How do 30-day no sugar challenges work?

Many types of 30-day no sugar challenges exist, but most have similar guidelines.

The main goal is to cut out all sources of added sugar for 30 days. Instead, you focus on consuming nutrient-dense, whole foods that don’t contain added sugars.

Natural sugars, which are found in foods like vegetables, fruits, and dairy products, are OK to eat. The focus is on cutting out added sugars and foods high in added sugars, including sugary breakfast cereals, ice cream, cookies, cakes, candy, soda, and sweetened coffee drinks.

Again, there are many variations of the 30-day no sugar challenge, so the rules and recommendations may differ by program.

Alternatively, you can easily create your own 30-day no sugar challenge using the information in this article.

All you need to do is cut out — or limit — added sugar for 30-days and fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods.

SUMMARY30-day no sugar challenges are 30-day plans focused on cutting out sources of added sugar from the diet and consuming nutrient-dense foods instead.

Do 30-day no sugar challenges have benefits?

Any dietary pattern that reduces or cuts out added sugar is likely to benefit overall health, especially among people who regularly consume high amounts of added sugar.

However, the most important factor in any dietary pattern is consistency, which isn’t necessarily the point of a 30-day no sugar challenge.

If you cut out added sugar for 30 days only to return to a diet that’s high in added sugar, the benefits of following an added-sugar-free diet will be quickly lost.

The following benefits are related to reducing added sugar in general.

Blood sugar

Frequently eating foods and drinking beverages high in added sugar harms blood sugar management and may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sweetened foods and drinks like baked goods, soda, candy, and energy drinks contain rapidly absorbable sugars like high fructose corn syrup.

Diets high in these types of sugar have been linked to high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which your cells become less sensitive to insulin, a hormone that regulates your blood sugar levels.

This may lead to elevated blood sugar and insulin levels, which can eventually cause cell damage and increase your risk of several diseases (3Trusted Source7Trusted Source8Trusted Source9Trusted Source).

Cutting back on added sugar is a good way to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, even if you only do so for a short time period. However, if you cut out added sugar for 30 days only to return to a high sugar diet after the challenge is over, these benefits will be quickly lost.

For this reason, a less strict, long-term approach to cutting back on added sugar is likely a more realistic choice for sustainable blood sugar management.

Body weight

Foods and beverages high in added sugar tend to be rich in calories yet low in filling nutrients like protein and fiber. For this reason, a diet high in sugary foods has been linked to weight gain (10Trusted Source11Trusted Source).

High added sugar intake is also associated with elevated visceral fat, the type of fat that sits around your organs. Having increased visceral fat is strongly correlated to increased disease risk (12Trusted Source).

Cutting out sources of added sugar may help you lose weight, especially when paired with a nutrient-dense diet that’s high in protein and fiber (13Trusted Source).

Oral health

It’s known that sugary foods and beverages aren’t good for dental health.

In fact, added sugar intake is strongly linked to an increased risk of cavities and gum diseases in both children and adults (14Trusted Source15Trusted Source16Trusted Source17Trusted Source).

This is because bacteria in the mouth break down sugar and produce acid that may damage your teeth.

Therefore, cutting out added sugar can protect your teeth. That said, only cutting out sugar for 30 days is unlikely to have a lasting effect on dental health.

Liver health

High sugar diets, especially high fructose diets, can increase the risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterized by fat buildup in the liver (1Trusted Source18Trusted Source).

One study in 47 people found those who drank 34 ounces (1 liter) of sugar-sweetened soda daily for 6 months had significantly higher levels of liver fat, visceral fat, and blood triglyceride levels than those who drank the same amount of low fat milk, diet soda, or water (19Trusted Source).

Another study in 41 children and teens with obesity and high sugar consumption showed that just 9 days of a sugar-restricted diet resulted in a 3.4% reduction in liver fat, on average, and improved insulin resistance (20Trusted Source).

Based on these findings, it’s likely that cutting out sugar, especially foods and beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, is likely to reduce liver fat and improve liver health.

Heart health

Sugar-rich diets are linked to heart disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, triglyceride, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

Studies also show that consuming too much added sugar is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and heart disease mortality (21Trusted Source22Trusted Source23Trusted Source).

Diets that limit added sugar, such as the paleo diet and whole foods plant-based diets, have been shown to significantly reduce heart disease risk factors like high triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels (24Trusted Source25Trusted Source).

Plus, these and other dietary patterns that restrict or reduce added sugar may encourage fat loss, which may also help reduce heart disease risk (24Trusted Source25Trusted Source).

Other potential benefits

In addition to the benefits listed above, participating in a 30-day no sugar challenge may improve health in other ways.

For example, research suggests that diets high in added sugar may be linked to anxiety and depressive symptoms, and that reducing sugar intake may help reduce these symptoms (26Trusted Source27Trusted Source).

Cutting out added sugar may also enhance skin health. Studies have linked high added sugar consumption to increased acne risk and skin aging (28Trusted Source29Trusted Source).

Lastly, cutting back on sugary foods and beverages may help improve your energy levels. Substituting refined foods with foods higher in protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals is likely to enhance overall health and help you feel more energized.

SUMMARYConsuming high amounts of added sugar is harmful to your overall health. Reducing added sugar intake can encourage weight loss and improve various aspects of your health, including your blood sugar levels and heart, liver, and dental health.

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Written by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD on February 26, 2021 — Medically reviewed by Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN, Nutrition | Healthline.