The short answer to that question is simple: agave nectar is not a “natural sweetener.” Plus, it has more concentrated fructose in it than high fructose corn syrup. Now, let’s get into the details. Agave Nectar Is Not A Natural Sweetener..unless you use Xagave, The Ultiamte Sweetener or a Pitted Date
Once upon a time, I picked up a jar of “Organic Raw Blue Agave Nectar” at my Costco. It was the first time I’d ever seen the stuff in real life before Vitamix Demos, and the label looked promising. After all, words like “organic,” “raw,” and “all natural” should mean something. Sadly, agave nectar is neither truly raw, nor is it all natural.
Based on the labeling, I could picture native peoples creating their own agave nectar from the wild agave plants. Surely, this was a traditional food, eaten for thousands of years. Sadly, it is not.
Native Mexican peoples do make a sort of sweetener out of the agave plant. It’s called miel de agave, and it’s made by boiling the agave sap for a couple of hours. Think of it as the Mexican version of authentic Canadian maple syrup.
But this is not what agave nectar is. According to one popular agave nectar manufacturer, “Agave nectar is a newly created sweetener, having been developed in the 1990s.” In a recent article now posted on the Weston A. Price foundation’s website, Ramiel Nagel and Sally Fallon Morell write,
Agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules.Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.
The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which corn starch is converted into HFCS. The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites.
Compare that to the typical fructose content of high fructose corn syrup (55%)!
In a different article, Rami Nagel quotes Russ Bianchi, managing director and CEO of Adept Solutions, Inc., a globally recognized food and beverage development company, on the similarities between agave nectar and high fructose corn syrup:
They are indeed made the same way, using a highly chemical process with genetically modified enzymes. They are also using caustic acids, clarifiers, filtration chemicals and so forth in the conversion of agave starches into highly refined fructose inulin that is even higher in fructose content than high fructose corn syrup.
So there you have it. Agave nectar is not traditional, is highly refined, and actually has more concentrated fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. It is not a “natural” sweetener. Thus far, the evidence definitely points toward the conclusion: Agave Nectar = Bad.
“But,” you ardent agave nectar enthusiasts say, “agave nectar has a low glycemic index. I’m a diabetic, and it’s the only sweetener I can use!”
What’s wrong with fructose?
First, we need to clarify something. Concentrated fructose is not found in fruit, or anywhere else in nature. When the sugar occurs in nature, it is often called “levulose” and is accompanied by naturally-occurring enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin. Concentrated fructose, on the other hand, is a man-made sugar created by the refining process. To clarify:
Saying fructose is levulose is like saying that margarine is the same as butter. Refined fructose lacks amino acids, vitamins, minerals, pectin, and fiber. As a result, the body doesn’t recognize refined fructose. Levulose, on the other hand, is naturally occurring in fruits, and is not isolated but bound to other naturally occurring sugars. Unlike man-made fructose, levulose contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin. Refined fructose is processed in the body through the liver, rather than digested in the intestine. Levulose is digested in the intestine. (source)
I want you to pay special attention to those last two sentences, for they are a huge key that will help unlock the mystery of why fructose is bad for you.
Because fructose is digested in your liver, it is immediately turned into triglycerides or stored body fat. Since it doesn’t get converted to blood glucose like other sugars, it doesn’t raise or crash your blood sugar levels. Hence the claim that it is safe for diabetics.
But it isn’t.
That’s because fructose inhibits leptin levels — the hormone your body uses to tell you that you’re full. In other words, fructose makes you want to eat more. Besides contributing to weight gain, it also makes you gain the most dangerous kind of fat.
I spend quite a bit of time yesterday, talking to Stephen Richards, the founder of BetterBody Foods and Nutrition. They are the producers of
Xagave, a product that I am quite excited about.
Stephen is a passionate man about health and nutrition.
I asked him about the recent bad press that agave was getting.
According to Stephen, there are different ways to produce Agave. The unhealthy way basically harvests the agave root and boils it down until the only thing that is left is the nutrient void agave syrup. I believe this is the agave that deserves the bad press.
But there are other ways that agave is made. Xagave is made from both blue and white agave. They harvest the white nectar by collecting the sap or Aquamiel from the plant over a period of days after the flower has been cut off. “Aguamiel is not the sap of the leaves as some have noted (the sap from the Agave Salmiana leaves contain saponins, raphides and calcium oxalate rendering it inedible).” The Aquamiel is reduced to sap by a vacuum evaporation process that does not heat the agave above 105 degrees. The white agave is then mixed with blue agave which has had moisture removed through a distilling process that does not go over 113 degrees.
Xagave goes further by adding back in the inuline fiber. The result is an agave syrup that has a glycemic index of 30 (date paste has a GI over 103), and contains Inulin, (a prebiotic fiber, promotes the healthy function of your lower intestine that has also been shown to promote regularity, boost the immune system, increase calcium absorption and increase bone density.) The agave plants that they use come from free trade, organic plants (who’s controls meet the USDA requirements for organic). To read tons more about Xagave, including independent lab tests, click here: Xagave
Personally, I believe that you do need to be careful of the agave that you choose. Research the product that you are buying. Don’t just assume because it is agave, it is raw, organic or produced in a healthy way. But, please, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. In my book, a good, high quality agave, consumed responsibly, can allow us to enjoy a lot of the wonderful treats that we love.
I asked Stephen to respond to some of the points made in the Mercola article. Here is what he said: (his answers are in purple)
“In spite of manufacturer’s claims, agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of its pineapple-like root bulb. The root is comprised mainly of starch, similar to corn, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of fructose molecules. The process by which agave starch and inulin are converted into “nectar” is VERY similar to the process by which cornstarch is converted into HFCS1.”
There is no starch in the agave plant. The agave plant contains fructans which are broken down into sugars by simply applying low heat. The process by which it is broken down is not even close.
“The agave starch is converted into fructose-rich syrup using genetically modified enzymes and a chemically intensive process involving caustic acids, clarifiers, and filtration chemicals.”
Xagave is USDA organic certified product and we have a GMO free certification. Thus the statement that chemicals, genetically modified enzymes and caustic acids is incorrect — with respect to Xagave. Again, I cannot speak for other brands
In addition the fructose content of Xagave is less than sugar (sucrose), about the same as honey and less than HFCS. In addition, Xagave has less total sugars than the above mentioned sweeteners
Better If You Must...Xagave Nectar, Read Below and See Why
What Are The 5 Super Magic Veggies?
THE ULTIMATE SWEETENER® is totally free of sugar, honey, corn syrup, fructose, bone ash, anything artificial, or animal products of any kind.
Derived from birch bark, THE ULTIMATE SWEETENER® is 100% pure birch sugar (also known as Xylitol). No birch trees are ever cut down for the extraction of the Xylis (the chemical name for the sweetener in the birch bark).
First, it has only HALF the calories of sugar! Second, it is the ONLY natural sweetener that does NOT promote tooth decay and gum disease which is why it is used in premium toothpaste and mouthwash. Third, in spite of the fact that it is a pure carbohydrate, it is metabolized very slowly. This helps prevent sugar "highs" and "lows" experienced by people who have diabetes, hypoglycemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, candida (yeast infection) or any condition caused by sugar imbalance.
Almost all white and brown sugar produced and sold in this country incorporates a step in its processing which would probably shock most people: since raw cane sugar is brown and sticky, almost all sugar refineries use slaughterhouse animal BONE ASH as a filtering agent to remove the molasses, thus creating free-flowing white sugar. As for brown sugar, it is not much better because it is white sugar with the molasses added back into it! Only raw and turbinado sugars do not involve this hideous process, but they still cause sugar highs and lows.
I are often asked how does THE ULTIMATE SWEETENER® differ from Stevia. The primary distinctions of Stevia Extract are the following:
It is 50-100X sweeter than sugar, yet it is virtually calorie-free.
It has a slight licorice aftertaste.
It does NOT help baked goods rise.
It is ideal for Candida.
NO SUGAR HIGHS OR LOWS
DISSOLVES QUICKLY & PERFECT FOR BAKING
LOOKS & TASTES LIKE SUGAR
USE SAME AMOUNT AS SUGAR
1/2 THE CALORIES OF SUGAR
NO AFTERTASTE OR SIDE EFFECTS
SAFE FOR HYPOGLYCEMICS & DIABETICS
SAFE FOR CHRONIC FATIGUE & CANDIDA
BONE ASH & DAIRY-FREE
VEGAN & KOSHER
Experience and compare it for yourself. Though not inexpensive, you will find that it is indispensable to help prevent the undesirable effects caused by other sweeteners.