Is agave nectar good for you? With all the research done on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), consumers focused on eating healthier prefer “natural” sweetener options. Many believe that agave nectar is a healthy choice – and the sales reflect that.
What you may not know is that agave nectar is as bad as – or worse than – HFCS!
The blue agave plant [also known as agave syrup] is indigenous to Mexico and South America. It is thinner and sweeter than honey and dissolves easily in cold beverages. Tequila is made from fermented agave.
Commercially produced agave nectar is broken down to fructose and glucose, with varying percentages depending on the manufacturer.
Is Agave Nectar Good For You? 5 Surprising Hidden Dangers
Dangerous Levels of Fructose
Agave is Far from “Natural”
Uncertain Product Quality
Absolutely ZERO Nutritional Value
Sugar is Highly Addictive
The lowest amount of fructose found in agave nectar is 55% – which is equivalent to the amount found in high fructose corn syrup. Some varieties contain as much as 97% fructose – far higher levels than HFCS contains, making agave worse for you than the sweetener at the center of the controversy that’s shaking the scientific community!
Fructose [monosaccharide] is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, higher cholesterol levels and insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes.
Liver damage has also been connected to too much fructose consumption. Glucose is processed by every cell in your body but fructose is only metabolized by your liver.
Long-term consumption of too much fructose can lead to fatty liver and cirrhosis – conditions typically found in alcoholics.
Marketed as “organic” and “all natural” to consumers, agave nectar used by the native people of Central and South America is far different than what is sold on the shelves of markets all over the country.
Unlike traditional agave, commercially produced agave is made from the starchy root bulb.
This type of agave is extremely over-processed and chemically treated to prevent the product from turning rancid.
The primary compound of the root is inulin – an indigestible fiber with a consistency similar to corn starch – which is then converted to “sweet nectar” using the same methods manufacturers use to make HFCS.
Traditional agave also has a very intense flavor that would not sell so well to customers accustomed to bland flavorless sweeteners such at high fructose corn syrup or white sugar.
There are very few producers of traditional, non-processed agave. Researching how a manufacturer refines its product is crucial to informed decision making.
Production standards are loosely monitored for agave products sold in the United States and exported from Mexico. Some experts have expressed concern that agave plants used for mass production are of poor quality – possibly even toxic. They note that to meet demand, commercial manufacturers are adding HFCS.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found high levels of pesticides in some shipments of agave syrup and the products have been refused entry.
Pesticides are a well-known (and closely monitored) carcinogen in the U.S, however, FDA monitors don’t check all of the shipments. Unknown pesticide use adds to the other dangers of agave nectar.
The processing methods used to create agave nectar and agave syrup require heating the ingredients at extremely high temperatures – much the same as the processing methods for HFCS.
This removes all nutritional components the raw plant may have offered. All beneficial enzymes are removed to prevent the product from fermenting into tequila while in storage, during transport or in your pantry.
In addition, there is evidence that not only does agave nectar offer no nutritional value – but it may also inhibit your body’s ability to absorb the essential mineral copper. Your red blood cells require copper to transport oxygen through your blood.
Endocrinologist, Dr. Robert Lustig conducted research that shows that the region of your brain that processes “pleasure” is triggered by sugar in much the same way as the drug cocaine triggers a high. Sugar initiates the same reaction and increases the body’s production of dopamine.
Researchers have estimated that the average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar each year. It is a “hidden ingredient” in most over-processed and pre-prepared foods that consumers typically do not consider sweet.
The recommended limit is 25 grams per day, but since sugar additives are so common, keeping your known limit at 15 grams per day will take account for those secret sugars.
What Are Your Options?
There are true natural sugars that are delicious without the hidden dangers of agave nectar.
Natural Sweetener Alternatives
- Raw Honey – sweeter than sugar and packed with antioxidants. Buying locally grown honey increases the benefits and may even help you build up a tolerance to your local flora.
- Grade B Maple Syrup or Maple Sugar – common ingredients with no additives that can be used in place of sugar.
- Stevia – contains no calories or glycemic effect, making it a safer option for diabetics. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar and has been used for centuries in South America & Japan.
- Xylitol – already used in chewing gum, xylitol is a common compound in plants, trees and our own bodies. It is a safer – but pricier – option.
- Coconut Sugar – made from sap, coconut sugar has a low glycemic load, and offers nutrition with the sweetness. It also tastes great!
- Blackstrap Molasses – when sugar cane is harvested, molasses is the nutritional by-product. Sweeter than sugar, less is needed and it is particularly excellent for baking.
- Monk Fruit – 300 times sweeter than sugar with no calories and almost zero glycemic load, monk fruit is also antioxidant rich.
- Yacon Syrup– derived from a type of sweet potato, yacon syrup adds sweetness and fiber to your diet.
We consume more sugar and sugar products than any other nation does. It is one of the primary causes of the obesity epidemic, which has led to record highs in diabetes, heart disease, metabolic disorders and cancer.
Is agave nectar good for you? The answer is a resounding no! There are better alternatives to sugar without creating inflammation and eating refined food products.