Starting a sugar detox seems straightforward- cut out all foods that have sugar. But with all of the artificial and all-natural sweetener options on the market, saying no to sugar is not always so clear cut. Too much sugar in one’s diet is frequently targeted for its detrimental health effects, but there is a lot of confusion when it comes to the good and bad of alternative sweeteners. Companies claim products are “Sugar Free” when in reality they are laden with artificial sweeteners, that are often just as bad as the sugar itself. We’ve heard many questions about what to choose and what to avoid when going on a sugar detox -are artificial sweeteners okay because they have zero or very few calories? What about unrefined sweeteners like honey, agave, maple syrup, and dates that are often used in “healthy” baking recipes? Here are the key facts about all forms of sweeteners and 4 guidelines to stick to during your sugar detox.
1. Avoid All Artificial Sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners are laboratory made sugars that cannot be broken down by our bodies. Because the chemical compound cannot be digested to provide calories, companies can claim the product has “Zero Calories.” This does not make these sweeteners healthy, however. Scientists have found that artificial sweeteners have the same, if not higher risks for weight gain, Type 2 Diabetes, and heart disease as sugar. Additionally, scientific research has found an increased risk of cancer associated with consumption of aspartame and saccharin, two of the most common artificial sweeteners. If the health risks aren’t bad enough, artificial sweeteners won’t help stop sugar cravings. In fact, they may cause more intense sugar cravings than real sugar. Because they are super sweet, artificial sweeteners stimulate the food reward pathway in the brain, but since they are without calories and nutrients, they cause incomplete satisfaction, which prompts an unsatisfied appetite and increased food cravings.
2. Avoid Honey, Maple Syrup, Agave, and Dates: Many health brands and “healthy” recipes use these unrefined sugars to sweeten foods and make health claims. While these sweeteners are all natural, they actually contain higher concentrations of fructose than table sugar. Every cell in our body can utilize glucose for energy, but fructose can only be broken down by liver cells. When the liver is overloaded with fructose, the liver breaks it down to form triglycerides. High amounts of fat in the liver can lead to fatty liver disease as well as increased fat sent circulating throughout the blood, which leads weight gain and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Limited Quantities of Stevia are OK: Stevia is a sugar alcohol that is derived from the stevia plant and has been used for over 1,500 years by the Guarani people of Brazil and Paraguay. Known as the “sweet herb,” stevia is an all-natural, zero calorie sweetener that has also been used for medicinal purposes. Because it is over 200x sweeter than sugar, a little goes a long way. When choosing a stevia brand, however, be careful to select something that is all natural. Full, green leaf stevia and stevia extracts are safe bets, but avoid purchasing altered/highly processed stevia products, such as Truvia.
4. Choose whole foods with no added sugars or sweeteners: To make a sugar detox, it is necessary to eliminate sugar cravings and a dependence on sweet foods. Our body is trained to prefer flavors that it is fed repeatedly. So, it is best to avoid all sugar, sugar syrups, and natural and artificial sweeteners so you can lose dependence on sweet foods. Instead, fuel your body’s glucose needs with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Here’s an article on foods that can help reduce your sugar cravings.
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Want to cut the sugar cravings? Try adding a scoop of Further Collagen into your morning routine to keep the desire for sugar at bay!
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