Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Agave Nectar : Uh Oh!

I have been asked from time to time what my thoughts are about agave nectar. I have usually responded that it is probably all right, and seems to be a natural product. I have used it and like it ok, but I prefer raw honey for a sweetener.

The problem is that I never really looked into agave nectar. I should have known better than to trust labels on products in health food stores. That is a notoriously bad place to get nutritional advice. I just had never really been that interested in agave to really research it.

Well, it turns out that I should have thought about it a little more.

A comprehensive article about it (found HERE) states that, 'Agave nectar is advertised as a “diabetic friendly,” raw, and “100% natural sweetener.” Yet it is none of these.'

Agave nectar should actually be called agave syrup. It is a manufactured, highly processed sweetener that has much in common with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).

While it is true that the natives of Mexico made sweetener from the agave plant as well as using the plant for medicinal uses, the product that we find in our stores called 'agave nectar' is not the same thing.

What the natives did was to use the sap of the plant, by boiling it down for a couple of hours.

The agave nectar found in our stores is processed from the starches from the agave root bulb. It is broken down with enzymes and chemicals, and ends up having a higher concentration of fructose than high fructose corn syrup.

When made correctly it is clear, or very light colored. When it is heated for too long it gets burned and turns a darker brown. This is deceiving in another way, because many of us have been taught that sweeteners with a darker richer color are more nutritious.

The truth is that the basic principles don't change. Basically, the more something is processed and removed from it's natural state, the worse it is for our health. The real problem with high fructose corn syrup and with agave nectar is that they are concentrated extracts that overpower and cause imbalance in the systems of the body while supplying little or no nutrition. For more info on balance CLICK HERE.

I still recommend using raw honey as a sweetener for those times that you need a little added sweetener, but remember that most raw natural foods have their own sweetness that can be enjoyed. Also, not everything should taste sweet.

So, to sum it all up, while agave nectar may look promising on the shelf, that may be the best place to leave it.

Have a great and healthy day!

Coach G.

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