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Agave, Bad

None of us can be up on everything. We often hear products being touted by seemingly-reputable sources and assume the information must be correct. Agave is one such product.

This past weekend I was preparing a homemade frozen fruit dessert from a recipe that called for Agave as the sweetener. As my daughter was actually doing the prep, I stated that I’m substituting Stevia in place of the agave. “What?” she said, “everyone says agave is healthy.”

Then, yesterday a fitness and nutrition specialist was telling me about a menu item on an anti-inflammatory diet she’s using with her clientele. Agave was the sweetener in the recipe. As I’m about to give you the basic quick and dirty on this product I wanted to prove the point that even well-intended professionals may not be properly informed or up to date on everything…none of us is God, after all.

Agave is a succulent plant and our source of agave in the US is primarily Mexico. Its original claim to fame is tequila which is made from the plant. Several years ago another processed form hit the market as agave nectar, a sugar substitute. Initial investigation demonstrated that not only is it sweet (1-1.5x sweeter than sugar, also higher in calories), but because it’s sweetness comes mostly from highly processed fructose, it actually has a lower glycemic index. For that reason, it was thought to be beneficial for use by diabetics as fructose does not stimulate the release of insulin. Although it doesn’t spike your serum glucose levels, fructose is a far more health-destroying form of sugar. Fructose is known as “fruit sugar” (sugar= fructose + sucrose) but when you eat an apple, not only do you get all the fiber which helps us manage the sugar, the unprocessed proportion of fructose to sucrose is in balance.

You already know high fructose corn syrup is a health-damaging product and agave is markedly higher in fructose than that…in fact it’s the record-holder! So please avoid products with agave nectar or syrup even though it’s commonly found on the health food store shelves.

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