Is agave the safe, natural, organic, healthy replacement for sugar we once thought it was? Listen and decide for yourself.
Listen to this episode NOW below
Radio Show Transcript:
“Isn’t it really coming to something when even recognised “natural health foods” turn out to be anything but natural, or healthy? Agave nectar is one such product, much to my dismay. It was trumpeted as the new, healthy, low Glycemic Index sweetener, and everyone was singing its praises. But is Agave really healthy? Have you been using it as a natural sweetener, glad to be avoiding those chemical sweeteners like Aspartame? I did too for a while, a long while in fact… until I discovered what agave syrup really is and how it’s made. & I wasn’t the only one, many of my colleagues in the natural health & nutrition world started off by singing it’s praises, then like me, realized we’d been duped (or we didn’t do enough research on it in the first place and went along with what the promoters were saying), so had to turn around and take back the recommendations.
We all know that eating too much sugar is really not a good thing, but many of us like a sweet taste, so when we look at the label on this product, we really want to believe it: natural, organic, raw, but is it actually good for?
I originally thought Agave nectar I was buying was a natural product that had been used by native Central Americans for centuries. But although the agave plant has been used by these traditional people, it certainly hasn’t been used the way it’s presented to us in bottles today.
And it doesn’t just come in bottles in the health food section of supermarkets, If you’ve had tequila, then you’ve had agave. Blue agave is an exotic plant that thrives in the volcanic soil of southern Mexico. The word “agave” means noble. When fermented, agave turns into Mexico’s most famous alcoholic beverage. Agaves are large, spiky plants that look like cacti or yuccas, but they’re actually succulents similar to aloe vera.
The traditional use of Agave is to boil up the sap, a bit like the way Maple syrup’s made. The Agave syrup we buy in bottles on the other hand, is created by taking starch from the roots of the plant (which are not particularly sweet) and putting it through a chemical process to produce highly concentrated fructose syrup. Most Agave nectars have a 70% or higher concentration of fructose – that’s even higher than High Fructose Corn Syrup which has been getting plenty of bad press!
It’s true that having so much fructose in it, agave nectar is both very sweet and at the same time low on the Glycemic Index, so you might think that it would be good for diabetics? Unfortunately, even putting aside the argument about the very unnatural way in which it’s produced, concentrated fructose like this isn’t good for anyone. Fructose is fine in its natural form… in raw fruit, where it’s delivered along with a load of other nutrients, enzymes and fibre in a complex and healthy combination! You just don’t find concentrated fructose anywhere in the natural world.
Recent studies indicated that fructose can cause your appetite to increase (it actually makes you want to eat more! Not great for losing weight then!), and what’s much more worrying is the way it’s absorbed, through the liver rather than the intestines, which means fructose gets transformed into triglycerides and visceral fat (the fat that gathers around the internal organs – a major factor in heart disease and other degenerative and chronic health problems). The same studies also found that blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity were also negatively impacted by high levels of fructose in this processed form.
The fact is, Agave nectar has only been around since the 1990’s, so it’s not traditional. The chemical processes it undergoes means it can hardly be regarded as “natural”, and recent studies would suggest that, just like the Mayo Clinic advice regarding High Fructose Corn Syrup, we should avoid or limit foods consuming it. Personally I don’t want to take the risk, just for that sweet taste, especially when there are so many other alternatives.
What are the alternatives?
Stevia, maple syrup, honey and fresh or dried fruit are all safer alternatives you can use to sweeten your food. Processed foods have gotten our tastebuds jacked up to be honest, in nature there are very few very sweet & very salty foods, but you can eat them all day in the processed food world, which means many of us feel food isn’t seasoned at all unless they are sprinkle or drizzle with syrup, sugar, salt or sauces. Which can almost numb our tastebuds from recognising and appreciating the natural taste of natural foods (like, who’s idea was it to put blinking sugar on strawberries for goodness sake).
So if we can break our addiction to needing to have all your foods being super sweet and super salty, that would be a huge step towards abundant preventative health.
But there’s absolutely no harm in enjoying sweeten foods and safer alternatives to agave are honey (unless you’re vegan), maple syrup, carob syrup, date syrup, coconut sugar, date sugar, stevia (I’m not a fan of this unless it’s in mints or gum tbh) or fresh or dried fruits.
Bear in mind you can overdo it with all of these and still end up with blood sugar spikes and dips what put you on a rollercoster of weight and energy fluctuations, so again curbing the constant desire for sweet tastes, especially in our children is the best way to go, but in moderation you can enjoy these alternatives.
I hope you found this podcast useful.
I’d love to hear your comments, whether you agree, disagree, have questions or anything in between, I’d love to hear from you.
If you think this show will help others, please share on your social media channels and tag me if you can, and if you have ideas or topics you’d like me to cover in future episodes, please let me now, Much love, Take care and stay healthy
The Naturally You Coach
Listen, enjoy and if you have any other advice natural sugar alternatives, please post them below
Take care and stay healthy
The Naturally You Coach
About the Author: Leah Salmon, The Naturally You Coach, is a bestselling author, speaker, nutritionist, live blood analyst and life coach, focused on womb & pregnancy health and premature birth prevention & on a mission to help 100,000 black women to eat for health, think for happiness and live in harmony by 2020 or what she calls Becoming Naturally You. She does this through her clinic, books, programs, coaching, events, workshops, videos, articles and a free weekly ezine.