Agave has been known as a low glycemic sweetener in recent years, which it is, but new information has come up that proves it to be unhealthy.
It turns out that agave is not the health food I thought it was. I used to consume it myself and recommend it to my clients until I learned the truth about agave. I found myself craving more agave every time I added it to my food, much like sugar, and thought to myself somethings not right about this. If a food is truly healthy you should feel satiated after consuming a serving of that food, not crave more. I decided to do a little more research on it and this is what I found.
Recent studies have shown that agave nectar actually has more fructose content than high fructose corn syrup. What is interesting is that both are low glycemic sweeteners and get processed through the liver. The liver converts the fructose into triglycerides and it never gets used for energy. Instead, it gets stored immediately as fat, before your body has a chance to utilize it.
So why are they marketing agave to us as a health food?
Apparently agave can be processed to be lower in fructose, by extracting the agave nectar from the sap of the agave or yucca plant.
There’s one product on the market today in Mexico that’s truly all natural and derived from the plant nectar, but it’s availability is limited and it’s expensive to produce. Instead the agave we are being sold is extracted from the starch of it’s giant pineapple-shaped root bulb and heavily chemically processed using genetically modified enzymes. It’s less expensive to do it this way and most companies do not have time to process it the way the natives of Mexico have done it for thousands of years.
The principle constituents of the agave root are starch, much like corn. Also, the conversion process by which agave is made is similar to when corn starch is converted into high fructose corn syrup.
Agave can be anywhere from 70% fructose and higher because the refined fructose in agave is much more concentrated than the fructose in high fructose corn syrup.
So what do we do now? We can start by just accepting that sugar is not good for us in high quantities and eat it only in extreme moderation or none at all. I suggest limiting your sugar intake to less than 5% of your food consumption for that day. Honey, Fruit and Stevia are all great alternatives to agave. Fruit has fiber which is a built in mechanism to make you full before you eat too much and contains fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Stevia is an herbal sweetener with no glycemic index. I suggest when buying Stevia make sure it is 100% stevia extract (preferably organic) with no added chemicals. Organic local honey has many anti-fungal properties, which in moderation, can help with fungus and allergies.
Look for a future post on honey and stevia.
Resources: “The Health Risks From Corn And Agave Sweeteners”
by Sally Fallon Morell and Ramiel Nagel