Is sugar just a sweetener, or an addictive substance on par with a drug? Depending on which experts you ask, the answer may surprise you. While we are primed to want the sweet taste of energy-rich simple carbohydrates, eating too much can not only give us uncontrollable cravings for more, it can set us up for a lifetime of chronic health issues.

Why “detox” from sugar?

While carbohydrates are an important part of the average person’s diet, sugar isn’t necessarily the healthiest way to get them. Sugar is known to set off a chain reaction that increases insulin levels and sets you up to crave more of it later, without providing the kind of satiety that foods high in protein, fat, and fiber do.

Sugar may also increase inflammation in the body, which can lead to health problems down the line (including cancer and heart disease). Eating a diet high in sugary foods can also promote pathogenic bacterial growth — a serious no-no if you struggle with things like digestive issues, leaky gut, or urinary tract infections. Weaning yourself off of sugar can help limit your cravings for sweet things, stabilize insulin levels, and improve your overall health.

Why a month?

Sugar promotes more sugar cravings, which can make it very difficult to just stop eating altogether. It takes about three to four weeks for your brain and body to eliminate cravings for sweets, and begin craving healthier foods that satisfy more of your actual nutritional needs. It also takes at least two weeks for a new habit to form, so, giving yourself a month to eliminate sugar should be enough time for you to establish new dietary habits.

The One Month Sugar Reset

Cutting sugar out may be simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Here are some steps you can follow to help ensure your success:

1. First, go no-carb for a few days. Eating sugary foods regularly distorts your perception of sweetness. Avoiding sugar and starches for a few days can help reset what your taste buds consider sweet, allowing your cravings to be satisfied with less sugar.

2. Eat enough. Reducing or eliminating sugar from your diet shouldn’t be a reason to restrict yourself from eating. If you normally eat dessert and decide to skip it from now on, be sure you’re still getting enough calories to keep you full, energized, and away from impulsive snacking.

3. Skip the artificial stuff. Though artificial sweeteners don’t contribute calories, they do contribute to sugar cravings by distorting your idea of what sweetness really is. Studies have shown that people regularly consuming artificial sweeteners can end up gaining weight as their bodies react to this shift in perception.

4. Next, add in one fruit a day. After avoiding fruits, grains, and sweet vegetables for a few days, you might find that they are enough to satisfy your desire for sweets. Try adding one piece of fruit to your diet after the initial three day carb fast.

5. Eat full fat dairy. Protein, fat, and fiber contribute to satiety, and fat helps with vitamin absorption. When you eat dairy, opt for varieties that are full fat and have no added sugar.

6. Gradually add in more fruits and carbohydrates. During week two of the sugar reset, add a serving of high-fiber carbohydrates to your daily diet, like carrots. During week three, add some more fruit and whole grains. By the fourth week, you should be eating a normal diet — just without refined sugar.

7. Indulge occasionally. While no added sugar is allowed for the first three weeks, week four and beyond allows you an occasional dessert. Birthday cake, or an indulgent dessert on a night out now and then, are no longer off limits because they won’t be triggers for a sugar addiction.

We are wired to want sugar, because our ancestors needed quick energy when they could get it. Unfortunately, now that it’s so readily available, most of us get too much of a good thing. This one month sugar reset can help you eliminate sugar cravings and establish healthy dietary habits.