How to Beat Sugar Detox Symptoms and Feel Better Than Ever

Here are some tips to help you beat the side effects and avoid or at least limit some of the symptoms of sugar detox.

Quit cold turkey

Cutting sugar from your diet gradually may help lessen the intensity of your symptoms, but it also means those symptoms will stick around longer. By cutting out sugar at once, your body will become used to living without it sooner, which means a faster end to withdrawal symptoms. Do this by cutting out all forms of sugar, including those in prepackaged foods, sweetened beverages, and white flour.

Eat more protein

Add protein to every meal to help you avoid hunger and low energy levels during your sugar detox. This will help you avoid the temptation to reach for a candy bar or other sugar-laden quick fix. Eat fish, poultry, and lean cuts of meat. High-protein vegetables, nuts, and seeds make great snacks.

Increase your dietary fiber

Eating high-fiber foods can help you stave off hunger. Because this helps control blood sugar, it may also help you avoid sugar detox side effects like headache and nausea while keeping cravings at bay. Aim for high-fiber vegetables, beans, and legumes.

Drink more water

Staying hydrated will help you feel better overall and can help keep you regular. This is especially important when you increase your fiber intake, which could cause constipation. Fiber-rich foods and adequate water intake are needed to help keep stools soft and move them through the digestive system.

In addition, thirst is often confused with hunger. Having a glass of water may help you resist the urge to overeat and keep your cravings under control.

Avoid artificial sweeteners

Swapping out sugar for artificial sweeteners may seem like a good idea when you’re breaking up with sugar, but it can actually derail your efforts. Research shows that artificial sweeteners encourage sugar cravings and dependence. Staying away from sweet foods — even those that are sugar-free — is the best way to cut sugar from your diet once and for all.

Manage your stress

There’s evidence that stress affects food preferences and increases cravings for sweets. Sugar also appears to have a calming effect on stress hormones, which contributes to your desire for sugar when feeling stressed.

Keeping your stress in check will make it easier to cut sugar from your diet and help keep cravings under control. Taking a walk, talking to a friend, or just reading a book are just a few simple ways to relieve stress.


Exercise is beneficial in several ways when doing a sugar detox. Exercise increases energy and reduces stress, which can help combat withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, low energy levels, and stress-induced cravings.

A 2015 study also found that short bouts of exercise, such as a brisk 15-minute walk, reduced cravings for sugary foods. Remember to start off slowly and speak to your doctor before you start exercising.

Drink some greens

Sipping on a drink of greens can help reduce sugar cravings, according to a 2014 study. The 3-month study, which involved 38 women, found that those who were given a drink containing 5 grams of spinach extract before breakfast each morning experienced a decrease in cravings for sweet and fat foods, from day one.

You can make your own spinach drink using commercially available spinach extract or powder or take spinach extract in capsule form. Look for products that haven’t been flavored with sugar or artificial sweeteners, such as:

  • Koyah Organic Whole Leaf Spinach Powder
  • Hawaii Pharm Non-Alcohol Spinach Liquid Extract
  • Terra Vita Spinach Extract 4:1 Capsules

Get enough sleep

Insufficient sleep can worsen symptoms of sugar detox, such as fatigue, cravings, and depression. Not getting enough sleep has been shown to increase cravings for sugar and other unhealthy “comfort foods.”

Getting a good night’s sleep has been linked to:

  • better food choices
  • lowered stress
  • higher energy levels
  • improved concentration and memory

Some tips for better sleep: Avoid daytime napping and aim for the same bedtime every night.

Eat something bitter

Eating bitter foods shuts down the receptors in the brain that drive us to wanting and eating sugar, according to research. Bitter food also slows the absorption of sugar and helps regulate blood sugar levels, which can help you avoid many of the side effects of sugar detox.

You can make your own bitters or choose bitter foods, such as coffee, arugula, or broccoli raab (rapini).

10 Sugar-free alternatives

Sugar-free chewing gum. Photograph: Alamy

Basically, the trajectory of a sugar alternative goes like this: is discovered; is lauded by all; becomes available in Holland & Barrett; there are suggestions that it is not as wonderful as it was cracked up to be; is abandoned in favour of something else, which has conveniently come along in the meantime. Take stevia – nutritionist Amanda Ashy-Boyd describes this once-wonder ingredient: “It’s supposed to be a natural substitute for sugar, but it’s not so natural in the sense that it probably goes through multiple chemical processes to be able to add it to the food.”

11 Just stop eating it. What are you, a baby?

Any food, as long as it’s hummus. Photograph: Fotografiabasica/Getty Images

Or, more diplomatically put by Ashy-Boyd: “It’s all about making sure you’re eating a balanced diet, so you never get into a place where your blood sugar has dropped.” This involves ceaseless snacking of foodstuff with a low glycaemic load, foods that are mainly hummus or things that remind you of hummus or things that are called “hummus” but aren’t, in an attempt to appeal to people who only eat hummus (butterbean hummus. Seriously. How is that hummus?). You combine this with an oatcake, or something containing pumpernickel (note: not a German Christmas tree biscuit; these also contain sugar), and you ignore all the people who are looking at you and definitely thinking: “I wish she would just eat properly and not like some kind of idiot koala.”

“That’s one way of protecting yourself,” Ashy-Boyd continues. “The other thing is, if you are a big sugar eater, you have to be conscientious about it. Maybe allow yourself a couple of days to go without it. And then once it’s out of your bloodstream, it’s so much easier to combat that desire.”

Cold turkey, see? It’s all about the cold turkey.

Easy Ways to Wean Yourself Off Sugar


It seems that experts and talking heads everywhere are preaching the benefits of cutting sugar out of our diets. Doing so is said to improve brain function, heart health and even reduce the risk of dementia in the long-term. We spoke with Nikki Ostrower, nutritionist and founder of NAO Nutrition to get her easy and effective tips on how to limit your sugar intake.

Maintain normalized blood sugar levels

If you’re a morning person, it can be very easy to get into the routine of rolling out of bed, throwing on your gym clothes, and heading right to class without eating beforehand. But working out with no fuel can cause your blood sugar to drop and quickly lead to poor health choices following class. “It may be cliche, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day,” Ostrower says. She recommends eating wholesome, high-protein foods such as hard-boiled eggs or Greek yogurt before heading out the door to help stabilize blood sugar and reduce cravings.

Prepare your next day’s meals at night

Ostrower suggests overnight oats as an easy way to keep you full the majority of your morning. By switching from the packaged store-brands to store-bought ingredients, you avoid processed sugars that often accompany oatmeals of the instant variety. And by preparing ahead of time, you set yourself for success even on busy days.

Our favorite: Combine chia seeds, steel cut oats, cinnamon, one peeled medium apple, and one cup almond milk. Blend and let refrigerate overnight. Eight hours later and voila! You have a caramel apple in a cup!

Incorporate low glycemic fruits into your shopping cart

Cherries, pears, and grapefruits are all packed with antioxidants and prevent spikes in blood sugar, satisfying your sweet tooth, while keeping your processed sugar cravings at bay.

In contrast, super sugary foods or foods high in carbohydrates amp up glucose levels in your bloodstream. Carbs aren’t all gloom and doom, however, as they can aid in a quick recovery following a vigorous workout. Just remember, balance is essential!

Crave a healthier lifestyle rather than a strictly regulated diet

“2017 is all about lifestyle, rather than resolution,” Ostrower says. Actively seeking nutrient-dense meals rather than empty calories, are much easier goals to aspire to and achieve, than just cutting out sugar cold-turkey. Start small and make minor adjustments.

Written by Victoria Lamina. This post was originally published on ClassPass’s blog, The Warm Up. ClassPass is a monthly membership that connects you to more than 8,500 of the best fitness studios worldwide. Have you been thinking about trying it? Start now on the Base Plan and get five classes for your first month for only $19.

Based on this research, some people—or perhaps many people—simply can’t have just a little sugar. Due to their addiction to sugar, these individuals are repeatedly unsuccessful when they try moderation, according to Avena, coauthor of Why Diets Fail (Because You’re Addicted to Sugar). Just like alcoholics must completely avoid alcohol, these individuals need to completely avoid simple sugars, including natural sweeteners such as agave nectar and honey, and greatly reduce all complex carbohydrates, such as bread, cereals, and pasta, that are quickly converted to sugar. Here’s what you can do now to stop cravings and kick your sugar addition.

Breaking the Sugar Habit

The World Health Organization recommends limiting calories from added sugar to less than 10 percent of daily caloric total. About 71 percent of U.S. adults get more than 10 percent of their calories from added sugar, primarily from sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, and candy. One in 10 Americans get a full 25 percent of their calories from added sugar.

How do we cut sugar from the diet? One way is to eliminate all sugars and flours, and sometimes even grains, which convert to sugars, all at once. This is initially difficult: People tend to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, headaches, and/or irritability, for the better part of a week when they cut sugar cold turkey. However, if they can get through them, the unpleasant symptoms typically disappear.

Another approach is Avena’s Sugar Freedom Plan, a five-phase program to gradually reduce and eliminate sugars and carbohydrates fueling addiction. It starts with a period of a few weeks of getting rid of sugary beverages, followed by periods of cutting sugar-rich junk foods, complex carbs that quickly turn into sugars, and hidden sugars, such as those found in salad dressings and marinades. Protein such as lean meats, nuts, seeds, eggs, and beans, and non-starchy vegetables should be emphasized, and a little whole fruit often can be eaten because the fiber offsets the effects of the natural fruit sugars.

Seven ways to kick sugar for good

Sweetness is a compelling and powerful taste sensation. You aren’t weak, craven, or a bad person because you enjoy the taste of sugar. But, like a drug, sugar can be addictive. When you eat sugary foods, your blood sugar spikes, and then crashes, which makes you crave even more sugar. What’s more, sugar that is not burned as fuel by the body gets stored as fat—triglycerides specifically, which have a predilection for your midsection. To conquer sugar cravings, lose weight, and reclaim your health, try these interventions:

1. Stop buying it.

An easy rule of thumb—don’t keep food in your home that comes in a box, as it will likely be processed and contain added sugars. Focus on fresh, low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

2. Plan your meals ahead.

It’s a lot easier than you might think. Experiment with healthy foods that you’ve never cooked before. For recipe ideas, try the following websites:


3. Be sure to stay well hydrated.

Whenever you experience sugar cravings, immediately drink some water. It will help stifle the sugar urge. If water doesn’t do the trick, try eating a spoonful of protein: egg, tuna fish, chicken, or organic tofu. If that still doesn’t work, try apples, pickles, or grated cabbage (kimchi is also fine). You need to build up your resistance to sugar. If you blow it occasionally, that’s OK.

4. Take Supplements.

The trace mineral chromium (use the picolinate form) can also help reduce sugar cravings for most people, usually within a week. Take 200–300 mcg every morning. Chromium works because it helps insulin get glucose into your cells—where sugar can produce energy, not love handles. Most health food stores carry “sugar balancing” formulas that combine chromium with other helpful ingredients, such as vanadium (another trace mineral) and the herbs Gymnema sylvestre and cinnamon.

According to Kat James, author of The Truth About Beauty, blood sugar-stabilizing nutrients help counterbalance blood sugar changes that create cravings and mood swings (not to mention weight problems). In addition to chromium and gymnema, cinnamon, alpha-lipoic acid, and maitake SX fraction also help the body use insulin and metabolize sugar more efficiently. Zinc, another blood sugar-stabilizing mineral, can actually resensitize the taste buds, reducing the need for sugar and salt in order to taste real food, says James. Abstaining from sugar itself reduces cravings of all kinds dramatically.

James adds: Sugar and carb cravings, as well as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and even compulsions such as bulimia and gambling, have been linked to imbalances in the “feel-good” brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine. Supplementing with the amino acid L-tryptophan or its derivative, 5-HTP, as well as L-tyrosine, has been shown in numerous studies to increase serotonin and dopamine, respectively, without side effects.

5. Sweeten Smartly.

Completely ditching processed white sugar as soon as possible is a good idea for everyone. Don’t spoon it into your coffee, and don’t buy or eat foods that contain sugar, glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, and/or dextrose—especially if they’re listed as one of the top five ingredients on the label.

On the other hand, unless you are diabetic or prediabetic and your doctor advises otherwise, it’s OK to have about 1 Tbs. per day of other sweeteners that have nutritional value (mostly due to their high mineral content). These include honey, maple syrup (use only real Grade B stuff), and traditionally extracted agave, which is hard to find. (Most agave syrup is just as bad for you as high fructose corn syrup.)

6. Save Sweets for Saturdays.

Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules and several other books, recommends eating sugar or sweets only on days that begin with “S,” and that’s a good idea. You simply don’t need dessert after every meal. And we’re talking one dessert here—it’s not a license to consume sugar all day.

7. Get Moving.

In addition to altering your diet, try to exercise a little bit every day, and ramp it up 2–3 times a week. Find movement you enjoy.

(Gaelle Cohen)

What better way to jump on the “get healthy” New Year’s bandwagon than cutting way down on sugar?

Yep, it seems like a no brainer—a diet high in the white stuff (sugar and refined carbs) is linked to weight gain, diabetes, cancer, depression, and even cognitive problems—but kicking the habit isn’t that simple. The holiday season has probably riled up your inner sugar monster, leaving you cranky and craving all the carbs, all the time. So how do you break up with this stuff when it’s calling your name?

MORE: 10 Surprising Foods That List Sugar As the First Ingredient

With the help of Laura Schoenfeld, RD, holistic nutritionist at Ancestralize Me, and Gina Hassick, RD, nutritionist at Eating Well with Gina, we’ve outlined the most effective way to free yourself from the grips of all things frosted, candy-coated, and caramel-filled.

1) Pick a Plan That Fits Your Personality: Cold Turkey or Gradual Tapering

People who have trouble eating sweets in moderation (i.e. you keep taking slivers of brownie until half the pan is gone) often do really well with a cold turkey approach, says Schoenfeld. For them, three to four weeks of nixing all added sugars and refined carbs—which act like sugar in the body—is often just what they need to reset their taste buds, lessen their compulsion for sweets, and start craving more whole foods. The benefit of doing this for several weeks, not just one, is that you give yourself adequate time to create new healthy habits in place of the old ones. After that, you’re at a point when you can safely start reintroducing small amounts of some of the foods you eliminated without going overboard—if you even want too, that is.

If strict dietary rules stress you out and being told to eliminate something makes you want it that much more, gradually tapering your sugar intake while allowing yourself treats in moderation might work better. Hassick suggests gradually diluting your sugar-sweetened drinks with more water over time; adding fresh fruit to yogurts (beware of these high-sugar yogurts) and oatmeal instead of maple syrup or honey; switching from white refined grains and breads to fiber-rich whole grains; and shrinking dessert portions, or only consuming dessert on certain days or occasions.

2) Set Up Your Plate to Banish Cravings

The way you formulate your meals can go a long way in banishing sugar cravings and helping you avoid impulsively eating sweets. “Many of my female clients who are attempting to cut out sugar don’t eat enough, which can lead to cravings,” says Schoenfeld. “Simply loading up on enough healthy whole foods at all three meals, breakfast in particular, can greatly reduce these. Eating plenty of protein at each meal, especially breakfast, is also crucial, as it helps keep blood sugar stable and is the most satiating macronutrient. Each meal should have at least 20g of protein—about 3 oz of animal protein or 1 1/4 cups beans or lentils.”

MORE: 5 Foolproof Ways to Avoid a Pig-Out

3) Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth the Right Way

Some people get overzealous and totally eliminate fruit when cutting back on sugar, but that’s not necessary, says Schoenfeld. In fact, fruit can be your secret weapon, quelling sweet cravings while delivering healthy nutrients, like fiber, that keep blood sugar stable compared to other sweet foods.

“I really enjoy having frozen fruit with a little heavy cream or coconut milk as a dessert, and bananas are a fantastic portable snack,” says Schoenfeld. “Up to three servings a day are fine for someone cutting back on sugar, but try to avoid dried fruit, as that’s easy to overeat and contains as much sugar as candy.” (Try one of these 9 super sweet fruits.)

4) Don’t Rely on Artificial Sweeteners

Finally, don’t consider artificial sweeteners a free pass. If anything, these lab-made, calorie-free powders can make you more of a slave to sweet foods. Because they’re many times sweeter than sugar, they essentially dull your taste buds and make you crave things with similar levels of sweetness. So after a while, naturally sweet foods like fruit just don’t cut it anymore, while high-sugar and high-calorie candy, cookies, and soda will have you salivating. If you’re looking for something better than sugar to add to your coffee, skip the Splenda and Equal and try something like cinnamon for a natural, subtly sweet taste and no calories.

MORE: The 5 Absolute Worst Things to Add to Your Coffee

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