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Do you suspect that your sweet tooth is sabotaging your diet, your mood and maybe even your future health? If you like to overload on sugar, you probably already know it – and you may have even tried to reduce your intake of sweets. But sugar has drug-like properties, and a little nibble can set off a gobbling spree. Like a crackhead, you may need an intervention to cut yourself off from the sweet stuff. Intervene on yourself with this four-week sugar detox plan. After a three-day system shock of no sugar, you’ll gradually add back in natural sweets so that you can fully appreciate their flavors.

Cutting back sugar has never been a better idea. The American Heart Association has updated their sugar intake recommendations: 5 teaspoons (20 grams) of added sugar per day for women, 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men and 3 teaspoons (12 grams) for children. Some scientists think it should be even less than that. When you consider that one 12-ounce can of cola contains 39 grams of sugar, the sweet stuff adds up quick. Tackle this sugar detox and be sure to plan to reward yourself throughout the month.

Step 1: Reset Your System

First the bad news: you have to completely give up sugar for three days, including both natural and added sugars. That means no cake, candy or cookies – and no fruit, dairy, starches or refined flours either. Avoid all artificial sweeteners and alcohol, and instead stock your pantry full with your favorite proteins, non-starchy vegetables and nuts. If you’re used to a daily fix, you might have withdrawal symptoms including headaches and fatigue. Hang in there, though – it might seem like an eternity, but this 72-hour span is the most important part of the detox. You’ll reset your system and your palate, making it more sensitive to natural sugars like the sweetness of a potato. Start drinking plenty of water.

Week 1: Cheese and Wine

Perk up your diet with an apple a day – and savor the sweet natural sugars in every bite. Grant yourself one serving of dairy per day, such as cheese or Greek yogurt, and have a splash of milk in your morning coffee, if you’re the sort. You can also re-introduce one serving of whole grain, high-fiber crackers each day, along with three glasses of red wine throughout the week.

Week 2:  The New Taste of Natural Sugars

Get reacquainted with natural sugars this week. Add in another serving of dairy each day, and savor another serving of fruit like melons or berries (and keep eating that apple!). You can also have one serving of starchy vegetable per day, like half a yam or baked potato.

Week 3: Hello Whole Grains

Get ready to jump for joy as you add whole grains back into your diet. Skip white carbs like bread, pasta and rice – in fact, your body considers these things to be sugar, and you should too. Instead, eat one serving daily of filling whole grains like quinoa, steel-cut oatmeal, barley, whole wheat bread or whole wheat pasta.

Week 4: Your New Relationship with Sugar

Welcome to the other side of sugar detox. Your sugar cravings should have subsided greatly at this point, but life is too short for total self-denial. Treat yourself to a small daily serving of the highest-quality dark chocolate you can find.

Note: Please consult your doctor before beginning any detox or diet plan.

Sources:

http://www.heart.org/

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-effects-of-sugar

http://www.bottomlinepublications.com/content/article/diet-a-exercise/im-kicking-the-sugar-habit

Image: daftcain