If you’ve read about the latest wellness trends, you may have entertained the idea of a diet detox.
But whether you’ve considered juicing, fasting or cleansing to lose weight or improve your wellbeing, you’re probably aware that drastically cutting out foods is not effective as a long-term lifestyle approach to healthy eating.
But there is one kind of sustainable detox that is worthwhile, according to some experts. Reducing sugar in your diet can help you drop pounds, improve your health and even give you more radiant skin.
“Sugar is a leading cause of heart disease; it negatively affects skin, and it leads to premature ageing,” says Brooke Alpert, a registered dietitian and co-author of The Sugar Detox: Lose the Sugar, Lose the Weight – Look and Feel Great.
One of the biggest concerns is the amount of added sugars in our diets. Foods that may not even taste sweet – such as salad dressings, tomato sauces and breads – can be loaded with the white stuff.
Children can benefit, too. Research by Dr Robert Lustig, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, revealed that when obese children eliminated added sugars from their diets for just nine days, every aspect of their metabolic health improved.
Going cold turkey works best. Alpert recommends:
For the first three days on a sugar detox, no added sugars and no fruits, no starchy vegetables (such as corn, peas, sweet potatoes and butternut), no dairy, no grains and no alcohol.
Breakfast can include three eggs, any style; lunch can include up to 175g of poultry, fish or tofu and a green salad. Dinner is basically a larger version of lunch, though steamed vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach can be eaten in place of salad.
Snacks include a handful of nuts and sliced peppers with hummus. Beverages include water, unsweetened tea and black coffee. Artificial sweeteners are not allowed.
Starting with day four, you can add one apple and one dairy food each day. Dairy, such as yoghurt or cheese, should be full-fat and unsweetened.
You can also add some higher-sugar vegetables such as carrots and snow peas, as well as a daily serving of high-fibre crackers. Three glasses of red wine in that first week can be added, too.
During week two, you can add a serving of anti-oxidant-rich berries and an extra serving of dairy. You can also add back starchy vegetables.
For week three, you can add grains such as barley, quinoa and oatmeal, and even some more fruit including grapes and citrus. You can also have another glass of red wine during the week and an ounce of dark chocolate each day.
Week four is the home stretch, when you can enjoy two starches per day, including bread and rice in addition to high-fibre crackers. Wine goes up to five glasses per week.
Indulgences are allowed, such as ice cream or a piece of cake at a birthday party.
The plan may not be appropriate for diabetics, extreme athletes or anyone taking medication to control blood sugar. It is not recommended for pregnant women.
Enlist the support of friends and/or family. “You need people around you to help you be successful,” Lustig says.