The Truth About Agave
Agave has become a subject that elicits much passion among the health conscious. Who would have thought a simple little cactus could elicit so much emotion? I’m a firm believer that common sense and moderation are always best. Having said that, here are my thoughts on Agave:
- Agave syrup is NOT low glycemic. I once sat in a meeting with an agave salesman who claimed agave is so “low glycemic” diabetics can drink gallons of it without having it affect their glucose levels. He didn’t get the sale, and I had to politely yet firmly intervene and explain that agave is a SYRUP that is extremely high glycemic and raises blood sugars rapidly. Some studies found it has a higher glycemic rating than high fructose corn syrup and that agave has more fructose than any other sweetening agent, including HFCS. The bottom line is that it raises glucose levels very rapidly and can elevate them to a very high level. Agave is loaded with sugar. Don’t be fooled. This means it is not a good option for anyone trying to lose weight, control blood sugars or control Candida overgrowth.
- Agave is not an ancient sweetener. The agave cactus was traditionally used to make tequila. Using it to make agave syrup as a sweetener has only been popular for about 20 years. It is a new product and therefore hasn’t been on the market long enough for its health effects to be studied in detail. In addition to raising blood glucose levels very rapidly, it is also known to raise blood pressure in some people, and has been implicated in heart disease. (The fact it affects blood glucose levels means it probably raises triglycerides and therefore affects heart health.) The fact agave syrup has such a high amount of fructose in it also means it is very difficult for the liver to process. There is mounting evidence agave strains liver function and may lead to liver damage. In my opinion, agave syrup is not a healthy sweetener, but it is also not as “evil” as many accuse it of being.
- Most agave syrups are not truly natural and are not raw. Although it is possible to make agave syrup from the actual plant syrup at low temperatures, that process is extremely time-consuming and expensive. Most manufacturers prefer to make syrup by exposing the plant fibers to heat and a chemical process that converts the starch in the plant (usually the root) into a syrup. This process is obviously neither natural nor raw and creates a sweetener that is amazingly similar to high fructose corn syrup both in how it is manufactured and in how your body responds to it.
The only agave syrup I’ve found that is truly raw (never heated above 120 degrees) and which is processed in a manner that replaces some of the fiber is Xagave: http://amzn.to/13BW7Tp. I’m more comfortable with it than with any other, but do not believe it’s a good choice for daily use.
So should you use agave, or not? In my opinion, there are better options. I still encourage everyone to use more stevia and fewer sweetening agents in general. If you must use a sweetening agent, I prefer coconut (AKA palm) sugar because it has higher mineral content and is slightly lower glycemic. I think using a high-grade agave syrup occasionally is fine, but do not recommend using it as a daily sweetener.
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