Look down the aisles of health food stores (or even the health food aisle in a grocery store) and chances are you’ll see a bottle of agave syrup. Similar in color and consistency to maple syrup, it’s been touted as a healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners and has become the go-to natural sweetener of choice for many people.
So what’s the deal with agave syrup? I’ll explain below.
6 Reasons to Avoid Agave Syrup
1. Agave is NOT a health food.
Agave has gotten a lot of attention as a low-glycemic sweetener many people think that’s a good thing. The truth is that agave syrup is made mostly of fructose, which causes insulin resistance (it doesn’t raise blood sugar) and increases the risk for metabolic syndrome, triglycerides, liver damage, mood instability and other health problems.1, 2
2. Agave syrup is mostly fructose.
What’s the big deal with fructose? Not all simple sugars are the same.
Glucose is the main source of energy for your body. The hormone insulin helps cells to pull in glucose from the bloodstream to use as fuel. And nearly all foods with carbohydrates contain glucose – from fruits to vegetables to grains.
Fructose is the primary sugar in most fruit. The body breaks down fructose differently from glucose. It breaks down in the liver and converted in fats . Glucose is turned into a fuel source right after eating so not much of it ends up in the liver to break down.
While fruits and vegetables contain fructose, they also have fiber, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Agave syrup, on the other hand, contains mostly fructose with no other nutritional content and it’s a highly processed sweetener (keep reading to learn more about this).2
3. Agave syrup has MORE fructose than high fructose corn syrup.
Here’s a breakdown of the amount of glucose and fructose in common sweeteners:3
- Typical cane sugar is 50% glucose, 50% frucotse
- High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is 45% glucose, 50% fructose
- Agave syrup is 30% glucose, 70% fructose
4. Agave syrup can make you fat.
When fructose is broken down in the liver, it turns into fats. This excess fat can lead to weight gain and tummy fat (the body breaks down fructose like alcohol and stores it in the belly). In addition, fructose impairs your body’s normal appetite-control system and metabolism – leading to weight gain.2
5. Agave syrup can lead to other health issues.
In addition to weight gain, the fructose in agave syrup can lead to other health issues, such as high bad cholesterol, raised blood sugar, increased blood levels of uric acid (leading to gout and increased blood pressure), insulin resistance (leading to obesity and type II diabetes).3
6. Agave syrup is a high-refined, chemically-produced sweetener.
Marketing ads and health claims position agave syrup as natural, it’s actually far from true.
Agave syrup is derived from a natural source - the agave plant – but that’s like saying high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is natural since it’s derived from corn. The process to produce agave syrup is actually similar to HFCS. Agave is derived from the starch root of the agave plant, called the piña – not the sweetened nectar from the flowers (which is misleading considering most consumers refer to the sweetener as “agave syrup” or “agave nectar”). The root is ground up and squeezed to extract the juice, which is then heated with genetically modified (GMO) enzymes and toxic chemicals such as sulfuric acid and hydrofluroic acid to make it concentrated like the agave syrup we see on grocery store shelves.3
Real Natural Sweeteners
So what are the real natural sweeteners that are safe to consume? Keep it simple. Stick with raw, organic honey (preferably from a local farm or get an authentic raw honey – find it HERE) or 100% pure maple syrup either grade A or grade B (find it HERE).
I typically use both raw honey and organic maple syrup for baking, cooking and even sweetening up my hot tea or hot chocolate.
There are other natural sweetener options, such as unrefined organic coconut sugar (find it HERE) and Stevia. I personally don’t use these often because while these are naturally sourced there is some processing involved to produce them. I prefer raw honey and organic maple syrup as they are minimally processed.
What’s your favorite natural sweetener?
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1. http://www.today.com/health/avoid-these-10-bad-mood-foods-1C7145342 2. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/03/30/beware-of-the-agave-nectar-health-food.aspx
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