Need to detox from sugar? Sugar binges happen to the best of us. Birthdays, holidays, Halloween… heck, even just a stressful day can throw you off your clean-eating game into a spiral of candy and sugary treats. Sugar lights up your brain’s reward centers like a Christmas tree, which feels great…until the next day, when the sugar runs out and withdrawal settles in. Sugar hits all the same brain regions that addictive drugs do, and while it’s melodramatic to compare sugar to cigarettes or cocaine, you’ll still have to deal with pretty heavy cravings while your body gets itself back into balance.

Refined carbs like sugar cause systemic inflammation, that taxes your energy production in two ways. First, sugar impairs your mitochondria, so your body makes less fuel overall. Second, your cells have to spend a lot of their energy dealing with the stress of low-grade inflammation — the result of too much sugar — meaning you have less energy to put toward living your life. Sugar also causes a sharp decline in testosterone, which makes you feel lethargic. Be ready to weather a couple days of feeling tired. They’ll pass once your body repairs itself and you get back to eating good food.

Sugar goes by a lot of different names — more than 60, if we’re talking about what’s listed on nutrition labels. Here are a few to look out for:

  • Corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup

  • Dextrose or crystal dextrose

  • Fructose

  • Maltose

  • Lactose

  • Sucrose

  • Glucose

  • Evaporated cane juice or fruit juice

  • Caramel

  • Carob syrup

  • Brown sugar

  • Raw sugar

  • Dextrin and maltodextrin

  • Rice syrup

  • Molasses

  • Evaporated corn sweetener

  • Confectioner’s powdered sugar

  • Agave nectar

  • Other fruit nectars (for example, pear nectar)

There also “healthier” sugars, including coconut palm sugar, honey and blackstrap molasses. Generally since these are far less processed (especially real, raw honey), they are OK in moderation but still a source of sugar to keep to small amounts. Do not replace sugar for artificial sweeteners such as:

  • Acesulfame Potassium - Sunnett, Sweet One

  • Aspartame - Nutrasweet, Equal

  • Neotame - N/A

  • Saccharin - Sweet 'N Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin

  • Sucralose - Splenda

  • Stevia/Rebaudioside - A Sweet Leaf, Sun Crystals, Steviva, Truvia, PureVia