Ask a Dietitian: Should You Do a Sugar Detox?

Hey Jess, I’ve been thinking about my sugar intake lately as I have such a sweet tooth. Do you think a sugar detox would be beneficial for me?

Sugar is often painted as the ultimate villain in our diets. We all know that we should cut down on our intake, but it’s important to remember that not all sugars should be put in the same box. There’s a time and place for it in our diets. Is a detox the way forward? Not in my opinion, but let me explain why.

What is a sugar detox?

The idea of a sugar detox, or cleanse, involves temporarily cutting out or significantly reducing your consumption of food and drinks containing added sugars. The aim is to ‘reset’ the body’s reliance on sugar, reduce cravings, and improve overall health.

Are there different types of sugar?

Before considering cutting sugar out completely, it’s important to understand its different types and sources. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate present in various foods, including fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. While natural sugars in these foods provide essential nutrients and energy, added sugars (also known as ‘free sugars’) contribute to excess calorie intake without the additional nutritional benefits.

The magic number is to keep your ‘total sugars’ under 90g per day (this includes natural and added sugars), with free sugars under 30g per day (the sugar you add to your morning coffee, for example).

Why are we encouraged to reduce our sugar intake?

Undoubtedly, as a nation, we tend to exceed the recommended sugar intake, particularly free sugars in our diet. The pull of sugary treats may be hard to resist, but overconsumption of added sugars has been linked to a higher risk of obesity, and other health concerns such as diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay. While the natural sugars in whole foods like fruit are essential components of a balanced diet, we must be aware of how much added sugar we consume.

To help stay within the recommended guidelines, here are some everyday tips for reducing sugar intake:

Prioritize water

A large proportion of our sugar intake comes from beverages such as squash, fizzy drinks, and fruit juices. Switch these to water with lemon or lime instead.

Simple swaps

For breakfast, switch from sugary cereals to porridge topped with sliced banana, or change your mid-morning snack from biscuits to unsalted popcorn.

Be mindful of portion sizes

Pay attention to the amount of sugar in condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce, or jam, and use them sparingly.

Check food labels

Get into the habit of checking the labels for hidden added sugars. This practice will help you make informed choices about the food you consume.

So… should you try a sugar detox?

Trying a sugar detox may seem like a quick fix, but food shouldn’t be categorized as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Rather than fixating on eliminating or ‘cleansing’ specific foods or nutrients, the focus should be on making informed choices and maintaining balance in an overall healthful diet.


While a sugar detox may seem appealing initially, it’s essential to understand that sugar isn't solely ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – it has its place in our diets. Rather than eliminating specific foods, focus on informed choices and understand the different types of sugar. Tips like prioritizing water, making simple swaps, and being mindful of portion sizes can help to reduce sugar intake without measures like a ‘detox’. Remember, sugar doesn’t need to be demonized; it’s all about balance for long-term health.

Words: Jessica Stansfield RNutr, Huel nutrition team

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