Beware of sneaky sugar: Camila Alves McConaughey shares sugar detox secrets in 5-day challenge that's exclusive to Yahoo readers

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 three of the 5-day sugar detox.

When you gobble up a brownie or gulp down a soft drink, you’re consciously putting sugar into your system. The craving is understandable, as sugar activates the pleasure centers of your brain — plus, it tastes so darn good. But the bittersweet truth is that sugar is hiding in lots of different foods, and a high-sugar diet is linked to everything from obesity to heart disease. Eliminating added sugar can transform your health from the inside out — and even slow down the aging process..

Today is Day 3 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 the know-how knowledge you need to adopt healthier habits and quit your dependency on this highly addictive ingredient.

Camila Alves McConaughey customizes a 5-day detox challenge for Yahoo Life readers
Camila Alves McConaughey customizes an exclusive 5-day detox challenge for Yahoo Life readers.

“A lot of us have not felt really well lately with everything that’s going on around us. So it's time to focus on our health,” says McConaughey, who notes that sugar is also a prime cause of inflammation, which weakens the body’s immune system.So it's very, very important to kick that sugar out of your daily routine.”

In days one and two, you committed to a sugar detox and learned how to ditch artificial sweeteners. Now it’s time for your day-three challenge: eliminating sneaky sugar that can derail your detox and undermine your long-term health goals.

Where is all that sneaky sugar hiding — and how can you identify it?

Added sugar — the refined, processed and artificial kinds (not the naturally occurring sugar in fruits and veggies) likes to hide where you least expect it. Believe it or not, you’ll find alarming amounts of sugar in foods like crackers, ketchup, salad dressing, yogurt, apple sauce, and nut milks.

“If you are having packaged food, look at the ingredient panel and look at the nutrition panel,” says McConaughey. “Do not have things that have added sugar and do not have things that have artificial sugar at all.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that the new nutrition facts labels now differentiate added sugars from total sugars — and they even indicate what percentage of your recommended daily allowance is contained in each item.

Unless you eat a purely whole-food diet, you almost need a degree in nutrition to decipher what you’re truly putting inside your body. nutritionist Erin James, an outside expert who is unaffiliated with Women of Today, tells Yahoo Life there are plenty of buzzwords to look for in these ingredient panels that indicate whether added sugars are present. “Some of the biggest hidden sugar culprits are corn syrup, honey, sugar syrup, dextrose, or fructose,” she says.

You're going to have to be patient. You're going have to toughen up and just know that you're doing something that's better for you and for your family. Camila Alves McConaughey

And then there are artificial sweeteners, which will masquerade under names like saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, neotame and acesulfame. Depending on the parameters of your own personal detox, you should even keep an eye out for sweeteners derived from plants like monk fruit, date, agave and coconut — ingredients McConaughey says are, “still ‘made-up’ sweeteners, but they’re better for you if you must use them.”

When it comes to a sugar detox, your eyes should always be scanning labels for sugars and sweeteners. Before you even think about the supermarket, McConaughey suggests taking inventory of everything already in your pantry,

“This is very important because if you end up having those sneaky sugars in there, it's going to make [the sugar detox] harder for you. You're just going to crave more sugar,” says McConaughey. “So the easiest way to get rid of sugar is not to have it because then you will eventually stop craving it.”

These common foods are some of the worst offenders when it comes to sneaky sugars

“Processed, non-whole foods will have sugar hidden in them a lot. I bet you didn’t know your store-bought tomato sauce is packed with sugar, many close to the same amount you find in chocolate chip cookies,” says James. “Granola and other snack bars are actually packed with sugar. Same with salad dressing, yogurt, and even canned fruit. This is no longer considered whole natural fruit because they have to keep it sweet and tasting good in the can.”

If you love to eat salads, McConaughey recommends making your own sugar-free salad dressings in batches — and Women of Today includes a lot of nutrient-rich salad dressing recipes to get you started.

“Another thing that you have to really pay attention to is what you are drinking. You have to look in the ingredient panel to see how much sugar it has,” she adds. “A lot of times it would say sugar-free, [but] they're using a different kind of sweetener to make it sweet. So at the end of the day, your body's still processing it as sugar.” She also suggests giving alcohol the boot, as your body converts it to sugar — but if you must, stick to clear liquors like vodka and tequila, and add “a lot of ice,” she says.

Another sneaky place added sugar is hiding is in dried fruits. “In the process of drying the fruit, the sugar content actually gets higher. So you’re actually are getting more sugars when you’re having dry fruit versus fresh fruit,” says McConaughey.

And if you’re a fan of nuts, make sure to check that nutrition panel for sneaky sugars!

“Ideally, the best form of nuts you can have is raw nuts. But I get it: you might not like the flavor of it,” says McConaughey. “We don't have to be pure, a hundred percent in this process. We'll go one step at a time. So you can get roasted nuts [or] you can roast it yourself...But if you're going to get something out of the package, look in the back of the package to make sure it doesn't have corn syrup, it doesn't have honey, it doesn't have artificial sugars in there. Because that's all going to count [toward] your sugar intake.”

 Camila Alves McConaughey warns about sneaky sugars hidden in some of our favorite foods: tomato sauces, salad dressing and ketchup. (Photo: Ashley Burns)
Camila Alves McConaughey warns about sneaky sugars hidden in some of our favorite foods: tomato sauces, salad dressing and ketchup. (Photo: Ashley Burns)

A sugar detox isn’t easy, but it’s worth it — so stick to it!

“You're going to have to be patient. You're going to have to toughen up and just know that you're doing something that's better for you and for your family,” says McConaughey, a former sugar addict who went from eating chocolate every morning to giving up chocolate completely.

“When you’re detoxing, your body is going through changes, so you have to be patient,” adds James. “Just as when a coffee drinker goes on a caffeine detox, they may actually feel more tired at first because their body is used to having caffeine to fuel it. It doesn’t know how to use energy otherwise. It’s the same with sugar. If you’re used to a lot of sugar, you may feel drained during your detox, you may even want to take a nap, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you need sugar.”

“We have two more days. You’re so close,” adds McConaughey. “Join us tomorrow for day four of our five-day sugar detox challenge!”

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