Many people interested in staying healthy have switched to agave as a safer “natural” sweetener. They want to avoid well documented dangerous sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), but are unaware that most agave is just as bad (or worse) than HFCS.
So What is Agave?
The agave plant is native to Mexico, and is a popular herbal remedy that claims to offer relief for indigestion, bowel irregularity and skin wounds. Agave “nectar” companies try to inspire images of a tropical locale and ancient herbal medicine. The truth is that what they’re selling you is a bottle of highly processed high-fructose syrup.
Depending on the source and processing method used, agave syrup contain a minimum of 55% fructose, the same amount found in high-fructose corn syrup. Most agave syrup has a higher fructose content than any other commercial sweetener – ranging from 55 to 97%, depending on the brand. This makes agave actually WORSE than HFCS. Can you believe it?
What is the Real Truth about Agave?
Most agave “nectar” or agave “syrup” is nothing more than a laboratory-manufactured super-condensed fructose syrup, lacking virtually all nutrient value and instead, offering you numerous metabolic disorders.
Brilliant marketing has resulted in the astronomical popularity of agave syrup among people who believe they are doing their health a favor by avoiding refined sugars like HFCS, white sugar and dangerous artificial sweeteners. And if you’re diabetic, you’ve been targeted and told this is “diabetic friendly,” has a “low glycemic index” and doesn’t spike your blood sugar.
“While agave syrup does have a low-glycemic index, (so does antifreeze) – that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.”
It is important to understand that fructose does not increase insulin levels…It radically increases insulin resistance, which is FAR more dangerous. It’s normal for your insulin levels to rise. You just don’t want these insulin levels to remain elevated, which is what insulin resistance causes.
In addition to insulin resistance, your risk of liver damage increases, as well as many other health problems.
The Way that Agave is Produced Proves it is Unnatural.
Manufacturers want you to believe that agave nectar runs straight from the plant and into your jar. Nothing could not be farther from the truth.
In spite of manufacturer’s claims, most agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant, but from its pineapple-like root bulb. The root has a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of fructose molecules.
The process which many, if not most, agave producers use to convert this inulin into “nectar” is VERY similar to the process by which cornstarch is converted into HFCS.
Though processing methods can differ among manufacturers, most commercially available agave is converted into high fructose syrup using genetically modified enzymes and a chemical process involving caustic acids, clarifiers and filtration chemicals.
Here is a partial list of the chemicals many manufacturers use:
- Activated charcoal
- Sulfuric and/or hydrofluoric acid
- Inulin enzymes
- Cationic and ionic resins
Doesn’t sound very natural, does it?
Is There Really a “Safe” Organic Agave?
Part of the problem leading to the confusion is that there are some natural food companies that are committed to providing the best product possible – but, they are few and far between. The vast majority of companies produce a product that is much worse than HFCS.
Even if you are using organic agave from a company that attempts to make a quality product, you still need to exercise caution in using it.
Quantity is the issue. Fructose becomes a metabolic poison when you consume it in quantities greater than 25 grams/day. The average person consumes about 70 grams/day.
The Myth of Agave as a “Healthy” Sugar Substitute:
Agave syrup is neither healthy nor natural.
As reported by Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, a fellow of the American College of Nutrition and an associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health:
“Agave is almost all fructose, a highly processed sugar with great marketing.”
Don’t be fooled by thinking Agave syrup is low calorie – it’s not. It has about 16 calories per teaspoon, the same as sucrose (table sugar).
The consumption of high amounts of sugar is not only inflating America’s waistline, but is also increasing rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
While overall sugar consumption is definitely something to be concerned about, even more problematic is one type of sugar that wreaks havoc on your body: FRUCTOSE.
Agave products have the highest percentage of fructose of any sweeteners on the market.
Why is Fructose is so Important?
All sugars are not created equal – in spite of what you might think. (or what food companies have tried to tell you.)
In the US, regular cane sugar, or sucrose (50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose), is no longer the sugar of choice. It’s now fructose. This happened in the 70’s as a result of technology that made HFCS much cheaper to produce. This was purely an economic decision.
I will clear up any confusion here, since fructose is the primary sugar in most fruits. Fructose is not the root of all evil – the MASSIVE amounts that you and your family are exposed to make it dangerous. It is added to virtually every processed food on the supermarket shelves. Read the labels – you’ll be shocked. It’s it everything – bread, cereal, salad dressing…the list goes on. It’s cheap to produce, so companies use it in everything. They’re only interested in their bottom line.
The reasons fructose is so damaging:
Every cell in your body uses glucose for energy. It’s the form of energy your cells were actually designed to run on. Your body metabolizes fructose in a much different way than glucose. Fructose is broken down in your liver just like alcohol and produces many of the side effects of chronic alcohol use, including the “beer belly.” (There’s that expanding waistline again)
Quite simply – Fructose Turns to Fat.
*The fructose in fruits and vegetables is not the same fructose you’ll find in HFCS. HFCS is a synthetic product, manufactured in a lab. Naturally occurring fructose comes along with fiber, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – fructose sweeteners have absolutely NO nutritional value at all.
Fructose also elevates your uric acid levels, which causes chronic, low-level inflammation, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis and premature aging. Fructose also tricks your body into gaining weight; fooling your metabolism, it actually severely impairs your body’s normal appetite-control systems.
Excessive fructose rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (“beer belly”), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure. Classic metabolic syndrome.
Fructose metabolism is very similar to alcohol metabolism, which has a multitude of toxic effects, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Making matters worse, your body easily becomes sensitized to fructose. The effects are cumulative – The more fructose you eat, the more effective your body is in absorbing it; and the more you absorb, the more damage you’ll do.
Remember – fructose is not the problem – excessive fructose is the problem. (quantities greater than 25 grams/day ). You are getting concentrated amounts of fructose that your body was never designed to process, in HFCS and agave syrup.
Other Reasons to Avoid Agave:
- Addictiveness. Agave is highly concentrated sugar. Sugar and sweeteners wreak havoc on your health and are highly addictive.
- Poor Quality Control. There are very few quality controls in place to monitor the production of agave syrup.
- Agave is known to contain large amounts of saponins. Saponins are toxic steroid derivatives, capable of disrupting red blood cells and producing diarrhea and vomiting. There’s also a possible link between saponins and miscarriage by stimulating blood flow to the uterus.
- Some agave syrups contain a contaminant called hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF, also called 5-hydroxymethyl furfural), an organic heat-formed compound that arises in the processing of fructose – in both agave syrup and HFCS. HMF has potential toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic effects.
Acceptable Alternatives to Agave:
- If you are craving something sweet, your best bet is to reach for a piece of fruit.
- Try eliminating sugar for even just a couple of weeks, you will be surprised at how much those cravings will decrease.
If you feel you must use a sweetener, here are a few rules to follow:
- Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid agave and HFCS
- Use raw, organic honey or pure maple syrup in moderation.
- Use regular stevia in moderation, but avoid stevia-based sweeteners like Truvia and PureVia because they have undergone more processing.
If you have insulin issues, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or if you’re overweight, it’s best avoid all sweeteners, including stevia, since any sweetener can decrease your insulin sensitivity.
Eat Healthy and Thrive