Dr. Fuhrman’s 3-Day Sugar Detox

Kick your cravings for good with this fast plan to squash sugar addiction.

Posted on | By Dr. Joel Fuhrman
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Dr. Fuhrman Shares the Benefits of Quitting Sugar Cold Turkey (3:17)

Sugar addiction can be ubiquitous and dangerous. A high-glycemic diet, heavy in processed carbohydrates, does not only create weight gain and increase risk of diabetes and heart disease; it also is a powerful contributor to cancer, especially breast cancer.  High sugar intake is also linked to depression and later-life dementia.

This can be as dangerous as addiction to alcohol or drugs and what makes this a big problem is so many people are eating unhealthfully and oblivious to the risks.The overuse of sweets also weakens the taste buds, so the subtle flavor of naturally sweet fruits lose their flavor.

Why You Need to Quit Sugar Cold Turkey

It is usually more effective if all sugar and processed sweets are cut out completely. It’s not going to be easy, but within a few days, it will reset your body so you are not craving sweets. Right now the majority of people experience "toxic hunger." Toxic hunger is actually withdrawal symptoms people misinterpret as being hungry. Just like a drug addict experiences withdrawal symptoms when they quit a drug, people experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop eating a food they are addicted to, like sugar. These symptoms come on quickly, as soon as digestion is finished, you can feel queasy, tired and headachy, so you assume you are hungry again, eat more, your digestion restarts and the bad feelings go away. Then the cycle repeats itself, keeping you sick and overweight. If you can let these mild uncomfortable sensations come and go over a few days, you will find it's much easier to control your food cravings and desire to overeat and eat sweets.  Plus, during this process we will be flooding the body with micronutrients and phytochemicals to help the brain cope and break this cycle.

Give Up Sugar for 3 Days

After three days of being off sweets, your headaches and fatigue will lift and you'll have less intense needs for a sugar fix. Then we can really begin the work of retraining the taste buds, to enjoy food with a lower level of sugar intensity and in normal amounts.

What You Should Get Rid Of

When a sugar addict eats even a small amount of sugar, they want more and more. Their intention may be to have a few scoops of ice cream and before you know it, they’ve eaten the entire tub. We have to break the cycle that triggers the brain into a binge attack, and it gives us a window to allow significant withdrawal and detox to take place. Without this withdrawal period, you'll continue to experience recurrent uncomfortable symptoms whenever not eating sweets. This means no honey, no maple syrup, no agave nectar, no artificial sweeteners and nothing sweet except for fresh fruit.

Be Prepared for Toxic Hunger

It may be a tough 72 hours, but you won’t be left without a life raft. We are going to be putting some great foods, in sugar's place that will minimize the discomfort and arm you with what you need to make the transition easier. And, over time, your taste buds and food preferences change, and the old addictive drives and cravings fall away.

What to Eat Instead

Eat slow fats and slow carbs. Slow foods are foods that take a long time to digest, and these squash sugar cravings because they provide you with a steady stream of calories in your bloodstream, versus a flood all at once. Fast carbs, like white bread, fruit juice and pasta, turn to sugar, spiking a rise of glucose in your bloodstream. This causes an excessive spike in insulin, leading to wide swings in glucose and setting you up for fat storage and cravings. Your body also can’t burn this huge caloric load for energy, so they ramp up the fat storage hormones and store them as fat.

These types of food also cause that "toxic hunger," symptoms triggered when your glucose is at its lowest, which will send you in search of more sweets soon after you finish digesting those fast carbs and fats. The king and queen of slow foods are beans and nuts.

How Much Slow Foods to Eat

At least two ounces of nuts and seeds a day, with meals, not snacks.

At least a half cup of beans, preferably a cup, and at least one serving of intact whole grains (such as steel-cut oats) and high-carb vegetables such as butternut squash, carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, lentils or peas.

This can be done with dishes such as a vegetable bean soup or chili and a mixed vegetable dish with a roasted garlic and almond dressing. Eating white bread, oil and salt will also sabotage your efforts to reduce sweet cravings.

When to Eat Slow Foods

At every meal. Try a whole grain like steel-cut oats with seeds and berries for breakfast. A salad with a nut-based dressing for lunch and bowl of bean soup or chili. And a vegetable casserole and steamed green vegetable with a bean mushroom burger and fresh or frozen fruit desert for dinner. If using animal products, only use a small amount with dinner and try to stay mostly vegetarian.

The Second Meal Effect

Even though beans are high in protein, it is the special type of carbohydrates in beans that cause these effects. This is really interesting. You would never think beans would help you break your sugar addiction, but studies show that people who ate beans at one meal, were able to lessen their glycemic reaction at second meal. This means that if you had a bean burrito at dinner, not only would you have better glycemic control after that meal but, if you decided to have fruit or bread with breakfast the next morning, it would prevent that big sugar rush you would typically get from the bread. This happens because the good bacteria that proliferate in our gut as a result of eating beans produces a certain chemical that slows the rate in which food leaves our stomach and intestines. So those beans are still doing their work at your second meal and even the days that follow if you eat beans regularly, preventing that insulin spike associated with further cravings and fat storage. Eat steel-cut oats and coarsely ground whole-grain breads.

How Many Beans to Eat

This includes all beans, including lentils and chickpeas. I recommend people eat at least half a cup of beans every day. Make a big soup on the weekend with plenty of beans, make bean burgers and bean chili and stews, and add beans to desserts. We put beans in almost everything because they are so powerful at preventing heart disease and cancer and extending life span. And, since you eat all these greens, legumes and seeds and nuts, you effortlessly eat less of everything else. More vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, less processed foods and animal products.

When to Add Sugar Back In

Sugar can be added back into your diet the right way, from real fruit. When you eat a piece of chocolate cake, your body breaks down the white flour into simple glucose in the stomach, which is then absorbed into bloodstream within minutes along with all the other sugar in there. We don’t want that, so what you should do is use only fruit and unsulfured dried fruit as a sweetener because it is combined with fiber and pectin. This causes it to be absorbed and digested slower than when you are just eating your typical cupcake. So, the result is that insulin rises slower, and this prevents sugar being stored as fat. It also reduces cravings.

I replace all the sugar in recipes with dried fruits like dates and replace white flour with things like rolled oats and nuts. And then of course, add some beans to the recipes too. You get healthy desserts that taste great too.

I also encourage people to eat dessert every day, but only after dinner. Have fruit with your lunch and then a fruit-sweetened dessert or frozen fruit dessert after dinner. When you eat something sweet after dinner, it satisfies sweet cravings and acts as the psychological mark to the end of eating for the rest of the day. You clean the kitchen, clean your teeth and get away from food for the rest of the night.  But it is the type of sweets you’re having that matters. Swap out your usual recipes for cakes, cookies, pies and ice cream, and try healthier alternatives, like my healthy chocolate cake and apple crunch pie recipes.

Dr. Fuhrman’s Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss

(Please note the same foods that fight cancer fight fat storage)

1. Eat a large green salad as your main dish at least once a day, with a healthy dressing.

2. Eat two ounces of nuts and seeds a day. Include walnuts and flax seeds.

3. Eat some beans every day, in a soup, chili or burger.

4. Eat a large serving of cooked green vegetables every day.

5. Eat one fresh fruit with each meal

Remember, you need to flood your cells with micronutrients from lots of healthy foods if you are going to get rid of food addictions, cravings and chronic emotional overeating.

This plan was originally created for Dr. Oz's Truth Tube. See how Catarah and Shoneji did when they tried this sugar detox.

Article written by Dr. Joel Fuhrman