Sugar detox? Cutting carbs? A doctor explains why you should keep fruit on the menu

Let’s understand what sugar detox actually is:

Fruit vs. sugar

Your body runs on glucose. It is the simple sugar that cells use for energy.

molecular diagrams for glucose, fructose and galactose for sugar
These molecules are the three kinds of simple sugars, found in starches, fruit and milk. Trinset/ iStock via Getty Images Plus

Glucose is a molecular building block of carbohydrates, one of the three essential macronutrients. The other two are fat and protein. Starches are long, branching chains of glucose.

molecular diagram of chain of glucoses together for sugar
Chains of simple sugar molecules linked together form starches and other carbohydrates. Trinset/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Naturally occurring carbohydrates travel in nutrient-dense packages such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Humans evolved to crave sweet tastes to get the nutrients needed to survive. A daily supply of vitamins, minerals and fiber which needs because our bodies cannot make them. The best source of these substances for our ancient ancestors was sweet, ripe, delicious fruit

Refined sugars, on the other hand, are highly process and strip of all nutrients except calories. They’re a concentrates form of carbohydrates. The food industry produces refine- sugars in many forms. The most common are sucrose crystals, which you’d recognize as table sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup, which is in many process foods and sweet beverages.

Sugar toxicity

Refined sugars are not directly toxic to cells, but they can combine with proteins and fats in food and in the bloodstream to produce toxic substances such as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). High blood glucose levels may produce glycated low-density lipoproteins. High levels of these and other glucose-related toxic substances are associated with an increased risk of a wide range of chronic health problems, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Fruit that contain natural sugar

Detoxing from sugar

People interested in losing weight and improving health often ask if they should do a “sugar detox.” In my opinion this is a waste of time, because it is not possible to eliminate sugar from the body. For instance, if you ate only baked chicken breasts, your liver would convert protein to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis.

Low-carb diets may lead to weight loss, but at the expense of health. Diets that significantly reduce carbohydrates are associated with nutrient deficiencies and higher risk of death from any cause. On low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets the body will break down muscles and turn their protein into glucose. The lack of fiber causes constipation.

Eliminating foods sweetened with refined sugar is a worthy goal. But don’t think of it as a “detox” – it should be a permanent lifestyle change. The safest way to go on a refined sugar “detox” is to increase your intake of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. Once you eliminate refined sugar, you’ll likely find that your taste buds become more sensitive to – and appreciative of – the natural sweetness of fruits.


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