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Sugar detox: Is it worth it?

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Americans eat an average of 22 tablespoons of sugar each day. Excess sugar has been linked to weight gain, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But giving it up isn't easy.

When it comes to fitness, Anne-Rose Baker of Cumming is a bit of a heavy lifter.  A competitive cheerleader growing up, the 31-year-old high school English teacher works out at CrossFit TriForce with her husband Patrick, for fun.  As part of a gym competition, the two tried to give up sugar using the new book The 21 Day Sugar Detox.

"I think just the idea of being told you can't have something, I feel like mentally your body is going to want it more," Anne-Rose said.

Patrick joined the detox to support Anne-Rose, but then found out no sugar meant no beer -- no alcohol period -- on Georgia football weekends.

"I was, like, ‘Wow...This 21 days is probably going to be tougher than I thought it was going to be," Patrick said.

There are lots of "no" foods: no peas, no white potatoes, no pasta, no chips, no corn, no bread, no bagels, no cake, no crackers, no sodas – including diet sodas – and no fruit.

So what can they eat?

"Pretty much any kind of meat," Anne-Rose said.

Other "yes" foods include about 30 vegetables, lots of fish, some nuts, whole dairy and unsweetened coffee and tea.

"It was a roller coaster, it was a total roller coaster.  The first week, I felt awful," said Anne-Rose.

Patrick agreed, "We started on a Saturday, and that first Sunday I was just laying in a fetal on the couch the whole time."

That first weekend, both their football teams bite the dust.

"Let's see. I think he had to go through two Georgia losses without beer," said Anne-Rose.

But do we really need to go this far to detox from sugar?

Emory internist Dr. Sharon Horesh-Bergquist said that treating sugar like a toxin --  you give up and then back -- kind of misses the point.

"I think a person needs to follow a good lifestyle as a good lifestyle," Dr. Horesh-Bergquist said. "It's not something you do for a short amount of time and feel that you've purged yourself of all the bad food that you ate before. I think it's something you have to maintain."

But by the second week sugar-free, Anne-Rose and Patrick were getting the hang of it.

And after 21 days: the moment of truth. Anne-Rose lost 5 pounds, while Patrick lost 10. While they said they liked the newfound energy, they don't know if it was enough to swear off sugar completely.

"But I think the best thing is I now know how to eat and that's basically something for life," Anne-Rose said.

If you want to cut back on sugar without going cold turkey, try cutting back on the processed foods you eat -- meaning all the stuff that comes already made for you in a bag or a box. Also, increase fresh foods that come out of the ground, like vegetables and fruits.

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