For a while now, agave nectar has been all the rage. It seems we have finally found a healthy solution to our love affair with sugar – a natural sweetener that makes everything taste delicious without spiking blood sugar. It’s even been presumed safe for diabetics. The health food stores can’t keep it on their shelves and raw and natural foods companies have rushed to switch from sugar or brown rice syrup to agave.
But is everyone just drinking the agave Kool-Aid?
It turns out agave nectar is actually not the healthy sugar we dreamed of at all. How could this be?
The answer lies in the process of making commercial agave nectar. You see, traditionally agave was fermented before it was consumed as a sweet and lightly alcoholic drink, or the sap boiled for several hours to make a sweetener similar to maple syrup.
Unfortunately most agave ‘nectar’ found in the US is actually a highly refined sweetener made from the starchy root of the agave plant, in a process very similar to making high fructose corn syrup from corn starch. So-called agave nectar is also very similar in composition to the now-feared high fructose corn syrup, except that it’s even higher in fructose than HFCS.
High fructose sweeteners can cause mineral depletion, liver inflammation, insulin resistance, and obesity. A recent study (Jan 2013) found that high fructose sweeteners in fact make people crave more and eat more.
So, what’s a healthy person with a sweet tooth to do?
The best idea is to get used to enjoying the natural sweetness in whole foods!
Cut out processed sweeteners and you’ll find that a banana or a pear may be all you need to satisfy that sweet tooth you used to have. If you still need to add some sweetness we suggest using unrefined sweeteners like dates, real maple syrup or raw honey instead.