Ask Larry:

Question: I make every effort to avoid artificial sweeteners, but they seem to be everywhere. What do you think about using D-Ribose or agave products?

Larry’s Response: It’s good that you don’t intentionally use aspartame. It is in so many products that it is worthwhile checking labels. One of our readers has reported that she went through her cabinets and pulled items that contained aspartame. Many of her previous symptoms have stopped – including her GERD.

D-Ribose is an important energy sugar and I use it myself (about a quarter teaspoon per day) – for health benefits when exercising, not as a sweetener.

I don’t use agave. It is between 50% and 90% fructose – the rest is glucose. Regular use of fructose in amounts high enough to make something sweet, can damage the liver and kidneys.

I avoid fructose (agave) just as I avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup (soda pop, etc.). Instead, I have been working for years to enjoy the flavor of my food without the need for added sweetness. Natural amounts of fructose in fruit is fine, but I find that a steady diet of fructose-containing products (even fruits) is unhealthy.

The average American consumes well over 100 pounds of sugar (in many forms, including fructose) every year. That’s up from around 20 pounds 50 years ago.

My focus is on convincing people that sweetness itself is an addiction that ought to be resolved. Like any addiction, “getting off” the sweetness wagon can be difficult. I suggest making a plan to step down the use of sweetness – not trying to go “cold turkey”. Stopping quickly doesn’t work for any addiction.

First, work at removing artificial sweeteners, like aspartame. This can take months to years.

Next, start by cutting back on the amounts of sugar you use. If you are accustomed to using 2 packets of sugar or artificial sweetener in iced tea, cut back to 1 and ½ packets for a few weeks. Then, reduce by a quarter or half packet every couple of weeks. It won’t be long and you’ll be enjoying the flavor of iced tea without sweeteners of any kind.

Then, start reducing the amount of sweets you consume – cookies, pies, cakes, etc.

The next step is to replace sweet treats with something else – consider a muffin or some fresh fruit.  After a few weeks without cookies and cakes, you will find that they are much sweeter than you thought – almost too sweet. That’s when you’ll know you’ve made progress toward breaking the sweetness addiction.

I suggest keeping a record of your progress. Write down what changes you’ve made and how feel about them.

The final step is to begin looking carefully at all of the food you eat – particularly the processed products – the ones that are ready (or almost ready) to eat. You will find that practically everything is laden with sugar or artificial sweeteners. America’s ambition to eliminate fat has driven us to a much more dangerous substitute – SUGAR and all of its evil cousins.

As a final reminder, after you successfully slash the amount of sugar you use, you will find that everything tastes excessively sweet – bordering on too sweet. That’s when you’ll know that you are on a better track to healthy living.