a little bit of sugar each week. After a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how little you miss it.
Sugar Detox: Hype or Hope?