Ever had that binge weekend filled with processed sugar-filled foods that you don’t normally eat? Are you feeling sluggish, run down, and bloated? I’ve been there too! Even if you are an incredibly healthy eater, it’s hard not to allow yourself indulgences. More importantly, it’s okay to allow yourself some flexibility.

With that said, after the fact, how do you get your system back on track? What are the best foods to help you detox from your sugar-filled extravaganza? How can you cleanse and reinvigorate your system?

Understanding the Human Body and Sugar

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From less urgent issues — such as cavities, weight gain, and insatiable hunger —to incredibly prominent health crises — such as insulin resistance and diabetes, liver and kidney issues, and even cancer — overconsumption of sugar has been identified as a possible key player in overall health and human longevity. Why does overconsumption of sugar have such a negative effect on your health? Let’s take a deeper dive into how sugar works within the body by comparing it’s positive and negative effects.

Positive Effects of Sugar

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Sugar is not all bad. In fact, natural sugars play an essential role in a healthily functioning body. To begin, sugar is simply a macronutrient. More specifically, sugar is a form of carbohydrate after it has been broken down by the body. The human body metabolizes sugar, also referred to as glucose, “to provide energy to power your activities.” Once it is consumed, it is converted to “a stored form of energy in your body, and it plays a role in conserving your lean muscle mass.”

Negative Effects of Sugar

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While an appropriate amount of natural sugar is essential for the body, too much sugar, especially processed sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, can be incredibly harmful. Sugar has been shown to cause inflammation, it “elevates triglycerides, blood sugar, and adrenaline,” as well as promotes a range of health issues including gastrointestinal illnesses, metabolic syndrome, cancer, diabetes, gum decay and cavities, gout, acne, and even mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. With that said, one of the major negative side effects of overconsumption of sugar, one which leads to many of the above-mentioned health conditions, is weight gain.

Misinformation Mix-Up

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The average American consumes around 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. This may not sound so bad, that’s until you compare it to the recommended amounts. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum of 25 grams of sugar per day, that’s 2 tablespoons. The United States’ own Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 50 grams per day, that’s 4 tablespoons a day.

As you can see, the average American diet tips the scale when it comes to overconsumption of sugar.

With that said, don’t kick yourself for not being able to kick that sugar habit because it’s not all your fault. Sugar production is an incredibly powerful empire in the United States. There is a lot of money behind the production, distribution, and consumption of the product. This wealth and power have allowed sugar to sneak its way into a broad array of foods that you may not even know about — think canned goods, cereals, and even plant-based milk — which has made it almost impossible to avoid.

It all stems from a misinformation campaign sponsored by the Sugar Research Foundation — a campaign promoted and funded by the sugar industry — wherein Harvard scientists were paid to discredit previous research illuminating the connection between sugar consumption and heart disease. On top of that, they were asked to put a spotlight on fat as the culprit. Unfortunately, this misinformation campaign has shaped the food industry ever since making it more and more difficult for the average consumer to purchase sugar-free foods.

Plant-Based Foods to Help Your Sugar Detox

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Whether you’ve gone on a weekend sugar bender or are looking to cut processed sugar from your diet, looking to plant-based foods to help you detox is an excellent way to start. Plant-based foods are rich in nutrients and some are naturally sweet without the unnecessary sugars.

Fruit

Berry Fruit Tarts With Chia Seeds/One Green Planet

When it comes to supplementing those sugary treats, fruit is one of the best placeholders. With that said, remember that fruit is so sugary because it also has a large amount of sugar. Therefore, it’s all about the right type of fruit in the appropriate proportions. Berries are a perfect balance! Not only are berries low in sugar and high in fiber, but they are also “rich in plant compounds and have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.” Plus, they are great as a simple sweet snack or in sugar-free dessert recipes such as this 3-Ingredient Berry Cereal or this Berry Fruit Tarts With Chia Seeds.

Dark Chocolate

Hot Chocolate ‘Macaccino’/One Green Planet

Besetting on your sugar-detox adventure, you probably thought you’d never see the word chocolate in your kitchen again! Yet, here it is on the list of sugar detox foods. Yet, consuming chocolate follows the same rules as fruit: the right type and the appropriate proportions. First off, stick to dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent or higher. Refrain from consuming an entire chocolate bar in one sitting. Instead, break off a few pieces to enjoy with your morning coffee, evening tea, or in shaving form on top of a yogurt, granola, or oatmeal dish.

Chia Seeds

Overnight Strawberry and Coconut Chia Pot/One Green Planet

They’re everywhere! Chia seeds are a staple in any plant-based diet and for good reason. These nearly microscopic seedlings come from a plant in the mint family and “are native to areas of Mexico and Guatemala but are commonly cultivated in many areas in North and South America.” Hailed as a superfood due to their nutritional value — these buggers are packed full of fiber, protein, manganese, calcium, antioxidants, and hard to find omega-3 fatty acids — they are remarkably versatile in the kitchen. From dairy-free pudding, such as this Overnight Strawberry and Coconut Chia Pot, to protein-packed energy snacks, such as this 5-Ingredient Cashew Date Energy Bites, chia seeds pack a punch of healthy fat and protein that helps reduce sugar cravings and keeps you feeling full longer.

Lentils

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Red, brown, green, or black, it doesn’t matter the color or type of lentil, they’re all great for you! One cup of lentils “provides you with around 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber.” This powerful combination has been shown to “increase feelings of fullness,” which helps to reduce hunger-cravings, especially those powerful sugar cravings. When it comes to implementing these nutrient-rich legumes, the sky is the limit! They are a great meatless alternative, such as this Super-Simple Sweet Potato and Quinoa Sliders or this Lentil Loaf With Celery Root Mash, and serve up a great chili or stew, such as this Pumpkin Spinach Creamy Lentil Soup or this Red Lentil Corn Chowder.

Fermented Foods

Super-Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles/One Green Planet

Most likely you’ve been hearing a lot of hullabaloo regarding fermented foods and their health benefits. The connection between fermented foods and health is based on the connection between your gut bacteria, microbiota, and your overall health. The human gut is teeming with bacteria that help maintain a healthy body system. Fermented foods have been linked to a boost in “good bacteria” and a decrease in “harmful bacteria.” Recent studies have illuminated that an unhealthy gut microbiota may contribute to “fake” hunger cravings, therefore, by bolstering a healthy microbiota, you may also help to alleviate those sugar cravings. Try making your own fermented foods at home, such as this Homemade Raw Sauerkraut or this Super-Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles recipe.

For a host of inventive and delicious ways to include these sugar-craving fighting foods, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!