Agave: A Triumph of Marketing over Truth
The Myth of Agave as a “Healthy” Sugar Substitute
- Agave syrup is neither a natural food nor organic
Fully chemically processed sap from the agave plant is known as hydrolyzed high fructose inulin syrup.
According to 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, highly processed sugar with great marketing.”
- Agave syrup is not low calorie.
Agave syrup is about 16 calories per teaspoon, the same as table sugar.
- Agave syrup may not have a low glycemic index.
Depending upon where the agave comes from and the amount of heat used to process it, your agave syrup can be anywhere from 55 percent to 90 percent fructose! (And it’s likely you won’t be able to tell from the product label.)
This range of fructose content hardly makes agave syrup a logical choice if you’re hoping to avoid the high levels of fructose in HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).
And if you’re diabetic, you should know that the alleged benefit of agave for diabetics is purely speculative. Very few agave studies have been documented, and most involved rats. There have been no clinical studies done on its safety for diabetics.
Since most agave syrup has such a high percentage of fructose, your blood sugar will likely spike just as it would if you were consuming regular sugar or HFCS, and you would also run the risk of raising your triglyceride levels. It’s also important to understand that whereas the glucose in other sugars are converted to blood glucose, fructose is a relatively unregulated source of fuel that your liver converts to fat and cholesterol.
Therefore, if you need to lose weight, fructose is one type of sugar you’ll definitely want to avoid, no matter what the source is.
Other Reasons You Should Steer Clear of Agave
- There are very few quality controls in place to monitor the production of agave syrup. Nearly all agave sold in the U.S. comes from Mexico. Industry insiders are concerned agave distributors are using lesser, even toxic, agave plants due to a shortage of blue agave.
There are also concerns that some distributors are cutting agave syrup with corn syrup -- how often and to what extent is anyone’s guess. In addition, the FDA has refused shipments of agave syrup due to excessive pesticide residues.
- Agave syrup is not a whole food -- it is fractionated and processed. The sap is separated from the plant and treated with heat, similar to how maple sap is made into maple syrup. Agave nectar is devoid of many of the nutrients contained in the original, whole plant.
- Agave syrup is not a live food. The natural enzymes are removed to prevent agave syrup from fermenting and turning into tequila in your food pantry or cabinet.
- Agave is, for all intents and purposes, highly concentrated sugar. Sugar and sweeteners wreak havoc on your health and are highly addictive.