Why You Want to Avoid Agave


Why You Want to Avoid Agave

It's a question everyone who switches to a plant-based, vegan or raw food asks.

What's the best way to sweeten things up?

All the sugars and processed sweeteners I grew up using are out of the question....white sugar, splenda, brown sugar, refined honey. So now what do I use?

About 5 years ago when I switched to eating more raw, living food, I noticed a couple of raw food recipe books using agave nectar (also called agave syrup and agave). I made the switch to agave right away, without thinking much about it. 

Now, several years later, I'm learning that agave is not the best option for a natural sweetener.

It's true that agave nectar is low glycemic, but it also has a fructose content of up to 90 percent! That's actually a higher fructose content than high fructose corn syrup, which averages about 55 percent fructose.

The simple truth about agave syrup is that it's not a whole food found in nature. The syrup that's sold in stores (even the bottles labeled "raw") undergo extensive processing that often involves chemicals and/or heating.

I know this all sounds pretty disappointing because agave is so easy to use in desserts, teas and other recipes. But fructose is fructose and it comes with health risks. Period.

So, what sweeteners are good options?

The best choice is a sweetener that's low on the glycemic index and has low fructose content. This way they don't affect your blood sugar (or only raise it slightly) or come with any severe health risks like cancer and obesity.

Stevia, which comes in a powdered and a concentrated liquid form, or coconut sap, which comes in both crystal and syrup form, are probably the best choices. Beware that a little liquid stevia goes a long way because this wonder plant is about 300 times as sweet as sugar.

Next on the list are choices that should be used in strict moderation:
  • Dried fruits, such as figs, dates and raisins
  • Raw honey (still contains fructose, but is a while, natural food)
  • Pure maple syrup (not raw because it goes through a heating process and it contains sucrose, but is still a better option than agave)
  • Xylitol (a low-glycemic substitute that is a sugar alcohol naturally occurring in the fibers of fruits and veggies)
  • Yacón syrup (doesn't affect blood sugar at all, but tastes sorta like molasses)

I hope you'll join me as I uplevel my wellness efforts with natural sweeteners. Over time I'll be replacing the agave I use in my current recipes with something like stevia, dried fruit or yacón syrup.

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