We’ve all heard that processed sugar is bad. Some even claim processed sugar to be poisonous. Unfortunately, sugar is hugely addictive. There is evidence that sugar increases reward and craving pathways in the brain much like addictive drugs. At the neurobiological level, the reward systems for sugar are even “more robust than those of cocaine.” This makes going off the stuff immensely difficult. Natural sugars from fruit sources are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, keeping your body nourished and energized. Processed sugars, on the other hand, spike your blood sugar, leaving you to crash shortly after.
If you can remove processed sugars from your diet, you will not have to wait long to start seeing positive changes. Studies have shown that cutting sugar from your diet will improve myriad bodily processes in just nine days. In one study conducted by UCSF, obese children reduced their total dietary sugars from 28 to 10% and their fructose intake from 12 to 4% of their total calorie intake. In just nine days, their blood pressure had dropped 4.3%, their LDL cholesterol had dropped by 12.5%, and their fasting insulin by 53%.
In reality, sugar is hidden in many of the things we eat now (think tomato sauce and bread). In America’s war against fat during the past few decades, many grocery store goods have replaced fat with sugar to lower calorie counts. But now we have become increasingly aware that all calories are not created equal. Sugar has lead to a massive public health crisis (ie. type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease) in the U.S. in the 21st century. While the government struggles to remedy the situation, individuals have realized we must take matters into our own hands.
Here’s our four week plan to wean yourself off sugar.
Week 1: Toss the Sugary Food.
In order to get off the processed sugar train, you must first cleanse all of your spaces of it. Go through your pantry and get rid of anything containing processed sugar. Make sure to read the ingredient panels because sugar may be lurking in some unassuming products. Processed sugar can be called many things, including but not limited to evaporated cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and fructose. Here is a list of 56 ingredient names for sugar. It’s important to spend time learning and researching where sugar can be hidden, so you’re not accidentally consuming it along the way. After you toss the sugar and do some research, reward yourself with a trip to the grocery store armed with your new sugar-free shopping list!
During this week, drink double the amount of water you would normally drink — this will help your kidneys dispel of any excess waste, thus cleansing your body of toxins and inflammation. Also try out anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric and ginger. Our favorite is Glow, our turmeric lemon juice shot. This week is all about preparing your mind and body for a change. By cutting out superfluous added sugars from your diet, you may feel a little more tired and groggy than usual. Your body is adjusting to new sources of energy.
Week 2: Rethink snack time + detox the dessert mindset.
This week, you are going sugar-free in your snacking! A lot of the snacks we turn to are actually huge sugar bombs. For example, many store-bought protein bars have the same amount of sugar as a candy bar! If your office has sugar-laden snacks that you don’t have the authority to toss, bring your own snacks (we recommend nuts, dried seaweed, and fruit) to avoid temptation.
This week, you’re also going to mentally detox from the dessert mindset. Growing up in the U.S., a lot of us were spoiled by brownies and cookies after dinner by our mothers. These kinds of baked goods with processed sugars should be a major treat, not a regular occurrence. If you are craving something sweet after a meal, let yourself digest for at least 20 minutes and then go for a piece of fruit or a square of dark chocolate. Sometimes you may find that waiting 20 minutes cuts the desire altogether.
This week, you’ll begin to feel those temptations come on strong — that’s why rethinking snacks and dessert are key. It is important this week to stay away from an excess of starches and carbs that could increase carb cravings. Set clear intentions this week and stay strong. Fortunately, you’ll really begin to feel a difference this week. Your skin will clear up and bloating will subside. At day 9, you will feel your metabolism start to speed up as well, which means easier workouts and quicker digestion!
Week 3: Focus on fat.
One of the many benefits of fat is that it brings texture and flavor to whatever it encounters, making sugar extraneous. Ingredients rich in Omega-3s like nut butters, seeds, and the renowned avocado add not just good fat, but flavor complexity (and deliciousness!) too. Plus, fat has been shown to balance appetite levels and keep you satiated for longer periods of time. Make a real effort to get more fat into your diet — add a scoop of nut butter to your morning smoothie or top a hearty salad with some avocado.
This week, cravings will begin to vanish and taking pleasure in the savory will improve. Your body has learned to get energy from fat and protein, balancing your moods and hormones. If you need a little boost in your day, check out these fat bombs. They will give you the push you need, plus they’re delicious.
Week 4: Substitute for natural alternatives.
Now that you’ve survived 4 weeks with less sugar, your body’s cravings no longer have the same power over you as before — feel free to add it back in in small amounts with natural substitutes. Keep in mind that not all sweeteners have the same effects on your body — processed white sugar is very different than say, mineral-rich maple syrup, coconut sugar, or dates. Take a moment to think about your daily intake and where you could swap out processed sugars. Do you take your coffee with sugar? Try maple syrup or coconut cream for a rich finish, instead.
Congratulations! You have succeeded in a goal to which most Americans will never come close. You deserve a pat on the back! Keep up with your no sugar streak until it has become a part of your lifestyle :)
Here at Thistle, we’re ultra conscious about sugar content. We only use unrefined sugars mainly in the form of fruit, monkfruit, and maple syrup. Try it out with code NOSUGAR for 20% off your first order!