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by Liz Bygrave (October 2010)
For the past few years, agave syrup, also known as agave nectar, has been one of the most popular natural sweeteners, widely used amongst the health conscious as an alternative to sugar. Despite being a fructose (generally seen as being not much healthier than sugar, perhaps even less healthy than sugar), agave was seen as the exception to the rule where fructose is concerned, because it has a lowish GI (of around 40).
However, recently, there has been a big furore around agave syrup, mainly in the raw food world, with lots of articles coming out which cast doubts on the healthfulness of this sweetener, and which urge people to stop eating it.
As I’ve reported in my newsletters, I personally remain on the fence about this one. I think it’s all too easy, when a product is seen as a healthier alternative to something else, to expect it to be absolutely perfect. Agave syrup, like other natural sweeteners, is not perfect. Like any sweetener it should be used in moderation. However, I’m not sure that this means it’s necessary to avoid it altogether. Like most foods, it seems to suit some people better than others. I have never had a reaction to it, apart from one weekend a few years ago when I overdid it on my dessert consumption (and if I say I overdid it, then I REALLY overdid it as I do like my sweet food). I experienced a bit of a ‘sugar low’’ for about a day. More than anything, this was interesting to me in that a) it took A LOT of agave to give me this sugar low, and b) it was such a long time since I’d experienced this feeling (ie not since I’d stopped eating sugar) that it was a good reminder of what a sugar low felt like (ie not terrible, but not an experience I care to repeat that often).
But some people do react to agave, generally through experiencing a sugar high, often followed by a sugar low. These people tend to know who they are and therefore limit their consumption of agave,turning to other sweeteners that suit them better (see below).
Of course, just because you can’t feel any negative effects from a food, doesn’t mean it’s not having a negative effect on you. One of the recent arguments about agave is that, as it has to be broken down in the liver, it places a strain on this organ, potentially leading to a condition known as fatty liver, and possibly to insulin resistance. If so, this is troubling. But as you will see if you read the articles that I give links to here, not everyone thinks agave is such a big bad wolf.
One thing that emerges for me from reading all these ‘pro’ and ‘con’ pieces about agave is the impossibility of discerning the truth about it, unless perhaps you’re a scientist with a laboratory, and you can test the stuff for yourself. Read a piece by someone like Dr Mercola and you think ‘Oh boy, I’m never eating that stuff again!’. Read Green Smoothie Girl’s response to Mercola and you think ‘Hey, what’s all the fuss about?’
So, rather than say more when I’m not qualified to comment on it, here are some links to articles on agave so that you can attempt to make up your own mind. Good luck!
Dr Mercola -
Green Smoothie Girl http://www.greensmoothiegirl.com/blog/2010/04/26/joe-
David Wolfe http://www.sacredchocolate.com/agave-
Groovy Foods -
If you feel after this that you don’t want to eat agave any more, the alternatives are as follows:
Coconut Palm Sugar -
Sweet Freedom -
Yacon Root Syrup -
Lucuma Powder -
Dried Fruit -
Maple syrup -
*What is Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) represents the rate at a which a food is broken down in our digestive systems and released into the blood stream. The more slowly a food is broken down, the lower the glycemic index, and the better that food is for us, as it keeps our blood sugar stable. Foods which are broken down quickly (sugar is one such food) are regarded as less healthy, among other things because they force the pancreas to release lots of insulin all at once in order to transport the glucose extracted from that food from the bloodstream into the cells. In the short term this can lead, among other symptoms, to that well known sugar rush, quickly followed by an energy slump. In the long term, it is likely that this kind of eating over taxes the pancreas and the cells, and may be a factor in weight gain and diabetes.
Other articles on this site:
Please note that any information given on this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be taken as such.