Throughout the guide, we interchangeably use the words ‘sugar cleanse’ and ‘sugar detox’. For all intents and purposes, they are the exact same thing. This sugar detox guide is 100% free, so please enjoy. If you have any questions or comments, post them here.
What you will find in this guide
- • Detailed instructions on how to sugar cleanse
- • Extra motivation to complete your cleanse
- • Reasons why sugar is bad for your health
- • Benefits of a sugar cleanse
- • Healthy foods that are free of sugar
- • Unhealthy foods that perpetuate poor health
- • A Complete Shopping list
- • Bonus chapters
- • Next steps…What to do after your 1st sugar cleanse.
- • And more…
What you will not find in this guide
This guide is not meant to be a full fledge diet plan with its advice centered around losing weight, nutrition and effective exercises. A sugar cleanse is the ultimate precursor to making an easy transition to a permanent lifestyle change of eating clean, training mean and getting lean.
Sugar is an ‘Empty Calorie’
If sugar receives bad press, it’s for good reason.
• Sugar has no nutritional value. Meaning sugar actually deprives our bodies of the nutrients that is needed to process the sugar and sugar doesn’t give anything back.
• Sugar is extremely stealthy and hides in all prepackaged and processed foods. All the natural flavors have been taken out and replaced with sugar to make the food palatable and tasty.
• Sugar also manages to sneak its way into most drinks, including fruit juices, sodas and sport drinks. Sugar also sneaks into most condiments and is now even found in baby formula.
• Simple sugars have been documented to cause and/or contribute to numerous health problems such as: mood disorders, asthma, nervous disorders, mental illness, heart disease, diabetes, gallstones, arthritis and hypertension.
• Cancer’s favorite fuel is none other than sugar, glucose to be exact. Which is why managing your sugar intake is so important to your health. Proper management can make a dramatic difference in cancer prevention and in cancer treatment.
• Glycation is partly to blame for sugar’s health concerns. This process consists of the sugar in the blood attaching itself to proteins. This forms dangerous molecules known as ‘advanced glycation end products.’ As more and more of these are created, they start to damage the proteins nearby, in a domino effect. (see the Bonus Chapter: The Dangers of Glycation)
• Sugar also damages your skin by making it brittle and dry. This leads to sagging skin, wrinkles and leaves you more prone to sun damage and aging.
These are just a small sampling of the ill effects sugar causes to your health and diet.
Chapter 2 – My story
My sugar addiction began at nine years old. Of course, at the time I didn’t know it was going to become an addiction. My paper route allowed me to buy as much candy as my little heart desired and it turned out that my little heart desired more than my stomach could handle. Thus, my life of excess sugar consumption started very early on and in combination with my addictive personality, I always craved more.
After growing up, my tastes for sugar evolved multiple times and eventually I settled on soy vanilla lattes as my preferred craving. Honestly, I could never get enough of them!
This dark brown nectar of the gods always seemed to be the perfect combination of sweet and bitter. I also relished the epic caffeine boost that made me feel like the Energizer Bunny.
My morning latte allowed me to work like a mad man for the next hour or so, then just as suddenly as this boost occurred it stopped.
I crashed, bottomed out and it was a struggle just to look busy let alone get any meaningful work done. It felt like my body couldn’t function without its next soy vanilla latte prescription. I had absolutely no energy to do anything.
At lunchtime, my body perked up at the thought of fulfilling my cravings with the enchanting potion. Somehow there was always just enough energy to crawl back to the coffee shop and buy another cup. And it was the most wonderful cup in the whole world, until the next one.
My life was revolving around all these sugary coffees. All they were doing was holding me back from living a real life. I started gaining weight and becoming even slower at work and in my other daily activities.
Then I realized this wasn’t how I wanted to live. Quitting this lifestyle took all the energy and willpower I could muster and going it cold turkey was the only way I could do it.
Now years later, I feel better than I ever did! I have more energy, it’s much easier to concentrate and my productivity is way up. It’s even hard for me to slow down now and looking back I can’t believe it took me so look to embrace this healthy lifestyle change.
I want everyone to know it is a challenge to overcome your sugar addiction, but it is possible and the results are completely worth it! My hope is my story and this guide will inspire you to live healthier and break free of sugar’s grasp.
Chapter 3 – What is your motivation?
Everyone has their own reason to complete a sugar detox. Maybe your reason is one of the following:
- • you want to lose weight
- • you want to correct chronic feelings of low energy
- • you feel powerless to your sugar cravings
- • you feel weak and sick all the time
- • you desire more out of life
- • you want to feel strong and vibrant
- • your life seems to be stuck in a rut
- • you have unexplained mood swings
- • all of the above!
The Good News
The good news is, the longer you have sugar out of your system the less you will crave it.
A detox doesn’t need to be a permanent change in your diet but rather a re-setting of the way your body gets energy and a re-setting of the way it asks for this energy.
You’ll begin to feel far more energetic as you won’t be subjected to the energy highs and lows that sugar produces.
You will also notice other benefits, such as improved complexion and younger looking skin. This is because sugar consumption leads to the reduction of collagen in the skin.
Before you start, the question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you need to complete a sugar detox?
Here are some of the things you can look for to alert yourself that your blood sugar levels might be out of balance:
- • Tiredness after eating
- • Needing caffeine for energy
- • Cravings for sugar or bakery products
- • Dizziness when missing meals
- • Frequent hunger pangs
- • Problems sleeping
- • Continued cravings for sugar even after eating some
- • Problems losing weight
Going through life with unbalanced blood sugar levels can lead to problems with insulin production and this may develop into more serious medical problems such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
You might be very surprised to find out the true dangers of consuming a diet high in sugar and the detrimental damage it is doing to your health.
Chapter 4 – Fundamental Principles
The basic fundamental principles that guides people to cleanse their systems of sugar are:
• Sugar is Addictive
• Sugar Makes You Fat
• Sugar Causes Many Diseases
Trust me, there are many, many more reasons to detox but we wanted to keep this guide simple and concise; not long and boring.
Even if you decide not to cleanse your system of sugar, it would be beneficial for you to read the next three chapters and learn more about the dangers of excessive sugar consumption.
Chapter 5 – Sugar is Addictive
Nowadays, sugar is everywhere and included in almost everything. Its addictive nature causes a perpetual cycle of energy ups and downs that the average person never escapes from.
When you consume sugar, it stimulates the release of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin into the nucleus accumbens (located in the brain) giving you a feeling of pleasure and happiness. The nucleus accumbens is known to play a vital role in addiction, pleasure and placebo. Sugar feeds directly into this and begins your addiction.
According to a study conducted by Colantuoni, too much sugar can lead to dependency and create withdrawal like symptoms. Consuming too much sugar can also lead to many other potential health problems, which you’ll read about further on.
Sugar addiction is like any other addiction. First, cravings start small and slowly begin to increase over time.
Whenever sugar is consumed these cravings subside and your brain begins the chemical production of opioids and dopamine (chemicals that make you feel happy).
This is a crucial part in the sugar high.
The next sensation you experience is a sudden burst of energy. This sudden rush of sugary goodness is quickly converted into fast energy. The only problem is this energy doesn’t last long and soon you’re even hungrier than before. These sugar highs are horrible for the body. They deceive the body and allow it to think there is sufficient energy to sustain proper functions.
This in turn tricks your metabolism and it starts to derail its normal behavior.
The Scientific Stuff
When sugar is consumed, certain areas of the brain are activated.
One, in particular, is the hippocampus. This part of the brain is linked with memory and inhibition. The implications of this suggest that refined sugar directly affects your memory and inhibition and can interfere with short-term memory and learning.
The hippocampus is impaired in a similar way when drugs are used.
Directly after sugar consumption, insulin is released, but more than the normal amount. This insulin overload gives the body a quick energy boost and is a huge health hazard.
This excess insulin directly leads to weight gain because the excess sugar needs to be immediately removed from the bloodstream and is stored in the cells as fat.
In short, your body isn’t designed for these sugar rushes and tries to get rid of them the only way it knows how – by making you fat.
 Colantuoni C, Rada P, McCarthy J, Patten C, Avena NM, Chadeayne A, Hoebel BG..Evidence that intermittent, excessive sugar intake causes endogenous opioid dependence.Obes Res. 2002 Jun;10(6):478-88.
 Molteni R, Barnard RJ, Ying Z, Roberts CK, Gómez-Pinilla F.. A high-fat, refined sugar diet reduces hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neuronal plasticity, and learning.Neuroscience. 2002;112(4):803-14.
Chapter 6 – Sugar Makes You Fat
You might be one of the many people reading this that share the common goal of losing weight and you need to realize that the consumption of sugar directly opposes this goal.
Sugar has been researched, studied and researched again. All this research shows that sugar definitively contributes to obesity and unwanted weight gain.
In this section, we’ll go over how sugar makes you gain weight, but first you need to know not all sugars are bad for us. For instance, glucose, the sugar found in your blood and in complex carbohydrates is the best kind of sugar. Your brain and every cell in your body can utilize and metabolize glucose.
Fruit, Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup
Fructose is easily the most misunderstood sugar. You read so much nowadays about the dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup, and yet you are also told to get your regular servings of fruit in your diet. But doesn’t fruit contain fructose?
Yes, one of the sugars found in fruit is fructose but there is a key difference between the fructose found in fruit and the high fructose corn syrup that resides in almost every processed/packaged food on the planet.
The fructose in fruit comes bundled with fiber, vitamins and minerals. The fiber slows down the absorption of the fructose allowing more of it to be converted into energy rather than into body fat.
Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver and from there it is usually converted into fat, bad cholesterol and/or uric acid. This differs from glucose, which is immediately distributed to and utilized by every cell in the body.
“Fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production. Because insulin and leptin act as key afferent signals in the regulation of food intake and body weight, this suggests that dietary fructose may contribute to increased energy intake and weight gain.” (Bray 2004)
High Fructose Corn Syrup
This stuff is in an abnormal amount of foods! Please check the labels of any processed food the next time you are in the grocery store.
“The increased use of HFCS in the United States mirrors the rapid increase in obesity.” (Bray 2004).
The body cannot process this type of sugar in large amounts. Excess amounts are directly stored as fat.
Repercussions of Excessive HFCS Consumption
1. Excess fat (triglycerides) in the blood drastically elevates the risk for heart disease.
2. Fructose begins to deceive your regular appetite cues and leaves you still feeling hungry.
3. Having too much fructose in your diet may lead to insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes.
4. Consuming too much fructose may lead to a disease linked with obesity and diabetes called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
If you want to read more about HFCS, see this article by Dy. Hyman. For now, let’s just agree, consuming this ‘toxin’ is not good for your health.
Chapter 7 – Sugar Causes Many Diseases
We began listing the many dire health consequences of sugar in the previous chapter. In addition to the maladies already mentioned, sugar is known to contribute to diabetes, weaken eyesight and to age your skin prematurely.
One huge problem with consuming too much sugar is that it provides no nutrients for the body. Too much sugar makes the brain crave more and more sugary foods.
A study has shown by having two sugary drinks on a daily basis, you increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 25 percent! This is regardless of weight and overall health!
Women who drink more than two sugary drinks per day have a 40% higher risk of heart disease.
To put things in perspective, about a hundred years ago, the average American consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year.
Now the average American consumes about 180 pounds of sugar per year!
Just look at all the health problems people have nowadays. Like diabetes for instance, back then (100 years ago) there were ~3 cases per 100,000 people living in the U.S. Now this number has risen to over 8,000 people per 100,000!
Need More Reasons?
If you still need more reasons to detox check out Nancy Appleton’s list of 145 reasons to detox. Here’s the link: 146 Reasons to Detox!
 Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després JP, Willett WC, Hu FB.. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2010 Nov;33(11):2477-83. doi: 10.2337/dc10-1079. Epub 2010 Aug 6.
 Fung TT, Malik V, Rexrode KM, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB.Sweetened beverage consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women.Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Apr;89(4):1037-42. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27140. Epub 2009 Feb 11.
Chapter 8 – The Sugar Detox
To successfully complete a sugar cleanse, you need to know what to expect. Planning ahead and having a strong, positive mindset going in are vital in overcoming some of the obstacles you are going to face over the next 21 days.
For most people, you will be drastically changing your diet and some of the temporary side effects are not always…’enjoyable’. But not to worry, many other people have completed sugar cleanses before you and most of them will happily testify, the results are worth the effort.
If you need a little more incentive, just think back to the list of benefits from Chapter 1:
- • weight loss
- • increased energy
- • increased stamina
- • eliminate carvings for carbohydrates
- • eliminate daily fatigue
- • increased train of thought and concentration
- • you will look better naked
- • …and many more.
Negative Symptoms During the Cleanse
Some people experience negative symptoms during the first few days of their detox.
It is important you are aware of these symptoms, and that they do not last forever – they are just signals that your body is readjusting.
Symptoms resulting from a sugar detox can include:
- • Fatigue
- • Irritability
- • Slight Nausea
- • Minor Headaches
- • Flu-like symptoms
- • Cravings
As previously stated, these symptoms will pass, and the benefits of the detox will more than make up for a few days of discomfort.
• The beginning is always the most difficult part. Sugar cravings will be at their peak and you’re going to want to give in. Don’t worry and don’t give in. After a few days these cravings should weaken and the longer you stay away from sugar the easier it becomes.
• The first week is when you will most likely experience some discomfort in the form of headaches, irritability, possible nausea and a host of other flu-like symptoms.
• Try to view these discomforts from a positive standpoint. These withdrawal symptoms are only temporary and the worse they are, the more your body is addicted to sugar and the more your body needs this detox.
• Different people will feel difficult sugar withdrawal side effects. Some people may still be experiencing some discomfort from detox symptoms, while others will have already transitioned smoothly by this point.
• The most common discomfort in week two is a headache. If this happens be sure to drink plenty of water/green tea and these headaches will soon be a thing of the past.
• Life should easy at this point. Sugar cravings should have stopped by now and you should have more energy than before. Your sleep will have also improved and you should feel like a new, healthier person!
• This final week is more about forming new healthy eating habits and improving your overall willpower in resisting future sugary temptations.
Chapter 9 – Shopping List
Let’s break it down further so you know exactly what you should and should not be eating to eliminate sugar from your diet.
For starters, here it the list of food to avoid while on a sugar detox:
- • Bakery Products – Avoid all bakery products made from white flour.
- • Carbohydrates – Avoid potatoes, white pasta, wheat pasta and white rice.
- • Cereals/Grains – Avoid any cereal/grains not listed below, this includes pseudo grains like amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa.
- • Dairy Products – Avoid all dairy; this includes cheese, yogurt and creamy sauces. **
- • Fruit – Avoid all fruit not listed below.
- •Legumes – Lentils, beans and peanuts.
- • Liquids – Avoid alcohol, fruit juice and other sweetened beverages
- • Diet drinks – Especially avoid these as they contain artificial sweeteners
- •Sugar – Avoid all sugars, these include sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, honey, maple syrup and agave nectar.
- • Other – MSG, trans fats, soy, hydrogenated oil, vinegar, fried foods.
So what can you eat?
Here’s the list of approved foods while on a sugar detox:
- • All Herbs and Spices.
- • All Vegetables
- • Sweet potatoes and yams.***
- • Wild and Brown Rice.***
- • Fruit: Avocado, Lemon, Lime, Tomatoes and all Berries.
- • Meat: Organic turkey, chicken, beef, lamb. Wild salmon and other fish.
- • Nuts and seeds.
- • Oils: Coconut oil, Olive oil, Ghee and Butter.
** If you choose to drink dairy, consume only unpasteurized, full fat dairy.
*** Starchy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, yams, etc. can be consumed in strict moderation.
Q. Am I eating a Paleolithic Diet?
A. For those people familiar with the Paleo diet, yes the food selection of your sugar detox is similar to the meal plans of the Paleolithic diet. For those folks who aren’t familiar with the Paleo diet, don’t worry, it’s not required prior knowledge to successfully complete your sugar detox.
Chapter 10 – Sugar Detox Guide
The core concepts of cleansing your system of sugar are really quite basic. To achieve your goal, there are two different approaches you can follow. No matter which method you choose, your end goal is always going to be the same – removing sugar and it’s addictions from your system.
Here are the two approaches to accomplish this goal:
1. Weening Yourself Off Sugar Slowly
2. Quitting Cold Turkey
Serious people always pick #2 and we’re serious people, aren’t we? Quitting sugar cold turkey is going to give you the best results. When removing a band-aid, do you tear it off slowly (approach #1) or do you rip it off fast as possible? (approach #2)
How to Sugar Detox Cold Turkey
Here is how to detoxify your system with three simple guidelines:
• Only eat sugar-free foods from our approved shopping list
• Don’t stop until you have completed 21 consecutive days.
• If you eat sugar, START OVER!
Pretty simple right? Well to tell you the truth, a sugar detox like any other detox is very easy in theory and much more difficult in practice.
If you can’t go the full distance on your 1st attempt, don’t beat yourself up.
Quitting sugar is very difficult. If you have to stop before the end, just promise yourself, you will keep trying again and again until you are successful.
Chapter 11 – Checklist for Success!
There is no debating the fact that the first week of a sugar detox is by far the hardest week so being really prepared before you start is going to go a long way to your eventual success in completing the detox.
Complete as much of the following list as you can before you start the sugar detox:
• Write down your goals and motivation
• Remove all sugary temptations from the kitchen
• Stock the kitchen full of foods from the Shopping List.
• Plan and prepare the weeks meals
• Plan fun physical activities for the whole month
• Stay Hydrated
• Find your Support Group
• Food Journal (optional)
Goals and Motivation
• Setting your goals and reasons for completing this detox will inspire you during those times when your willpower starts to wane.
• Even people with the strongest willpower can easy fall victim to sugary temptations so do yourself a favor and cleanse the kitchen of all the food items that might derail your best intentions.
Stock the Kitchen
• One of the main focuses of this diet is to maintain balanced blood glucose levels. We want to remove the ups and downs that come with insulin spikes and dips. To accomplish this, we will want to make sure we have healthy food items on hand at all times and to only eat well balanced, complete meals throughout the day.
Plan and Prepare Meals
• Having pre-planned and prepared meals on hand really helps to keep you on track. Nothing is worse than being hungry and then having to wait while you prepare your dinner.
Plan Fun Activities
• The first week of a sugar detox is not the time to also try and start a new exercise regime. Especially one that you really are not truly interested in. Just staying active is all you need to distract your mind from the detox.
• Many people mistaken thirst for hunger. One of the main withdrawal symptoms of a sugar detox are headaches and the best way to combat them is by staying hydrated.
• One of the main reasons people fail in their diet efforts is because of outside influences. It is very important to make sure your family and friends are very supportive of your goals and efforts.
Chapter 12 – Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Will I lose weight with a sugar detox?
A. Most people do lose weight during their 21 day sugar detox, but there are other factors to consider. Focus on your health first by practicing your new healthy eating habits and sustainable weight loss will be a natural by-product of this fun and active lifestyle.
Q. Do portion sizes matter?
A. For the most part, portion sizes don’t matter. Feel free to eat as many vegetables as you like. Make sure your plate is balanced with vegetables, healthy fats and protein. It is much more beneficial to eat a complete meal and be satiated, then to feel hungry after a meal and still be craving carbohydrates.
Q. I’ve just started the sugar detox and I’ve had headaches for a few days, is this normal?
A. Don’t worry. Headaches are common in the beginning. Your body is just adjusting to the lack of sugar and it is changing it’s fuel source from carbohydrates to healthy fats. Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat when you’re hungry. The headaches should clear up soon. Here is a great article explaining the low-carb flu in more detail.
Q. Is coffee allowed?
A. Coffee is allowed, but remember no sugar. Drinking coffee might suppress appetite and then encourage it later. It depends on how you, as an individual react to caffeine. Just make sure coffee doesn’t affect your sleep or your appetite. Some people choose to also detox from caffeine in unison with sugar. This can prove to be very difficult.
Q. Can I eat fruit during my detox?
A. Yes and No. Fruit contains fructose, which is a sugar. During the detox most fruits are best to be avoided, but after the detox is finished, we encourage you to start eating fruits again. The following fruits are encouraged in strict moderation during the sugar cleanse: Avocados, Lemons, Limes, Tomatoes and all Berries.
Q. What’s the difference between the fructose found in fruit vs. the fructose (HFCS) found in processed foods?
A. Fruits are naturally packaged with fiber and nutrients that slow the absorption and digestion of the fructose. Whereas the fructose found in processed foods lack these important components and quite often overwhelms the liver.
Q. Do I have to eat meat and fish? What if I’m a vegetarian?
A. Eating a healthy whole foods, plant based diet is perfect! Just make sure to limit your diet of processed packaged foods and fruits high in fructose. You can go back to eating fruits after the cleanse.
Chapter 13 – Next Steps
Most people never complete the full 21 days. No kidding. Many people don’t even complete the 1st week, so pat yourself on the back. Three cheers for you; hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray.
This is one of my friend’s favorite sayings. At first, I didn’t really care for it but as time goes by, I find it can be used in almost all aspects of life. You just completed a 21 day sugar detox, now what?
This next decision is entirely up to you but here are some suggestions for you to think about.
1. Start over and try to go for another 21 days!
2. Implement a new healthy lifestyle change, starting with your diet.
3. Write a short summary of your experiences and share them with your friends.
4. All of the above.
Let’s Do It Again!
Q. Why on Earth would I want to try another 21 day sugar detox?
A. For most people, 21 days is not enough time to form a habit or to completely break free of their addictions to sugar. By starting another detox immediately, you will be reinforcing your resolve towards sugar’s ills and forming new healthy eating habits.
Implement a Healthy Lifestyle Change
This is the preferred option. Start a new diet, join the gym, buy a rowing machine, join a hiking club, train for a 10 kilometer run.
The possibilities are endless. Talk hold of your new found energy and cravings for healthy food and propel yourself into a more active lifestyle, filled with yummy foods, new friends and lots of fun, physical activities.
Share Your Experiences
The best motivation usually comes from watching someone else complete their goals. So here is the perfect opportunity to share your experiences and inspire others to follow in your footsteps to a fun, healthy, new lifestyle.
Bonus Chapter – The Dangers of Glycation
One of the major ways that sugar disrupts our health is through a process called glycation.
Glycation happens when a sugar molecule attaches itself to a lipid or protein molecule and in doing so, changes healthy, flexible tissue into hard and rigid tissue. This tough glycated tissue causes the skin to become wrinkled and also causes internal damage to organs that need flexible tissue to stay healthy.
Glycated tissue is also very dangerous because it produces toxic compounds called Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs).
These molecules go by a highly appropriate acronym, because they are detrimental to our bodies and they also assist in rapidly advancing the aging process.
AGEs are the most toxic product of glycation and you must make it a priority focus to reduce them in your diet.
How are AGEs formed?
In a diet with a healthy, low sugar intake, proteins and sugars can interact without damaging the body. But when the body takes in too much sugar, excess sugars can attach themselves to protein molecules, which changes how these proteins function, creating a non-functioning glycated protein molecule: an AGE.
AGEs can also be found in some of the foods we eat.
Not only associated with sugar, AGEs are present in many processed foods and foods that are cooked over high temperatures. Many processed or pre-prepared foods contain AGEs because they are the very compounds which give food that tasty, irresistible aspect we love much.
Think about the taste, smell and appearance of fried chicken, a grilled bacon cheeseburger, corn chips, or fresh cookies. These foods are highly appealing, and hard to stop eating even after your body might be full. Food manufacturers use processes like browning and caramelization to make foods delicious, but these processes add tons of AGEs into the foods we eat.
Why are AGEs toxic?
AGEs are oxidants that corrode our body the same way that rust corrodes metal.
When food AGEs are consumed in small amounts, the body is able to counter their effects with antioxidants. But excess AGE consumption and/or the production of AGEs through glycation can overwhelm the naturally produced antioxidants we consume via our fruit and vegetable intake. Once these protective resources are depleted, AGEs go to work damaging major vital organs and ruthlessly hastening the aging process.
The body reacts to AGEs as it would to any infection, by creating low level inflammation (a person with an infection may experience a fever, indicating inflammation, which will pass with the infection.) But as AGEs pile up in the body, inflammation becomes chronic.
This prolonged inflammation slowly but surely goes on to damage every organ in the body.
How does glycation contribute to aging?
Glycation directly hastens the aging process in nearly every organ, including the skin, heart, brain, eyes and pancreas (organs where flexibility is especially vital.) The tough, inflexible tissue produced by glycation is the enemy of youthful skin and organs, making it difficult for the body to function properly. But the AGEs created by glycation are the biggest threat to health and vitality.
AGEs produce small molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) that cause major tissue damage and oxidation. To make matters worse, the reactive oxygen species help to create even more AGEs in the body, setting up a vicious cycle that accelerates the aging process.
AGEs also create chemical bridges between proteins, making joints and tendons stiffer and thicker as the body ages. But it’s not only the skin and joints that are involved; hardened arteries, cataracts in the eyes and damaged heart and kidneys are other byproducts of the glycation process. (Sorry for all the doom and gloom, I’m just delivering a needed message.)
A high level of AGEs in the blood guarantees high AGEs in the skin as well causing the skin to quickly lose its youthful appearance and become tough, dry and wrinkled.
AGEs also make it more difficult for wounds to heal increasing the likelihood they become infected and form scars. They are also major contributors to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, dementia, kidney disease and diabetes.
And the scary truth is that the toxic effect of AGEs is hard at work long before there is any sign of disease in the body.
How can glycation be reduced?
The good news after all of this is that while glycation cannot currently be reversed, it can be significantly reduced and prevented through changes to diet and lifestyle.
The toxic effects of glycation are so prevalent today, with all the available highly processed foods that are packed with sugars and AGEs. It’s so important to make a commitment to health and take the steps toward reducing aging and maintaining health, balance and vitality in your own body.
Here are some tips for protecting yourself from AGEs and the toxic effects of glycation:
• Reduce sugar intake – It is widely known that sugar is a major cause of degenerative diseases, but somehow its consumption continues to increase each year. Glycation feeds on sugar, and sugar is hidden in processed foods where you might not expect it: in condiments and sauces, crackers, cereals, dairy products, beverages, almost anything that comes in a box or package.
• Limit carbohydrates – The body reacts to carbohydrates the same way that is reacts to simple sugars, so an overabundance will cause glycation and AGEs just like sugar does. Reduce your intake of breads, pasta and wheat.
• Eliminate high fructose corn syrup – Scan labels for this ingredient and avoid it at all costs.
• Eat a lots of vegetables – Choosing foods which keep blood sugar levels stable, limits glycation in the body. Some good sources for fats and protein include eggs, meat, nuts, seeds and healthy oils like coconut, olive and avocado oil.
• Eat vegetables raw, boiled or steamed, and cook meats low and slow – AGEs can be produced when foods are cooked at high temperatures, so avoid frying, grilling and searing foods whenever possible. Water also prevents sugars from binding to protein molecules, so cooking with water or steam helps prevent glycation.
• Choose water over sugary beverages – Soft drinks and juices are one of the major sources of excess sugar in many people’s diets, a problem that can easily be corrected by simply drinking water! Water replaces these sugary contributors to AGEs, while providing a whole host of other health benefits to the body.
• Try supplements – While there is currently no known way to reverse glycation, there are supplements that have been shown to inhibit the process and protect the body. Carnosine is has been shown to protect against AGEs and rejuvenate aging skin tissue. Pyridoxamine, a form of Vitamin B6, is also a natural inhibitor in the formation of AGEs.
The most important things to remember when setting out to protect your body from glycation are:
• Avoiding foods that are high in AGEs.
• Avoiding consumption of excess sugar and carbohydrates.
• Using cooking methods and temperatures which prevent the formation of new AGEs. (keep cooking temperatures under 110 Celsius)
By keeping these three key principles in mind, along with the tips described above, you will be well on your way to protecting your body from the devastating aging effects of glycation.
It’s never easy to revamp your diet and lifestyle, especially in today’s society where processed foods and tasty options are abundant around every tempting corner. So rather than striving for perfection, focus instead on maintaining a healthy balance by vegetables, healthy proteins and fats in your diet.
Remember, most people have to try multiple times to get healthier. Life is a journey, enjoy the ride and don’t give up.
This guide was originally published by Kelly Fitzsimmons in 2012. All Rights Reserved. © 2012
Written by Kelly Fitzsimmons June 9th, 2017