Americans consume, on average, 20 teaspoons of sugar daily. This is well over the recommended nine teaspoons for men and six teaspoons for women. As a treatment for overindulging in sugar or for a true sugar addiction, many people turn to sugar detoxes to rid their bodies of the excess and return to healthy eating. But how long does it take to detox from sugar?
It’s important to note that not all sugars are bad for you. Sugar occurs naturally in vegetables, grains, dairy, and fruits. Health problems arise when we consume added sugars found in foods such as cakes, cookies, bread condiments, and plant-based milk.
Drinks Containing Sugar
Sugar is one of those things that can easily sneak into a diet. Often, we are completely unaware of how much we are consuming until we take a close look. The leading source of sugar when it comes to drinks are:
- Pop/soda: 25%
- Fruit beverages: 11%
- Energy/sport drinks: 3%
- Tea/coffee: 7%
When it comes to food, sweets and snacks are the largest contributors to sugar intake at 31%. So, how do our bodies react?
Bodily Reactions to Excess Sugar Intake
While it is tempting to use alternative sugars, you can find sugar in hidden places. Items comprised of honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, turbinado sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and corn syrup are the hidden causes of increased sugar intake. That’s why reading labels is so important. The higher it is on the list, the higher the amount in your food. This is true of baby formula as well.
The determining factor is how fast the sugars are absorbed by your body. Natural sugar absorbs slower since it contains fiber, causing a longer digestion time. Soda sugar is absorbed immediately like one big sugar bomb. The body quickly converts the excess sugar to calories.
The best option containing no calories is plant-based stevia or monk fruit. They are completely safe and have been reviewed by the FDA.
What Is Sugar Withdrawal?
Eliminating sugar is more difficult than we realize. Within a few days of getting rid of sugar in your diet, some people will experience withdrawal symptoms and sugar cravings, which may be equated to the withdrawal cycles seen when someone quits smoking.
Sugar releases opioids and dopamine into the brain. Both have addictive potential. Brain receptors become rewired to compensate for the release of the extra neurotransmitters. So, it is possible when reducing sugar intake for your brain to crave dopamine and opioids, creating withdrawal symptoms.
Common symptoms may include:
- Muscle aches
- Stomach cramps
This type of withdrawal may last for a few days to one week. They tend to be mild and temporary. However, you can take steps to mitigate the discomfort.
How Long Does It Take to Detox from Sugar – 8 Pro Tips
If you find eliminating sugar challenging or can’t handle the withdrawal symptoms, there are a variety of ways that you can safely curb the need for something sweet. Adding certain foods can curb cravings and make its elimination less burdensome.
Eliminating sugar may prove to be extremely difficult. For some, it tends to shock the body and feels like your energy is being sapped. To combat this, gradually reduce your sugar intake before eliminating it from your diet. Adding a few teaspoons daily will not harm you, providing you stop there.
Consuming a breakfast loaded with complex carbohydrates, proteins, foods rich in fiber, and healthy fats will balance blood sugar. It will also prevent sugar cravings that crop up throughout the day.
Add Protein to Your Diet
By increasing protein, you will remain fuller for longer. It will also subsequently reduce your food cravings. In 2017, a small study on individuals with type two diabetes discovered that a diet containing low carbohydrates, proteins, and high fiber increased fullness while reducing the need for sugar.
Consume Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are found in fatty fish and nuts. They reduce sugar cravings. Adding things like nut butter or avocado to your lunch will help your body reduce the need for sugar.
As mentioned above, fruit drinks and energy drinks can be hidden sources of sugar. To quit sugar, replace lemonades and sodas with club soda, water, or unsweetened tea.
Dehydration makes sugar cravings worse. Ensure you drink a minimum of 3.7 liters daily for men and 2.7 liters for women.
As previously mentioned, reading labels is key to cutting down sugar intake. Condiments and many foods are high in sugar. Most of us don’t realize it since we would never associate these types of food with sugar. Be sure to check out the labels on barbecue sauces, salad dressings, marinara sauce, and oatmeal packets as they are a hidden source of sugar.
Also, not every label will list the word “sugar”. Sugar is also called the following names:
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Agave nectar/syrup (contains 10-30% glucose and 70-90% fructose)
Most of us turn to cookies, cakes, chocolate, or other sweets for dessert. If you are craving something sweet to finish off your meal, first determine if you are truly hungry. You may legitimately be hungry or may be simply eating out of habit.
If you are hungry, find something high in protein or healthy fat, like macadamia nuts, unsweetened coconut, or Greek yogurt with berries.
In the end, you may have to focus on your entire diet if you're quitting sugar. By optimizing the nutrient density, you can improve your overall health and eliminate added sugar. Focus on consuming unprocessed, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeks, eggs, poultry, and seafood to curb cravings.
If you are wondering how long a sugar detox takes, the answer tends to range from a few days to one week. In terms of getting it out of your system, the answer is two to three hours to return to a normal blood sugar level, provided you are not diabetic. If you are, it will take three to four hours.
Apps like Noom and Healthi can help you reduce your sugar intake safely. They will instruct you on what foods to avoid. Plus, the color-coded system will inform you if you are eating too much sugar.