Having sugar withdrawal? Camila Alves McConaughey's secret weapon to kick your sugar addiction

Kristine Solomon
·7 min read

Take the Yahoo Life x Women of Today 5-Day Sugar Detox Challenge to cut back on your daily sugar. Follow along with us as Camila Alves McConaughey and top experts show us how to cut back on sugar and form new habits every day this week. This is day four of the 5-day sugar detox.

Stress can make even the most disciplined among us pick up some pretty unsavory habits, and scarfing down junk food is chief among them. Sweets may provide instant gratification, but the long-term effects of a sugar-heavy diet range from weight gain and breakouts to inflammation and heart disease. Your brain may crave sweet relief, but your body is telling you in no uncertain terms, “Steer clear of sugar!”

Camila Alves McConaughey curates a 5-day sugar detox challenge exclusive for Yahoo Life readers. (Photo: Ashley Burns)
Camila Alves McConaughey curates a 5-day sugar detox challenge exclusive for Yahoo Life readers. (Photo: Ashley Burns)

Today is Day 4 of a 5-day challenge in partnership with lifestyle guru Camila Alves McConaughey — wife of iconic actor Matthew McConaughey — and her website, Women of Today, for the Yahoo Life x Women of Today 5-Day Sugar Detox Challenge. It’s a guided program that just about anyone can do at home. For five days, we’re providing the encouragement and know-how you need to quit your dependency on this harmful and highly addictive ingredient.

“A lot of us are feeling tired, bloated [and] stressed with everything that's going on around us,” says McConaughey. “It's time to focus and our health.” And if you’ve been following along, you know that days one through three have been about committing to quitting, ditching artificial sweeteners and eliminating sneaky sugars in processed foods.

On day four, it’s time to have some fun. Today is the day we reveal a juicy secret about sugar detoxing: you should eat more fruit!

Fruit contains sugar — so why are you encouraged to eat it?

On day one of this cleansing journey, McConaughey and nutritionist Maya Feller discussed the two methods of a sugar detox: gradual weaning or cold-turkey quitting. McConaughey said eliminating processed food and sticking just to whole foods is “the best way” — and fruits, of course, are a whole food.

“I know you’re probably scratching your head going, ‘Wait. I thought fruit gets processed in my body and turns into sugar.’ Yes, it does. But it is a natural form of sugar,” says McConaughey. Indeed, when we discuss sugar, we’re talking about two kinds: added sugar and naturally occurring sugar.

Added sugar refers to the refined, artificial and processed sugars poured into packaged products, baked goods, soft drinks and your morning coffee, to name a few. But fruit sugars are naturally occurring — Mother Nature sprinkles them in herself. And here’s the important part: your body metabolizes added sugars and naturally occurring sugars in different ways.

Added sugars like table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are metabolized quickly by your body. Not only do they fail to satiate you, but they’re also most closely linked to diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Naturally occurring sugars, on the other hand, are metabolized more slowly thanks to the fruit’s fiber, and they’re more nutrient-rich. Plus, there’s less sugar in a typical piece of fruit than there is in, say, a piece of cake.

“It's very important...if you're going to have fruit to eat a whole fruit,” says McConaughey. “When you are eating a whole fruit [and not just the juice], you're also getting the fiber, and you’re getting other nutrients that help your body process the natural sugar in the way that it should.”

Fruits help you stick to your sugar detox without cheating or giving up

During your sugar detox, your body is most likely going to crave something sweet, eventually. Even if you’re hardcore enough to avoid all sugar, when your detox is over, you might want to gradually re-introduce it into your diet in a healthy way.

“Natural sugar that you find in fresh fruit is not bad for you. Too much of anything is bad but natural sugars don’t impact your body the same way as processed sugar,” says nutritionist Erin James, an outside expert who is unaffiliated with Women of Today.

“When people are craving sugar, I recommend having fruit, such as berries, which have low sugar content. You may not think of it as a treat when you first start changing your lifestyle habits, but over time your body and mind will see fruit as a treat of sorts because your body isn’t craving processed sugar anymore. If you are able to avoid all sugar during your detox that’s even better, but fruit won’t hurt your results in small amounts,” adds James.

Camila Alves McConaughey recommends eating fruit during your sugar detox: your body naturally occurring sugars differently than added sugars. (Photo: Ashley Burns)
Camila Alves McConaughey recommends eating fruit during your sugar detox: your body naturally occurring sugars differently than added sugars. (Photo: Ashley Burns)

McConaughey agrees. “For me personally, I need to slowly make that [sugar detox] transition because that way I can do it for longer...I still do a little bit of fruit, but I try to stay away from the high-sugar fruits. Not all fruits are created equal. So I do a lot of blueberries, blackberries. [I] stay with the berry family. If I'm going to do orange, I do a little bit [or] a little bit of grapefruit,” she says. (Here’s a list of high-sugar versus low-sugar fruits.)

From a fullness standpoint, McConaughey prefers mixing fruits with good fats, like nut butters.”If I'm going to have an apple, I slice it up and...get my peanut butter or almond butter with it,” she says. “It's really hard if you're going to eat a bunch of fruits by itself, because that is going to get you...craving a little bit more sugar.”

What not to do when you’re incorporating fruits into your sugar detox

There’s a big difference between juicing and eating whole fruits during a sugar detox, and it has to do with the way your body metabolizes fruit sugar. McConaughey recommends staying away from juices during your sugar detox. And if you want to re-introduce them into your diet post-detox, “take the time and invest on getting a good juicer and make [it] fresh at home, and you can drink it right away,” she says.

As for processed fruit juices, those are a no-go both during and after your sugar detox. McConaughey doesn’t even keep them in her fridge at home, she says.

When you are eating a whole fruit [and not just the juice], you're also getting the fiber, and you’re getting other nutrients that help your body process the natural sugar in the way that it should. Camila Alves McConaughey

As with any diet, if you have an eating disorders or have in the past, steer clear of a sugar detox. And if you have a pre-existing condition, consult a doctor before embarking on one.

“If you have diabetes, you’ll want to watch your intake — but there shouldn’t be a need to cut out naturally occurring sugar from your diet,” says plant-based registered dietitian Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Plant-Based Eats (and also an outside expert unaffiliated with Women of Today).

The most important thing not to do during your sugar detox is to give up on yourself. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Expect a bit of rockiness along the road — after all, sugar is a drug, and during a detox, you’re essentially withdrawing.

“You may experience symptoms ranging from cravings for sugary foods to more intense side effects like irritability and depressed mood,” says Gorin. “The number one thing to remember is that the feelings will pass. Have a piece of fruit for dessert instead of a baked good so that you get the sweet taste but are consuming naturally occurring sugars instead of added ones.”

As for the amount of fruits you eat, “you're going to have to be the police on that. You're going to have to choose the right amount of fruits that are not high in sugar content,” says McConaughey.

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