Today, processed sugar is so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine life without it. From sodas, candy bars and ice creams to packaged sweeteners in cereals, sauces and crackers — we eat it all the time. But the science on how sugary foods make us fat is very clear. Sugar releases insulin into our bloodstream in roughly equal amounts from each bite of food, but other than weight loss programs and crash diets that result in rapid drops in weight followed by quick regain of most of it (and you know why), there’s no long-term health benefit to this release. In fact, processed sugars cause inflammation and disrupt our hormones in ways that are harmful to our hearts and overall well-being. That said, not everyone is a fan of cutting out all forms of processed sugar from their diet entirely. A lot of people enjoy eating delicious desserts with friends or family once or twice a week; others might do so even more frequently. For those who stay active throughout the week with some form of physical activity at least once a day, having only one dessert per week can be easy to accommodate as well! Here we share with you a simple, practical 7-day plan for quitting sugar as an experiment to see how your body reacts if you cut down on its intake for such a long period of time.
What Is Sugar?
Sugar is the most common type of carbohydrate in processed foods. Sugar can be made from many different natural sources, such as sugar cane, sugar beet and sugar maple trees. For a healthy lifestyle, it’s best to avoid all forms of processed sugar, including honey and agave nectar. By eating real food that is not processed with artificial sweeteners, you will provide your body with the nutrients it needs without the harmful effects of sugary foods.
Why Quit Sugar?
The obvious answer is because processed sugars are bad for your health. They increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity and have negative effects on neurological function and cognitive performance. But there’s a more compelling reason: to enhance your mental clarity, motivation, focus and mood — all things that can be improved by reducing sugar from your diet. The 7-day detox plan outlined below is not a replacement for a healthy diet; it’s meant to just give you an idea of what the possible benefits could be if you were to try to reduce your intake of processed sugars over a long period of time. This can help you decide whether or not it’s something worth trying for Thanksgiving break or Valentine’s Day. And while this kind of experimentation won’t guarantee weight loss, it will help you discover what foods work best for your body in terms of satiety (feeling full) and hunger control so that you can make better food choices in the future.
Jump-start Your Weight Loss on Day 1
Breakfast: A cup of coffee with no sugar or milk; or green tea, Stevia to taste. One hard-boiled egg. Half an orange.
Lunch: 1/2 cup cooked brown rice and one ounce grilled salmon.
Dinner: Cucumber, sliced into rounds and topped with a teaspoon of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper each; then sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds; and a handful of arugula.
Day 2: Water, Black Tea and Coffee only
This is a gentle detox. Your body will adjust in a positive way and feel good after the first day. On Day 2, we recommend that you only drink water, black tea or coffee with no sugar or milk added. This will be hard at first, but it’s worth it! The caffeine in these drinks will help your body stay energized and alert throughout the day, while the antioxidants in this detox can prevent inflammation and protect you from chronic diseases later on. You might also want to try adding lemon juice to your water onto which you’ve sprinkled some fresh mint. Not only does this help with digestion, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties (try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper for extra flavor!).
Day 3: No White or Brown Rice, Potatoes or Bread
Breakfast: Protein shake with fresh berries.
Lunch: Asparagus with green beans and a side of quinoa.
Dinner: Chicken breast with steamed vegetables and sautéed kale Asparagus is high in fiber and protein, which make it a great addition to your diet. It also has some vitamins A and C, which are good for your overall health. To give this meal extra kick, add some smoked paprika or red pepper flakes to the vegetables before they’re cooked. Green beans are rich in ascorbic acid, a type of vitamin that helps your body absorb iron. Quinoa is also a good source of fiber and protein that can help people feel fuller quicker because it’s made up of mostly water. This dinner option is full of flavor and great for those who are trying to eat healthier without having to sacrifice taste or satisfaction. Of course, this dinner choice isn’t the only option available out there! You’ll need to experiment with other tasty dinner options if you’re interested in finding something different from what we’ve listed out here. The key is just making sure you’re still getting enough protein for your body’s needs — most days you’ll need at least half a gram per pound of lean body weight (about 0.5 grams per kilogram). That means if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kilograms), then you should get about 75 grams of protein at dinner time each day.
Day 4: No Milk, Yogurt or Ice Cream
If you want to give up dairy for a 7-day detox plan, today is when you start. It’s important to stay hydrated during this time, so make sure that you drink plenty of water and herbal tea throughout the day. When it comes to what kind of dairy products to avoid, stick with those that are low in sugar like whole milk or low-fat yogurt. When it comes to choosing what dairy substitutes you’ll be consuming, try almond milk or coconut milk (both of which are high in calcium) or unsweetened plain soy milk.
Day 5: Only Fresh Fruits and Veggies, No Dry Fruits or Candies
Today, we hope you will focus on having as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. No dry fruits or candies! If you don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables at this time, consider this a reminder that the time is coming soon when those items will be in abundance.
Day 6: No Alcohol; Eat Only Cooked Foods
This transition is a tough one for many. Alcohol has been a part of our culture for centuries and its consumption is prevalent in many cultures around the world. If you’re going to abstain from alcohol, you have to make sure that you’re eating healthy fats like avocados, eggs, nuts and seeds instead of processed fat-laden foods. If you’re looking for an easy transition, try replacing your alcoholic beverage with green tea!
Day 7: Strict Fast Day with Only Water and Teas Allowed
Day 7 is a strict fast day to complete the 7-day process. During this fast day, you’ll drink only water and herbal or green teas.
Many people have done stricter fasts and water-only fasts, but this 7-day fast is a simple and gentle introduction. Once I am a day into my fast, my mind is clear, my spirit is happy. Fasting is indeed miraculous. Start with this one, and quit sugar, you can do it!