When we were kids in the 80’s + 90’s yes, sugary cereal was a dream, packaged fruit snacks were a must; squeeze-it bottles in every lunch, happy meals for the weekend—you know, because we all ate the same way. My Japanese mother did her very best to explain to sis and I that eating fresh fruits and veggies would keep us healthy and slim, and that it was what our bodies were made to eat; sadly, we never listened to her, because as American kids we simply wanted to fit in.
At 23, fresh out of culinary school, I retired from my modeling career and moved from LA to NY to write and shoot with E! News, Today, Dr. Oz, TLC, GMA, etc. I judged food regularly on Iron Chef America and Beat Bobby Flay. The way I was eating, always on-the-go, consisted of sweetened yogurt, sugary creamer in my coffee, sneaking cookies and processed cereal bars between takes, drinking sweetened lattes and fraps from Starbucks, not to mention eating out a lot—(oy-vay!) began to add up, and the subsequent inflammation was causing my skin to break-out, for real. Worse still, we were shooting in HD, which made it really, really hard for me to hide my breakouts from the camera and my colleagues. Trust me when I say, it was a struggle and emotionally, pretty breaking for me.
More and more, research is showing us that inflammation is the root cause of many of our health problems. The bummer for each of us is that added sugar is lurking in almost everything we like to eat: pasta sauce, dressings, bread, and yes, all those bottled juices fronting as “healthy”—they’re simply the opposite.
One day, a few years ago I was called into a meeting with a few producers, editors, and influencers at Conde Nast. We all huddled in a room for an incredible hour of brainstorming. Before I knew it, we were laughing and chatting. We talked workouts, diets, recipes, and more. One of my new friends, Liza, —a respected producer—told us about how she cut all added sugar out of her diet and was absolutely radiant on her wedding day. She looked and felt her very best on her big day and accomplished what every woman wants: to glow.
As a professionally trained chef, I thought people who cut sugar from their diets were totally insane! Plus, I wrote cookbooks for a living and judged TV cooking competitions. I could never cut out sugar! Could I?
Over the past two years, I began to taper off sugar (you’ll see how below) in the hopes that I would gain more energy, boost my immunity, clear my skin, and reap all the rest of the rewards that we’re now being told come with a lower-sugar diet.
The World Health Organization recommends consuming less than 10% of your daily calories from added sugar—5% for “additional health benefits.” In practical terms, according to the American Heart Association, that’s 25 grams of sugar (6 teaspoons) for women and 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons) for men.
My friend, registered dietician and nutritionist Keri Glassman, notes that most American’s get two- to three-times that amount. (Yikes!)
“Regardless if you are trying to lose weight or not, sugar is bad for us all,” Keri says. “When we reduce sugar from our diet, we improve our energy and skin health, decrease inflammation associated with a plethora of conditions and diseases, and lose weight!”
I remember the first few weeks of my sugar experiment being seriously tough. I love my dark chocolate! But I was committed to my cause. The one thing I knew I could control if I wanted to cut sugar was the way I nourished myself at home. I blended my own smoothies (seriously, those smoothies and juices in the fridge at your grocery store and gym are packed with sugar—just read the labels), I paid close attention to the nutrition information of the ingredients I was buying, and ate out much less. Simply cooking for yourself can improve your whole life. My Aussie friends who were already off sugar, like Sarah Wilson and Lee Holmes were already off sugar, and their books + support were immeasurable.
I began to feel much better. My energy levels soared. Best of all? My skin started to clear up—it was also tighter, firmer, and less oily—and I began to see that elusive glow. Today, with the help of a few tips and tricks (and recipes!) I’ve shared below, I’m proud to say I’ve managed to keep added sugar to a minimum and detox my diet. If someone had told me years ago that it was my sugar-filled diet that was causing my breakouts and inflammation in my body all along, I would have saved myself from years of suffering. And that’s why I’m sharing my story with you—so you don’t have to go through the pain and the embarrassment, so you can reclaim your health on your own, by simply cutting down on the sug!
My Delish Full-Week Low-Sugar Cleanse will be on Well + Good starting JAN 8th, 2017!! Get ready!
Candice’s Sugar Detox Guide:
When setting out to cut down on sugar, remember to take it one day at a time. Also, this isn’t about all or nothing: For example, don’t worry so much about cutting down on fruit (according to a recent report from the World Health Organization, natural sugars found in fruit haven’t been linked to adverse health effects). Instead, focus on cutting out all of that processed, added sugar—bottled juices and smoothies; packaged cookies, chips, and crackers; soda; candy; cereal; bread; granola; yogurt; any kind of processed bars (protein, granola, chocolate); sweetened latte crap; and yes, stop using that gross bottled sugary French vanilla creamer in your coffee! The easiest way to track your sugar intake? Read food labels and start cooking more at home. Remember, cooking during your sugar detox is also empowering! To help you, I’ve come up with an easy guide, plus a few sugar-free recipes that will satisfy your cravings while you cut down on the bad stuff.
- Purchase only whole foods at the grocery store and toss out all processed stuff. You may find yourself shopping more often, but you’ll end up saving money by cooking more at home
- Pay attention to food labels! Read, read read + anything that ends in “ose” is sugar (fructose, sucrose, maltose, + high fructose corn syrup is a no-no!!)
- Aim to consume 20g or less of added sugar each day
- Drink 8-12 cups of water a day to stay hydrated
- Cook for yourself, and your loved ones!
- Blend your own smoothies, never buy store bought (lots of hidden sugar)
- Pack lunches, for you and for the family
- Make a delish and low-sugar dinner, like tofu and broccoli rabe over quinoa or a full meal arugula salad with adzuki beans, roasted veggies and top off with hemp seeds.
- Make your own dressings, marinades and sauces
- Enlist a friend or family member to cut down on sugar with you; you’ll keep one another supported and encouraged
Best snacks whilst cutting down on sugar:
- Raw almonds
- Avocado with a touch of lemon and Tamari
- Raw cashews
- Make infused waters with strawberries, basil, blackberries, citrus fruit and fresh herbs!
- Homemade Kale Chips
- Organic edamame, 1 cup
- Raw pistachios, handful
- Popcorn, air popped with tabasco or coconut oil + sea salt
- I add a few drops of stevia to my smoothies, or my oatmeal etc, when needed
- My fave protein powders are naturally sweetened with monk fruit — which I love!
- I eat a handful of delish berries like raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries when I need to get my sweet fix on. Hell yas…
Need more inspo and help to quit sugar forever!?
Image: Kevin Kim
Sweatshirt: A gift from my girlfriend Sara Wilson, thank you Sara! xx