Agave: A Healthy Alternative?

No way, Jose? Well either way, after having a reader ask about agave I thought I would share with you guys what I know about agave after some research.

  • I used agave for a short time because it was the new thing, you guys know what I’m talking about. I heard lots of great things about it. Companies made it sound like a health food. I mean, it wasn’t table sugar.

Agave has the same amount of calories as sugar, approximately 16 calories per teaspoon.

  • It was liquid form, it looked like honey. It must be as good as honey. The first time I put it in my oatmeal though, I realized that it was entirely too sweet for me.

Agave is one and a half times sweeter than sugar. So, like honey if you are going to use it you need to cut down on the amount some.

  • Unlike raw honey and 100% maple syrup, agave isn’t the purest form of sweetener one could choose.

The agave (similar to a pineapple, but much larger) goes through several stages of chemical processing to obtain the syrupy texture.

  • Agave plants are high in carbohydrates, when the plant is broken down and processed into nectar those carbs turn into fructose. While, yes, fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in some vegetables and most fruits, it should only be eaten sparingly.

Natural occurring fructose (found in fruits) and concentrated fructose (found in agave nectar and high fructose corn syrup) are not the same.

  • Concentrated fructose is a man-made sugar created through a refining process.

Unlike natural fructose, through chemical processing refined fructose has been stripped of any redeeming qualities, vitamins, enzymes, minerals, amino acids.

  • Also, agave nectar has a higher concentration of fructose than even HFCS. The same way in which corn starch is made into HFCS, the agave glucose is made into nectar.
  • There is a traditional, natural sweetener that has been a part of the Mexican diet for decades. It’s called miel de agave. The sap is taken straight from the plant and boiled for a couple of hours. It’s very similar to Canadian maple syrup.

Unfortunately, the sap from the agave plant alone is not sweet at all, it’s used to make tequila.

I understand that when is comes to sweeteners many people aren’t worried about calories, just like some people don’t think you should worry about a dessert being “healthy”. I mean it’s a dessert, right? Well, I don’t think so. As I continue on my whole foods journey, I am becoming more and more interested in what I am putting into my body. If these reasons are not enough to make  you want to stop eating agave, that is okay. As long as a natural sugar can be used in my cooking thought I will choose that instead.

Please bear in mind that moderation is key. Just because honey is a natural sweetener does not mean you should eat it everyday.

Food Renegade

Want something more? Check out MAM’s take on agave.


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