Lifestyle

How To Sugar Detox for Beginners‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎

Trying to kick your sugar habit? Read on to discover everything you need to know about detoxing from sugar for beginners with Thrivelab.
Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Nayan Patel

Sugar cravings can be hard to resist, but if you're looking for a way to kick your sugar habit and improve your overall health, then it might be time to try a sugar detox. 

A sugar detox is an effective way of reducing the amount of added sugars in your diet and can help you break unhealthy habits that have been keeping you from reaching your health goals. 

Whether you are just starting this journey or have been trying for years, here is everything you need to know about how to do a successful sugar detox as a beginner.

What Causes Sugar Cravings?

We've all been there: you're savoring a delicious dessert when all of a sudden, you can't resist grabbing another slice or indulging in a second scoop of ice cream. So, what is it about the sweet stuff that makes it so irresistible? 

Turns out, our sugar cravings are rooted in a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Evolutionary Biology

Our ancestors relied on sweet foods as a source of sustenance, especially during times when food was scarce. Sugar was a valuable source of energy, and our bodies developed a preference for it over time. 

Even today, when we consume sugar, our brains release a surge of dopamine — the "feel-good" hormone — which reinforces the behavior and makes us crave more. 

Emotional Eating

Stress, anxiety, and other emotions can trigger cravings for comfort foods like sugary snacks. Eating sugar can create a temporary sense of pleasure and distract us from negative feelings. However, this can lead to a cycle of emotional eating that is unhealthy in the long term. 

Lack of Sleep

When we don't get enough sleep, our bodies release more of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. This can lead to cravings for high-calorie, sugary foods that provide a quick boost of energy. Getting enough sleep is key to maintaining a healthy diet and managing sugar cravings.

Dietary Imbalances

If our diets lack essential nutrients like protein or fiber, our bodies may turn to sugar for a quick energy source. Consuming more nutrient-dense foods can help reduce sugar cravings and improve overall health.

Environmental Cues

The food industry strategically markets sugary treats to us, making it difficult to resist temptations. From colorful vending machines to checkout aisles filled with candy, it's no wonder we often find ourselves reaching for sugar-laden snacks. Limiting exposure to these environmental cues can help decrease sugar cravings.

How Can Sugar Affect Your Health?

When we consume sugar, our body experiences a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, which can lead to a surge of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body move sugar from the bloodstream into cells for energy. 

However, over time, consuming too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which means that the body's cells become less responsive to insulin's signals. This can lead to elevated levels of insulin in the bloodstream, which can have negative effects on the body. It can also lead to high blood sugar, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance can also have negative effects on other hormones in the body. For example, it can lead to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can contribute to inflammation and a range of health problems.

Elevated cortisol levels and insulin resistance can disrupt the normal function of sex hormones, which can have negative effects on overall health. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can lead to decreased levels of testosterone in men and estrogen in women. 

Insulin resistance, on the other hand, can lead to increased levels of androgens (male hormones) in women and decreased levels of testosterone in men. These imbalances can contribute to a range of issues, including decreased libido, menstrual irregularities, and infertility.

Consuming too much sugar can also lead to imbalances in hormones that regulate hunger and satiety, such as ghrelin and leptin. Over time, this can lead to overeating and weight gain, which can increase the risk of a range of negative health outcomes, including heart disease, diabetes, and more.

What's a Sugar Detox?

A sugar detox is a period of time when you eliminate added sugars from your diet. This includes table sugar, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, and other added sweeteners. You should also avoid processed foods with added sugars, such as breakfast cereals, candy bars, and soft drinks.

During a sugar detox, it’s important to focus on getting your nutrients from whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, proteins, and healthy fats. The goal is to reduce your sugar intake and replace it with natural, nutritious foods that can help support your body's health.

What Are the Benefits of a Sugar Detox?

Kicking sugar to the curb is tough, but the benefits are well worth it. Here are a few benefits to keep in mind when you feel like cracking open a soda.

Increased Energy Levels 

Most of the time, when we reach for sugary snacks or drinks, it's because we need a quick boost of energy. However, that sugar high is short-lived and is often followed by a sugar crash that can leave us feeling even more drained than before.

By eliminating sugar from your diet, you may start to notice a more sustained source of energy that keeps you feeling focused and productive throughout the day. Plus, without the rollercoaster of high and low blood sugar levels, you may experience fewer mood swings and feel happier overall.

Brighter Skin 

Sugar wreaks havoc on our skin in a number of ways by causing inflammation, breakouts, and premature aging. Studies have shown that a low-sugar diet can improve the appearance of skin by reducing blemishes, minimizing wrinkles, and increasing skin hydration. So, if you're looking to achieve a glowing complexion, a sugar detox might be the answer.

Weight Loss

This one may seem obvious, but cutting out sugary drinks, desserts, and snacks can help you lose weight. Not only are sugar-packed foods high in calories, but they also trigger the release of insulin, which signals the body to store fat. 

By reducing your sugar consumption, you may not only shed pounds and combat weight gain, but you can also reduce the risk of obesity-related health issues like heart disease and diabetes.

Improved Digestion

Excess sugar intake can cause digestive issues like bloating, constipation, and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in some people. Cutting back on sugar can help regulate your digestive system and alleviate these uncomfortable symptoms. 

Plus, without the added stress on your digestive system, you'll have more energy to devote to other areas of your life.

Better Sleep

Sugar addiction can interfere with our sleep patterns by disrupting our natural circadian rhythms. Too much sugar can cause a spike in cortisol levels, which can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. 

“Sleep is huge,” says Katie Jo, our Nurse Practitioner at Thrivelab. “There are studies that indicate that many people who experience chronic pain syndromes experience decades or several years of sleep issues before the chronic pain developed.”

Reducing or eliminating sugar from your diet can help you sleep more soundly and wake up feeling refreshed and alert — which can work to support your overall health in the long run.

How Can You Detox From Sugar?

Now that you know all the amazing benefits of a sugar detox, let's get into the nitty-gritty of how to actually do it. 

Step 1: How To Prepare for Your Sugar Detox

To set yourself up for success, it's essential to prepare for your sugar detox properly. Here are three key tips to help you get started:

  • First, clear your pantry and fridge of any sugary foods and beverages. This includes items like sodas, candies, pastries, and any processed foods with added sugars. By removing these temptations from your home, you'll be able to stay on track during your detox.
  • Second, create a meal plan for the duration of your sugar detox, focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods like fresh fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains. Planning your meals in advance can help prevent you from reaching for sugary snacks when hunger strikes. If you need to, enlist the help of a nutritionist or dietitian.
  • Finally, inform your friends and family about your sugar detox, and invite them to join you in your journey to better health. By having a support system in place, you'll be more likely to stay committed to your sugar-free goals.

Step 2: How To Choose Healthy Substitutes for Sugar

When you're on a sugar detox, it's crucial to find healthy alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth. Here are some options you can try:

  • Fruit: Fresh or frozen fruit can be a delicious and nutritious way to satisfy sugar cravings. Opt for fruits like berries, apples, or oranges, which are lower in sugar than some other options.
  • Spices: Cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg can add a hint of natural sweetness to your meals without the need for added sugar.
  • Sugar-Free Sweeteners: If you need a sugar substitute, consider natural, sugar-free alternatives like xylitol or erythritol. These sweeteners have little to no impact on blood sugar levels, making them suitable for a sugar detox.

Step 3: Building Healthy Meals That Don't Rely on Sugar

A key part of your sugar detox is learning how to build balanced, satisfying meals without relying on added sugars. To do this, focus on incorporating a variety of whole, nutrient-dense foods into each meal. 

Start by filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, or bell peppers. Next, add a lean protein source, like grilled chicken, tofu, or fish. 

Finally, include a portion of healthy fats, such as avocado or olive oil, and a small serving of whole grains or carbs. Make sure not to consume too many carbohydrates, as they still turn into glucose as your body digests them. Experiment with different flavors, seasonings, and cooking methods to create delicious, sugar-free meals that you'll look forward to eating. 

Additionally, don't forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated can help curb sugar cravings and keep you feeling full and satisfied. 

Remember that a sugar detox doesn't have to be boring — you can still enjoy tasty and satisfying dishes while improving your health.

Step 4: Learn To Love Natural Sweeteners

If you're missing the taste of sugar during your detox, don't worry — there are plenty of natural sweeteners to choose from. Here are a few popular options:

  • Stevia: Derived from the leaves of the stevia plant, this zero-calorie sweetener is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so you only need a small amount to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Monk fruit: This fruit-based sweetener is 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar and has zero calories. It's often found in powdered, granulated, or liquid form, making it easy to incorporate into your favorite recipes.
  • Coconut sugar: This natural sweetener is made from the sap of coconut palms and has a slightly lower glycemic index than regular table sugar. Coconut sugar is also rich in minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium.
  • Raw honey: While honey does contain natural sugars, it also has vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that offer health benefits. Use it sparingly during your sugar detox to add natural sweetness to your meals.

Make sure you watch out for hidden sugars. You’re not just looking for cane sugar on the ingredients lists — you’ll also want to look out for high fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, and rice syrup.

Also, make sure you look out for foods with added sugar. Sneaky foods like pasta, bagels, yogurt, cereal, and salad dressing can surprisingly contain lots of sugar. When you’re following a sugar detox diet, it’s generally best to stay away from these and always read the labels.

Step 5: Get Moving and Embrace Self-Care

Lifestyle changes like exercise and self-care are essential components of a successful sugar detox. Regular physical activity can help stabilize blood sugar levels, boost your mood, and reduce cravings for sugar. 

Aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling is generally recommended. Incorporating strength training exercises can also help encourage your overall health and support your sugar detox goals.

In addition to exercise, prioritize self-care during your sugar detox. This includes getting enough sleep, managing stress, and nurturing your mental and emotional well-being. By caring for your body and mind, you'll be better equipped to resist sugar cravings and stay committed to your sugar-free journey.

Step 6: Focus on Your Hormones

Since sugar can mess with your hormones, it’s important to give them a little extra support during your detox. If you’ve struggled with symptoms such as stubborn weight gain, heavy or irregular periods, brain fog, or mood swings, then you may have a hormone imbalance.

“The next step I would say is not to wait to get help because every day you wait, your hormones are not going to replace themselves on their own,” says Katie Jo. “If hormone deficiency was a dietary deficiency, then we wouldn't be in the place where we are right now. So don't wait.”

Luckily, you can use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help address these imbalances. At Thrivelab, we offer bioidentical HRT to help support your body as it regains balance.

Whether you need help losing excess weight or you want to get back to enjoying your life at all times of the month, we’re here to help. Schedule your first consultation today to speak with one of our board-certified health experts and take a step toward better health.

Can I Quit Sugar Cold Turkey?

While quitting sugar cold turkey is possible, it's not necessarily the easiest or most effective approach. Quitting sugar suddenly can lead to intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult to stick to your sugar-free diet.

Instead, it's typically best to gradually reduce your sugar intake over time. This can allow your body to adjust and make it easier to stick to your new diet without feeling overwhelmed.

A Final Word

Sugar detoxing isn't about deprivation, but finding balance and freeing yourself from addiction. Remember, it's a journey, not a one-time event. Allow yourself grace and flexibility as you navigate the process. 

By being mindful of your sugar intake, planning out meals, incorporating exercise, finding support, and practicing self-care, you'll be on your way to a sweet release. Cheers to a healthier and happier you!

Here at Thrivelab, we're on a mission to help you live your best life, and that starts with balanced hormones and a healthy relationship with food. We offer hormone replacement therapy to help keep cravings in check, healthy lifestyle coaching, and so much more.

Get started today and take the first step towards a healthier, sugar-free life. 

References

  1. 3 Reasons You Crave Sweet or Salty Foods | Cleveland Clinic
  2. Health Benefits of Stevia vs. Sugar? | Sutter Health
  3. Everything You Need To Know About Monk Fruit Sweeteners | Food Insight
  4. Dopamine: What It Is, Function & Symptoms | Cleveland Clinic
  5. Emotional Eating and How to Stop It | HelpGuide.org
  6. A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men | National Library of Medicine
  7. Can the right diet get rid of acne? | AAD
References

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