Sugar Detox: Tips, Benefits and What to Expect

A high-sugar diet has been linked with conditions such as depression and heart disease. A sugar detox can put you on the path to improved health.


A sugar detox may be just what you need ramp up your health and give your body a fresh start. This detox requires you to reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet, and it can benefit your wellness in meaningful ways.

Countless research studies make it clear that excess sugar intake has the potential to wreak havoc on your health. 

Sugar has been linked with an almost endless range of diseases and undesirable health conditions. This sweetener has been associated with everything from obesity to diabetes. 

The solution is to reduce sugar intake. But this isn’t as easy as it may sound. Sugar is everywhere, used as a sweetener in countless foods and beverages. And once you’ve acquired a taste for it, breaking the habit can be difficult. 

That’s where a sugar detox comes in. This process can help you consume less sugar. 

Choosing to alter your diet in this way can be life-changing. A sugar detox has the potential to radically improve your health. 

In this article, we will:

  • Explain what a sugar detox is
  • Talk about why it can be hard to break a sugar habit
  • Explain the signs of sugar addiction
  • Discuss the health problems that can be caused by consuming too much sugar
  • Explain how reducing your sugar intake can benefit your health and well-being
  • Share tips that can help you begin a successful sugar detox

What is a sugar detox?

A sugar detox is a process in which you eliminate or reduce the amount of processed or refined sugar in your diet. If a food contains added sugar, that sugar is typically processed or refined.

Some people choose to have this be a short-term process that lasts anywhere from a few days to a few months. For example, you can opt for a seven-day sugar detox or a 21-day sugar detox during which you minimize the amount of refined sugar you consume. Others choose to permanently integrate this detox into their lifestyle. 

Your sugar detox can be as mild or extreme as you want it to be. 

If you want to ease into this lifestyle shift, you can opt to make a few simple changes to your diet that reduce sugar consumption. This allows you to reap some of the benefits of consuming less sugar, without making aggressive changes to your routine. 

At the other end of the spectrum, you can introduce big changes that involve the complete elimination of all processed sugar in your diet. While this might be the best and most appropriate approach for some people, others may find it too restrictive. 

Whether you choose to reduce sugar consumption or eliminate added sugars completely, you’ll get the best and most lasting results if you make these changes a permanent part of your lifestyle. 

Why is it hard to break a sugar habit?

Sugar can be addictive. Sugar addiction is defined as an emotional or psychological dependence on sugar-laden foods and beverages. It’s estimated that 75 percent of Americans consume excessive amounts of sugar. Many of these people could be classified as having sugar addiction. 

Addiction Center is a facility that offers treatment and guidance for those wrestling with addiction to substances such as alcohol and illicit drugs. This resource lists sugar among its list of addictive substances. 

It can be physically and emotionally difficult for a drug addict to break a drug habit. It can be just as challenging for some people to break a sugar addiction. 

Research shows that sugar is similar to street drugs in the way it encourages addiction and affects the brain. Sugar consumption causes opioids and dopamine to be released in our bodies. This makes us feel rewarded when we increase sugar intake. The high that we feel can ultimately cause us to consume food and drinks that contain lots of refined sugar. 

Signs of sugar addiction

Studies indicate that sugar dependence contains aspects that are identical to those seen in drug and alcohol addiction: 

  • One is bingeing. During bingeing, unusually large amounts of sugar are consumed. This usually happens after a period of abstinence. 
  • Another is withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs when the addict stops consuming sugar. Sugar withdrawal may result in symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
  • Finally, sugar addiction is similar to drug and alcohol addiction in that it involves cravings. This simply means that if you abstain from sugar, you may experience an enhanced desire to reintroduce it into your diet. This type of craving is one of the most common sugar detox symptoms. 

While breaking a sugar habit can be tricky, it’s definitely doable. Some people have had success by quitting cold turkey, while others have reached their goals by taking a more gradual approach. If you think you may be a sugar addict, it may be useful to get help in addressing the emotional and psychological aspects that are at the heart of your addiction. 

By making the right changes to your diet – and reaching out for support if you need it – you can reduce sugar consumption and create a healthier life for yourself. 

Health problems caused by excessive sugar consumption

If you want to stay motivated to stick with your sugar detox, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of the many ways in which excessive sugar intake can harm your health.

Consuming too much sugar may cause the following health problems:

1. Weight gain

Obesity is a growing problem in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42.4 percent of American adults are obese. Obesity has been linked to excessive sugar consumption.

A diet that’s high in sugar can cause weight gain. Sugar can cause your body to become resistant to leptin. Leptin is a hormone that governs hunger; it essentially tells your body when to stop eating. With leptin resistance, it becomes easy for you to consume a high number of sugary calories, and this can cause you to gain weight. 

Studies have shown that sugar-sweetened beverages promote weight gain in children, as well as adults. 

2. Heart disease

A high-sugar diet has been linked with increased risk of heart disease. One 15-year study found that people who got 17-21 percent of their daily calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar.  

So, how much is too much sugar? According to the American Heart Association, the average American woman should consume less than 100 calories of added sugar per day. Men should consume less than 150 calories of added sugar per day. 

3. Type 2 diabetes

Obesity is a strong risk factor for diabetes. Since obesity has been linked with excessive sugar consumption, it’s no surprise that a high-sugar diet has been found to play a causative role in type 2 diabetes. 

Over time, consuming lots of high-sugar foods causes your blood sugar levels to rise. High blood sugar is one of the things that cause diabetes. 

Research shows that for every 150 calories of sugar consumed (the equivalent of a can of soda), the risk of diabetes increases by 1.1 percent. 

4. Cancer

Excessive sugar intake has been connected with a host of conditions that are viewed as being risk factors for cancer;

High-sugar foods can cause obesity. Studies show that obesity is a key risk factor in cancer. 

Additionally, a high-sugar diet can cause inflammation and insulin resistance. Both these conditions have been linked with increased risk of cancer. 

Additionally, research shows a direct relationship between high levels of sugar consumption and cancer. One health study that involved almost half million participants established a positive link between a high-sugar diet and certain types of cancer. 

5. Depression

Depression is a common mental disorder. According to the World Health Organization, it affects more than 254 million people of all ages worldwide. 

A diet that’s high in sugar may be a causative factor in depression. Too much sugar can cause blood sugar swings and inflammation, and these are things that can impact mental health. 

One study tracked 8,000 participants over a 22-year time period. It showed that men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those whose diets included less than 40 grams of sugar per day.  

Sugar detox benefits

Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet may bring these benefits to your health and well-being:

1. Less body fat

As mentioned, excessive sugar consumption can cause insulin resistance. This can ultimately make it more likely for your body to add pounds of fat. Reducing your sugar intake can help eliminate this problem. This will make it easier for you to achieve healthy weight loss and reduce body fat. 

2. Higher energy levels

Many people turn to sugar for a quick energy rush. Unfortunately, this rush doesn’t last; sugar will spike your energy for a short period of time and leave you feeling drained and exhausted in the hours that follow. Reducing or eliminating added sugar in your diet can leave you feeling more energetic. This energy boost is steadier and more long-lasting that the rush you get from sugar consumption. 

3. Fewer cravings

If there’s lots of sugar in your diet, you’ll miss it when you don’t have it. This may cause sugar craving to kick in. These cravings can cause addictive behavior, such as a sugar binge. Ultimately, this can lead you to make choices that negatively impact your health. 

A sugar detox may initially result in more cravings. But over time, as your body becomes used to the new status quo, these cravings will diminish or disappear. By eliminating cravings from the equation, you’ll be able to make smarter decisions about your food choices and your health.

4. Younger-looking skin

When sugar and proteins react in your body, they create compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Researchers say these compounds play a key role in skin aging. 

A high level of sugar in your diet will cause your body to produce more AGEs. This can cause your skin to age prematurely. 

Your skin needs collagen and elastin to stretch and maintain a taut, youthful appearance. AGEs cause tremendous damage to collagen and elastin. This damage can leave your skin looking saggy and wrinkled.

A sugar detox diet has the potential to reduce the amount of AGEs produced by your body and give your skin a more youthful look. 

Sugar detox tips

These tips can help you to reduce or eliminate added sugar in your diet:

1. Increase your intake of whole, unprocessed foods

Whole foods have no added sugar, and they’re full of healthy nutrients. Many of these choices are also quite filling. If you increase your intake of foods that are whole and unprocessed, you’ll be less likely to break your detox by reaching for foods that are high in added sugar. 

Here are some examples of healthy whole foods that you can add to your diet:

  • Kale
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Avocados
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber 
  • Mushrooms 
  • Turnips
  • Zucchini
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges 
  • Blueberries
  • Nut butter
  • Peanut butter

2. Create a plan

Before you get started on your detox, decide how much added sugar you want to consume each day. Then break things down even further, and decide how much sugar you want to eat with each meal. Setting these clear rules for yourself will make it easier for you to know what the boundaries are during your sugar detox. 

3. Use a food diary

It’s important to track your progress and hold yourself accountable as you embark upon your detox. A food diary will help you monitor your meal choices and keep track of your sugar consumption. As such, it’s an invaluable tool in your detox journey. 

4. Replace candy with trail mix

Candy is often loaded with added sugar such as corn syrup. If you want something sweet, reach for trail mix instead. Know that some store-bought trail mixes contain added sugar. You can create your own homemade healthy trail mix that’s free of added sugar by combining dried fruit such as raisins and cranberries with a few nuts. 

5. Always read food nutrition labels

Added sugar exists in the most unexpected places. You’ll find it in foods that are seemingly innocuous, such as processed cereal and yoghurt. For this reason, it’s important to always read nutrition labels when making purchases that involve processed food. Check the label to make sure a food’s sugar content per serving doesn’t exceed the per-meal limits you’ve set for yourself.

6. Pay attention to your beverages

It’s easy to see how important it is to make the right food choices during a sugar detox. But many people overlook the value of making sure that the beverages they consume are low in sugar as well. Replace sodas and processed fruit juice with choices such as water and unsweetened tea. And if you’re consuming alcohol, keep in mind that many alcoholic beverages include sweeteners such as sugar and soda. Replace these choices with alcoholic beverages that contain no added sugar. 

7. Choose fruits instead of pastries and other sweet processed foods

Fresh fruit contains natural sugar. However, there’s a big difference between the sugar in fruit and the added sugar found in processed foods.

Added sugar is refined in ways that cause the body to break it down very quickly, and this can cause insulin and blood sugar levels to soar. Also, because it’s metabolized so quickly, eating this type of processed sugar doesn’t leave you feeling full and satiated after you’ve consumed it. This can ultimately cause you to overeat and consume more calories than you’d like. 

Fruit sugar is metabolized more slowly than the added sugar found in processed foods. Fruit contains fiber that slows down the speed at which this food is broken down by the body. Also, this fiber causes fruit to expand in the gut once it’s been consumed. This can leave you feeling full, thus making overeating less likely. 

Additionally, fruits contain lots of antioxidants and nutrients that are good for your health. Many processed foods contain empty calories with little nutritional value. 

8. Be mindful of your salad dressings

Salads are usually quite healthy, and many people assume that all salad dressings are healthy as well. However, the truth is that many salad dressings are loaded with added sugar. 

Be sure to carefully read the food nutrition label when choosing salad dressings, and look for choices that have little or no sugar added. For an even healthier choice, instead of using dressing, drizzle your salad with olive oil or vinegar.  

Next steps

Now you have all the information you need to detox your body from processed sugar. Put this knowledge into action by restocking your kitchen and revamping your diet, with the aim of reducing your consumption of processed sugary foods. 

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