Our new in-house Nutritional Health Coach, Andrea, and I are over sugar. Why? Because high blood sugar wreaks havoc in your system. Of all the things people think to avoid - meat, fat, dairy, gluten - sugar is perhaps the lead criminal. With Spring kicking into gear, the topic of cleansing is on many a mind, including ours. While most people are thinking juice cleanse, we're thinking sugar cleanse.
Although there are plentiful books and information on its damaging effects, sugar consumption is still rampant from what I can see in my practice - people are still consuming too much of it, too often.
Week to week I see issues with bloating and weight gain, skin disorders, anxiety and tension imbalance, mood disturbance, pain and aching, hormone dysregulation...and all of these issues could be minimized with the simple act of giving your blood sugar a Spring reset via a sugar detox. In this post Andrea shows us how with her easy to follow steps below.
You don't have to follow the juice cleanse crowd to have a successful cleanse experience. A simple plan to banish sugar for a couple weeks is a fantastic, yet reasonable way to detox and reset your body without having to forego food.
ANDREA'S SUGAR DETOX
On a Sugar Detox you eliminate all refined sugar and eventually all sources of simple sugars, carbs and starches - ie pasta, bread, rice. But you get to keep protein, good fats, veggies, fruits in appropriate serving size - which are all important support nutrients for your body's function and form.
When you eliminate the excesses of all forms of sugar rampant in our modern diet, your body gets to experience a profound shift in blood sugar levels. If you're not a health practitioner you might not understand how powerful and important blood sugar balancing is for your body. It is HUGE.
To all those out there who think you don't eat sweets - think again. Sugar is everywhere today, often hidden in the very foods you think are "healthy" - granola, fruit yogurt, energy bars and gluten-free treats. Drinks are among the worst offenders. Not just sodas, but fruit juice, Vitamin Water, Starbucks Frappaccinos and Odwalla smoothie drinks each have higher sugar content than a Krispy Kreme Donut.
When eating out, watch for things like teriyaki and BBQ sauces, ketchup, and commercial salad dressings which contain A LOT of sugar. When in doubt, ask! There are plenty of delicious preparations that don't use sugar. Let's begin...
DAY 1-4 : EASING IN
Refined Sugar Expulsion - Refrain from all "foods" that contain refined sugar and that are frankly, not really food. Candy bars, soda (even if artificially sweetened), milk chocolate, energy bars, sugary coffee drinks, and most snacks at Whole Foods, etc. Check nutritional information labels along with ingredients. Sugar should not be listed as any of the first three ingredients.
Often labels don't come right out and say "sugar" you might see instead things like: evaporated or dehydrated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, agave (no this is not a healthy sweetener). As a general rule of thumb, try not to have anything with more than 15g in one sitting.
Nutrient Infusion - In place of these low benefit and nutrient deficient foods, have the opposite: nuts, a regular serving of fresh fruits (ie an apple, a handful of grapes, an orange. You can also use dried fruit, if the cravings are demanding. Sweet veggies like squashes, carrots and beets are also helpful. While these still contain natural sugars, remember you are gradually easing your body into lowered sugar intake. For those of you who think faster is better, think again. Gradual is best for solid, real results.
DAY 5-8 : PICKING UP THE PACE
Keep going - you've made a great start! Now we'll layer in some strategies for curbing the cravings and dealing with withdrawal you may be experiencing:
Take a tablespoon of coconut oil whenever you feel cravings. Because coconut oil is a medium chain tryglyceride (MCT), it can give you fast energy, which is what your body is looking for when it's jonesing for a cookie or chocolate.
Make over your breakfast. Most people need to have protein with their first meal in order to favorably set the sugar "dial" for the day. This will curb and reduce sugar cravings – especially that late afternoon dip that sends you running for chocolate and lattes.
Eggs are a great choice if you tolerate them well, but do think outside the box: soup, salad or dinner leftovers can all make for a great breakfast, if they contain an appropriate source of protein for your body. An old favorite breakfast of mine is a large helping of sautéed kale with a couple eggs on top. Even bacon is ok (yes bacon! We’ll talk about why bacon gets a thumbs up in a later post).
Increase your consumption of protein and good fat. It's really very simple: the more of these you have, the less carbohydrates you'll crave.
Smother a sweet potato with abundant ghee or coconut oil and bake. Wrap in foil, toss in a snack bag and bring with you if you're out for the day. This is a nutritious snack that will satisfy your sugar cravings and stabilize your blood sugar.
Have a glass of water. Wait 10 minutes and then reevaluate. It happens frequently that your body confuses dehydration with actual hunger.
DAY 9-12 : GOING DEEPER
By now, I guarantee, your body will feel lighter and your head clearer. Let that new wellness you're experiencing be the motivation to go on!
Remove simple carbs and grains - Now that you're well on your way to better blood sugar, you can begin to remove what I call the gray areas – things that aren’t obviously sugar. For instance bread, pasta, bagels, white rice, rice crackers, rice cakes. Also eliminate foods made with regular flour. Once digested these foods are very quickly converted to sugar and your body deals with it like it does straight sugar. Let whole grains and beans, whichever of those you eat and sweet vegetables (sweet potato, carrots, beets) become your source of carbohydrates.
Eliminate ALL sources of simple sugars and processed foods - This includes ALL sweeteners, no matter how benign – i.e honey, maple syrup, agave, dried fruits and dates, etc.
DAY 13 AND ONWARD : MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
By now, your efforts to eliminate sugar have provided your body with a well deserved blood sugar reset. You are on your way to a sugar free (or sugar minimal) habit that will pave the way toward improved energy, less bloating, more emotional relaxation and ease.
At this point check-in, gauge your efforts. If the actions you've taken so far seem sufficient to put you back on top of your game, then congratulations! That means your body is pretty healthy and the occasional reset is enough to keep you well. Stick to it! There's no point now in re-adopting habits you know don't serve you.
If, however, you are noticing an increase in particular symptoms - not to worry. I have noticed that with some clients who sugar detox, they find it difficult to maintain their energy level without coffee. Others notice symptoms in their skin, hair and/or nails. Digestive discomforts like constipation, bloating, heartburn, excessive belching, difficulty swallowing may show up for some.
Removing the junk and sugar from your diet is like peeling back layers of an onion. As each undesirable layer is stripped, the more rooted problems underneath can be revealed. Don't fret, this brings into awareness what may be lurking underneath the surface so that it can be properly addressed and resolved. If you experience this kind of result, consider working with a nutrition professional whose guidance can be extremely valuable and helpful.
By Sandra Lanshin Chiu and Andrea Ramirez