Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Agave Nectar: What the Heck is it?

In one day alone, two of my Vegan friends suggested Agave nectar to me.


I know Agave Nectar is plant based.  I have also heard negative things about Agave but I couldn't quite recall what they were because upon reading them I thought well that's something I will retain as a no try.  But with hearing about it more and more and not just from these two friends I wanted to do some research on my own time because I am sure it will become important in my future work life as well.  Working in food, I am sure the day will come that someone important asks us to throw out our honey bottles.  Ah-hem.

I love honey.  While I have been tossing around the idea of lessening my fish and egg consumption, honey may keep me from touching full blown Vegan for a long time.  I can't say forever, because I did say I would never give up chicken and here I am chickenless and not missing it one bit.

Anyway, I started my agave research simply googling "What is agave nectar?" and scrolled past the obvious sales sites.  Considering I already had read something negative about agave I was not too surprised to see everything below was about how agave is bad for the body.  I am not crazy! I did read an article about agave!  Go me!  My memory works!

Agave is a plant that grows in the South Western US and Northern South America.  It is used to make the delicious elixir that is known as Tequila (which goes in my favorite after convention beverage: margaritas).  Agave is noted to have a lower Glycemic Index and is 1.5 times sweeter then white sugar.  So a person would use less of it (unless you happen to be someone like me, in which case I would probably use double).

One would think that having a lower Glycemic Index would make agave safer for Diabetic's.  However, because it is higher is fructose it is listed as a sugar for Diabetics to limit by the American Diabetes Association.

Oh here is a fun fact, manufactured agave nectar is not made from the agave plant.  This includes raw agave nectar.

Native Mexican peoples do make a sort of sweetener out of the agave plant. It’s called miel de agave, and it’s made by boiling the agave sap for a couple of hours. Think of it as the Mexican version of authentic Canadian maple syrup.

But this is not what most so-called “agave nectar” is. According to one popular agave nectar manufacturer, “Agave nectar is a newly created sweetener, having been developed in the 1990s.” In a recent article now posted on the Weston A. Price foundation’s website, Ramiel Nagel and Sally Fallon Morell write,


Agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules.Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.

The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which corn starch is converted into HFCS. The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites.

Compare that to the typical fructose content of high fructose corn syrup (55%)! foodrenegade.com

So agave nectar is not natural but wait this is the bad part.  Agave is low on the Glycemic Index meaning it does not spike the blood sugar, but I already mentioned it's not recommended for diabetics.  That's because agave is extremely high in fructose.  Fructose is sugar.  Fructose is in the often heard high fructose corn syrup we all know to avoid because high amounts of fructose is not good for the body.  Fructose is also naturally occurring in fruits with the difference being the body has to work to break down the fruit to get the fructose and fruit also has fiber which makes us feel full so we stop eating.  Agave is up to 85% fructose with no fiber, the fructose content is actually higher than HFCS.

So here is the danger of high fructose consumption, liver damage, potential obesity, type 2 diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

It is actually healthier to consume regular white sugar.  I sound like a wild extremist... oh my.  Personally, I can not consume artificial sweeteners because they make me physically sick.  Sadness.

So what is recommended instead of agave?  Vegans, I get you.  I really do.  You're avoiding honey because bees made it.  I get it.  Try maple syrup, stevia, erythritol, or xyitol.  All natural.

For me, I will stick with my honey for now.

Resources:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/the-truth-about-agave 
http://www.foodrenegade.com/agave-nectar-good-or-bad/
http://authoritynutrition.com/agave-nectar-is-even-worse-than-sugar/
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401166/Whats-Wrong-with-Agave-Nectar.html

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