How to do a sugar detox safely, according to a dietician

We all know that eating too much sugar is bad for our health, but it's hard to resist those sweet temptations.

Experts often advise against going cold turkey when modifying your diet, but in the case of oh-so-addictive sugar, you might want to try doing just that.

Eating in moderation becomes a tough feat when it comes to sugar because most people eat more than the daily recommended amount of 11 teaspoons, which is about 55 grams.

We spoke to clinical and sports dietitian Jaclyn Reutens, also the founder of Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants, to find out more.

If you're looking to cut back on sugar by avoiding added sugar in your diet, here's how.

WHAT IS A SUGAR DETOX?

First of all, it is important to understand the difference between sugar and sugar-containing foods, Jaclyn says. You can eliminate sugar-containing foods but it is extremely difficult to eliminate sugar from your diet.

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And that is perfectly fine because our bodies need a certain amount of sugar to function.

Sugar from natural sources such as fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy and grains isn't bad for you when taken in moderate amounts. To do a sugar detox, you will have to try to avoid added sugars as much as possible.

This includes sugary drinks, desserts and recipes that are high in sugar. Even sauces can contain a deceivingly large amount of sugar.

Other examples of added sugar include white sugar, brown sugar, sucrose, agave nectar, honey, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, maltose and malt syrup.

SAFE STEPS TO DO A SUGAR DETOX

Jaclyn recommends identifying where sugar is entering in your diet. Are they from obvious foods like sweetened beverages and cakes? Or are they from hidden sources like honey glazed almonds and ketchup?

Once you are aware of your eating patterns, it is easier to narrow down the main culprits. People who are mentally strong might be able to go cold turkey on those foods, but it is much easier to cut back gradually over two weeks. "There is absolutely nothing wrong about it and there is no need to feel guilty," Jaclyn says.

Replace those sugary foods with fresh fruits and vegetables that contain fibre, potassium and other vitamins and minerals. Not only will they help to keep your sugar levels under control, but they will also make you feel more energised and focused. You can also eat more nuts and seeds for healthy lean protein and fibre.

When you've got past the withdrawal symptoms and no longer crave sugar desperately, it is okay to allow more foods with added sugar back into your diet, once or twice a week. Jaclyn says there is no need to avoid these foods forever if you are able to control your intake.

Anyone who feels they are "addicted" to sugar and can't get through their day without eating or drinking something sweet should try doing this sugar detox. If you are constantly looking for something sweet throughout the day, a sugar detox might help you.

SIMPLE WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR DAILY SUGAR INTAKE

It is easy to consume less sugar in your daily life when you know where the added sugar is coming from. You can start by swapping your sodas with plain water with a squeeze of lemon. When ordering coffee or tea, opt for no or less sugar.

Jaclyn also recommends keeping snacks away if you get peckish in the afternoon, and place fresh fruit near you instead. People with a sweet tooth can go with healthier dessert options like yogurt and fruit instead of cakes and pies.

THINGS TO TAKE NOTE OF

Doing a sugar detox has considerable benefits. Aside from being weaned off sugar, you might also notice fat loss, clearer skin and an increase in energy.

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The first few days will be the most difficult but they will pass. Stay hydrated and remember that natural sugar is not the devil - your body needs some to function!

If you're embarking on this journey, get a friend or family member to join in for support because it'll be easier to do it with a partner.

Before embarking on a sugar detox, check with your doctor to make sure you are suitable for it. This method is unsuitable for diabetics, athletes, pregnant women, or people taking medication for blood sugar.

If you feel faint after reducing your sugar intake, you should take a look at other aspects of your diet to ensure you are eating balanced meals.

This article was first published in Shape.