Last week I discussed stevia, the natural alternative to sugar. I gave the pros and cons of it, and said there were some issues with stevia and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Because of my criticism of stevia, I have had people ask me about agave syrup, and wondering if that was any better. So I thought I would take a look at agave and tell you more about it.
As I’ve discussed throughout this series on sugar and all its variations, sugar is just flat out not good for your health.
So maybe agave, as a natural product is better for you? Let’s find out.
Agave syrup is a sweetener commercially produced in Mexico, from several species of agave plant, including Agave tequilana (also
called Blue Agave or Tequila Agave), and the Salmiana, Green, Grey, Thorny, and Rainbow varieties. Agave syrup is sweeter than honey, though less viscous.
It is a common misconception that Agaves are cacti. Agaves are closely related to the lily and amaryllis families, and are not related to cacti.
Agave syrup consists primarily of fructose and glucose, and has a very high fructose concentration.
The extremely high percentage of fructose (higher than that of high-fructose corn syrup) can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome, hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation.
Agave syrup was originally used to make tequila. When agave syrup ferments, it literally turns into tequila. In Mexico, there are three major producers of agave syrup. Some of these companies have other divisions that make tequila.
Some of the agave syrup producers water down agave with corn syrup in Mexico before it is exported to the USA. Why is this done? Most likely because agave syrup is expensive, and corn syrup is cheap.
Agave syrup is a low glycemic food and as such is marketed to diabetics. The reason agave syrup is low glycemic is because of the unusually high concentration of fructose compared to the small amount of glucose in it.
Nowhere in nature does this ratio of fructose to glucose occur naturally. One of the next closest foods that contain almost this concentration of glucose to fructose is high fructose corn syrup. Even though fructose is low on the glycemic index, there are numerous problems associated with the consumption of fructose in such high concentrations as found in concentrated sweeteners.
Eating a food with a high concentration in fructose like agave syrup (and high fructose corn syrup) is hard
on the liver. Whereas glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body, fructose is metabolized primarily in the liver, and this can lead to the formation of fats in the liver.
Studies have shown changes in circulating lipids when subjects eat high-fructose diets, and triglyceride levels that rose when people consumed foods containing more fructose than glucose, such as agave syrup.
Another study found that fructose consumption raised blood levels of uric acid, which can foster “metabolic syndrome,” a condition of insulin resistance and abdominal obesity associated with heart disease and diabetes.
So there you have it about agave syrup. I will conclude this article by saying the same thing I said when I concluded my article on stevia:
The truth about sugar is that the best types of sugar are the natural occurring sugars that are in whole foods. These are complex carbohydrates: whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, and legumes.
Any other form of sugar is much harder for the body to process and metabolize, so if you are to use sugar, you want to use as natural a source as possible, and to use it lightly.
Agave syrup is a natural type of sweetener, but as you read, it has its drawbacks. If you use it, as I said, go lightly.