Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Agave, the big sweet lie

We all know that sugar and corn syrup are bad for our health especially in the huge amounts that we consume them. We have also figured out that artificial sweeteners are toxic for health. Many people have turned to natural sweeteners One of the newer products on the market is Agave.  But what about this natural sweetener?  Is agave better for you than the refined sugar and corn syrup, and should you use it as a replacementThere are many that will tell you that agave is good for you, that is has vitamins and minerals, that it does not raise your glucose levels, it is naturally made and that it is much better than the commonly used sweeteners we use in overabundance. I believe that many of these claims are only partial truths. Let me explain.....


Photo from Bing images 
 

True agave sweetener is made from the agave plant which is native to Mexico.  There are over two hundred species of this plant which is a relative of the yucca plant. (The blue agave plant is the one used to make Tequila).  True agave sweetener is made when the sap or nectar from these plants is collected and reduced down into a syrup (much like the process of pure maple syrup.)  While it may be true that this real agave syrup or nectar may be better than you than the refined sugar and corn syrup we commonly use, the stuff that you buy in the grocery or health food store labeled as agave is quite another story.

Nearly all of the agave syrup or nectar sold in the United States (and around the world) is not
"real, true agave."  There are some troubles with producing agave for distribution around the world. The first trouble comes in the fact that true agave is labor intensive and costly. The huge demand for product does not allow the producer to spend the time to collect and reduce the nectar in the true old fashioned way. The second trouble comes from the unfamiliar taste. True agave has a fairly strong flavor and is more of an acquired taste. These troubles were overcome when it was discovered that when you are done extracting the nectar from these plants you can extract the starch from the plant bulb. In a process extremely similar to that of making of corn syrup you can create a large amount of sweet from the plant.  Using these techniques, the manufactures can produce a lot of sweet tasting syrup or nectar ready for export. This second product, which is  made from the starch of the plant is a very different product than that which is made from the reduced nectar of the plant. To me, it would seem that much of the agave is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It is high fructose syrup made from agave starch instead of corn. 

Here is the real scoop.  Most of the research about agave has been done studying those products made from he nectar of the plant. I do not know that much research has been released on the products made from the starches of the plant.  But, do we really need more sugar alternatives?  The fact is, we know that we are eating too much sugar (myself included) We are looking for an alternative way to feed our sugar addiction without the ill effects.  Food producers heard the call. We  have been provided more  choices, and they will continue to provide choices as long as the public demands it. The choice is yours to make. For me, I have done the research into it. I am avoiding agave syrup.  (Even from the beginning when I first saw the stuff I got a feeling about it.)  If I travel to Mexico I may look up the real stuff and see if I can acquire a taste for it. Until then, I get my sugar fixes from whole fruits and vegetables. It has been a journey and is still something that I am working towards. I have come a very long way. For me it is much better to work on reducing the amount of sweet stuff in my life rather than replacing it. It is something I am working towards for me and my family. It is not easy, but well worth the health benefits for us.


 I have included some informative links below. There is so much more than what I have shared here in this post.  I hope these articles will be helpful to you as you make your own choice about these types of products.

agave nectar is all hype

Food renegade, Is agave good or bad for you?

health impact news

This post is shared along with others as part of
real food wednesdays

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