Agave - The Sad Truth
In recent times "agave nectar" has been pushed as a great healthy substitute for sugar and honey. The reason why is because it is very low on the glycemic index and does not spike blood sugar levels very much when consumed, even though it is extremely sweet. Finally a sweetener that tastes great and doesn’t hurt so much. Sounds awesome right? Wrong.
First off, agave is marketed in a very misleading way. Because it is called “nectar” but it really isn’t pure nectar. It should be called agave syrup (and sometimes it is), because that’s pretty much what it is.
True "nectar / sap" is natural and not processed in a factory. Commercial agave sweetener is processed from the nectar of the agave plant, and it is no longer raw nectar by the time it hits the shelves - it is high fructose agave syrup.
That wouldn't be so bad if this product was not being marketed to diabetics so heavily. The "agave is safest sugar ever" campaign, when viewed from a health standpoint, is downright dangerous. False nutrition facts could cost consumers a trip to the hospital.
The truth about agave is that it has its benefits and dangers, just like any natural sugar. Thus, it should be used with caution, just like natural any sugar.
Remember this: Too much of anything in a concentrated form, no matter how natural, is bad for your body!!! This is especially true of crystallized, or concentrated substances like salt, sugar and MSG. All three "seasonings" occur naturally in nature, but once they are made into a crystal, a powder or a syrup, etc, they become potentially dangerous, because its too easy to overuse them, and throw your body off balance.
Mexicans have used agave nectar for centuries to produce Tequila. Blue agave is most widely used as it is among the sweetest of the agave plant family. This is why making Tequila with blue agave is preferred because of its high sugar content.
Through time, Mexicans have also used raw agave sap/nectar for its medicinal properties. So raw agave nectar itself actually has some nutritional benefits (in moderation).
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.
The reason why agave ranks low on this chart is because of its low glucose levels. BUT...it turns out that Agave is very high in fructose, even higher in fact, than high fructose corn syrup! By now, we are well aware of the fact the body does a horrible job processing high amounts of fructose. Not to mention, some corporations are adding even more sugar in during processing! Its not a good look!
Which takes me back to the original point about avoiding over consumption of ALL sugars (natural and processed). If sugar must be added, do it in moderation, no matter how healthy it professes to be. Concentrated sugar is concentrated sugar! There is no getting around it. But we shouldn't be mad at agave nectar. Its not agave's fault that humans are telling lies about it to make more money. What we need to do is revolutionize our perspectives on sugar, not just agave.
Some Benefits Of Agave
One of agave nectar's saving graces is the fact that it is so incredibly sweet. This allows you to use much less of it than you would plain sugar. Agave is also a great honey substitute, particularly for vegans, because agave nectar is plant based and is not an animal bi-product like honey. Also, agave is even sweeter than honey, so once again, you'd use less of it.
So is agave nectar good for you or bad?
Neither... or both. Its relative to how you intend on using it. If your aim is to have a completely high fructose syrup free diet, then you should most definitely avoid agave nectar. On the other hand, if you need a vegan alternative to honey in your recipes, or you just need a splash of sweetness in your tea - agave might do. Just use it wisely.
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