integrating nutrition, fitness, sprituality, conscious living, and a little sass
Agave nectar gained a lot of popularity in recent years as an alternative to high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and honey. It was touted for being a great vegan sweetener that was low glycemic and great for diabetics. The raw food community was probably some of the biggest advocates of this sweetener, but this sweetener hasn’t turned out to be quite as sweet as it was originally thought.
Agave nectar is produced from the agave cactus, which is also used for tequila! Agave nectar is supposed to be produced by processing the nectar of sap of the plant, much like a honey water. However, most of the time it is processed from the inulin containing core (looks like a pinneaple-shown above) into ‘nectar,’ using a process very similar to that of making high fructose corn syrup.
So, this is not a natural sweetener like honey that just comes from the plant, it is highly processed to turn into this agave syrup. It is also high in fructose like HFCS, and, in reality, agave nectar is actually higher in fructose than high fructose corn syrup. If you read my post on HFCS, you read how high amounts of fructose can be detrimental to your health- causing fatty liver disease, obesity, and heart disease. HFCS is 55% fructose, whereas agave nectar is up to 90% fructose…obviously this can’t be good.
So, how was agave nectar praised for its low glycemic index and touted for being a great alternative to sugar? Agave nectar was considered low glycemic because of the high amounts of fructose in it, which we now know is not a positive. However, since fructose isn’t broken down well in our body (this is due to the small amounts of fructose in nature- our bodies aren’t used to such high amounts of fructose being in our diet), it doesn’t directly raise blood sugar. Since it can’t be metabolized, fructose is sent to the liver to be broken down where it is turned into fats, thus it enters the bloodstream as triglycerides. This contributes to fatty liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, as I stated above.
Obviously you don’t want this excess fructose being stored into fat, but what’s even more concerning is the
type of fat. Most of the fat stored from fructose is stored as visceral fat. Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds organs and is most responsible for metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
Back to the idea that agave was safe for diabetics…even if it did cause all of these other issues…this is still NOT TRUE.
Agave nectar actually causes insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics because fructose blocks insulin receptors. This makes your body less sensitive to insulin, causing blood sugar levels to be more difficult to control.
A human study tested the affects of agave on diabetics and the results were shocking to many. During the study “diabetic subjects experienced sever and dangerous side effects related to the oral ingestion of the sweetener agave.” This is reported from The Glycemic Research Institute, that is deeming agave nectar unsafe after de-listing it as a safe alternative to sugar and stopping their studies.
So, what do I say… drop the sweetener and LEAVE THE AGAVE TO THE TEQUILA!