Is Agave REALLY a Miracle Sweetener?
We Have an Answer

Agave Nectar

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.

  • Irene

    What about palm sugar?? Is it healthier than agave??

  • I was very disappointed to learn this. Since in live in the desert southwest, I thought I was eating a healthy sweetener AND supporting local agriculture. Back to stevia and rice syrup!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, Deane, it’s disappointing indeed. Glad you’ve found some other alternatives that work for you!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, palm sugar is a fine option, especially for baking etc. because you can use it one-to-one to sugar. It’s delicious and is said to have less impact on the blood sugar than regular sugar too.

  • Elaine Springer

    Thank you for posting this informative article on agave. To be honest, I never liked it ! I found it too sweet, as I find most of the raw food desserts that are made with it. It actually did give me that same “high fructose feeling” I got after trying a sip of Snapple. I cannot tolerate those types of products either. One of the benefits of being clear and healthy is to be able to trust one instincts with these types of things. I remember even as a teenager sampling a diet soda and declaring out loud afterwards, “How do people drink this ? It tastes like poison to me !” Today we know that the artificial sweetners used in diet soda truly are a poison. Stay well and bright !

  • M.J.T.C.

    Hi Katherine; could you please confirm if the study findings were based on testing both kinds of agave? Re: non-RAW & RAW too? It would be interesting to know as I’m under the impression that agave in its raw, organic form is still a viable option in limited quantity.

  • Anonymous

    Hi MJTC,
    The study does state anything about the different types of agave, no.
    I agree, that a less processed product is in general a better option than a more processed one. However, raw agave syrup that you get here in the US is still high in fructose.
    – Katrine

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your input Elaine. I agree – agave and raw desserts taste too sweet to me too!

  • SFChutzpah

    I’ve been using organic agave syrup (which I get in bulk from my local health food store) for years. I love it as a sweetener, I’m perfectly healthy and I don’t believe this phony article by a “Be Well Health Food Coach.”

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry you find the article phony. Please let me know if there’s any information in the article that is unclear to you. Best, Katrine

  • Diego

    Couple of things in the article are not accurate: 1. agave does not contain starch, so there is no “starchy root”. 2. The processing isn’t even remotely close to that of HFCS. It’s a simple process that does not use enzymes or chemicals. 3. No one calls agave nectar a health food or a superfood. It is a sweetener with some notable benefits compared to other sweeteners. 4. Fructose only causes these issues when consumed in unhealthy amounts (like drinking several sugary drinks every day). There has never been a study showing negative effects from moderate consumption of agave nectar. Agave may be a “better” choice for people who value non-gmo, organic foods, vegan and type II diabetic friendly attributes. These are valid attributes that consumers consider when selecting what’s right for them. There seems to be this fallacy that agave nectar brands promote themselves as a health food – not true IMO. Also, Palm Sugar, honey, beet sugar, date sugar… they all have roughly 50% fructose. So if agave has a higher % of fructose, but is 1.4x sweeter, you should use less to get the same sweetness. At the end of the day, the same about of fructose is consumed which blows the whole “agave is worse than…” argument. The real position should be: “Too much of (insert any sugar here) is bad for you.” Moderation is the answer, but then that’s not really exciting as a headline.