Searching for the Truth About Agave Nectar or Syrup
Agave nectar and agave syrup. Is it good? Or just as bad as high fructose corn syrup? What is the the truth?
A few days ago, I read the Mercola agave article that’s generated lots of buzz recently – Beware of the Agave Nectar Health Food Fraud. It sounded not unreasonable, for Mercola, so I posted a link on my FB fan page. I immediately lost 2 fans who hate Mercola. It seems that people either love or hate him – nobody is Mercola neutral. But back to agave syrup, aka agave nectar.
Yesterday, I got a link from a local foodie, Steven Boss, who wanted my take on an article rebutting the Mercola article: Let’s Talk About Agave, from Larry of Larry & Luna’s Coconut Bliss Ice Cream. Of course Larry & Luna use certified organic, minimally processed agave nectar in their products. Well, I love Coconut Bliss, but it still almost puts me into a sugar coma! To be fair, I have to say that as a reformed sugar addict, I’m extremely sugar sensitive.
Today I re-read both these articles, prompted by a call from Steven, who wants me to appear on his radio show tonight and talk more about the agave controversy. I noticed that both Mercola and Larry Kaplowitz only used information which supports their agenda, so I thought I’d better try to find some balanced, well-documented info on agave nectar/syrup.
After trolling the net, I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as unbiased information, or if it’s possible to be balanced about agave! Here’s what I came up with:
The Truth about Agave Syrup: Not as Healthy as You May Think: Author John Kohler, who has become a raw expert through many years of following a raw food diet, explains, with a fair amount of documentation, why he considers agave nectar unhealthy, and why it can’t be considered a raw food.
Food Renegade: Agave Nectar, Good or Bad?: This article, by Kristen M., published 1.07.10, covers many of the same points as the Mercola article, and has some of the same sources. It sheds more light on the history of agave syrup – traditional since the late ’90s! It also talks more about fructose and how it makes you FAT! (I knew that)
Agave Nectar, The High Fructose Health Fraud: by Rami Nagel, citizen journalist. Published 11.23.08 on Natural News, it’s one of the sources for the above two articles. This article pre-dates the other two by over a year, which shows how long the Agave Controversy has been boiling. With no end in sight. Nagel disputes the claim that agave syrup is diabetic friendly, even though labelled as having a low glycemic index. Apparently, it’s the actual raw plant which has a low glycemic index. Whether it still does after processing is questionable.
Madhava’s Craig Gerbore Responds to Agave Nectar Controversy: 1.27.09. Craig Gerbore is the president of Madhava, a company which manufactures agave syrup. The article sponsor, Deb S., has this to say about Rami Nagel’s article (above link): “As a journalist and a professional editor who has worked for some top publications in their fields, I’m pretty disgusted with the NaturalNews’s editor for even publishing such a patently one-sided story. Truly yellow journalism at its smarmiest. ” Well then!!
In a very reasonable, innocently righteous manner, Craig rebuts the main points of the first three articles – which it turns out all have the same source, Russ Bianchi, Managing Director and CEO of Adept Solutions, Inc., a “globally recognized food and beverage development company”. Mr. Bianchi’s remarks on agave are referenced in this article, Just Say No To Agave, and rebutted – again by Craig Gerbore – in this article.
So, what did I get from reading all these articles, and what do I think about agave syrup/nectar?
1. I got a headache from speed reading and writing this article for three hours.
2. Agave is non-gmo, grown and processed mostly in Mexico. Agave syrup’s resemblance to any traditional food is vague at best. It has been on the market since 1995 or thereabouts.
3. Agave syrup is sugar – no doubt about it. It’s claims as a food suitable for diabetics are dubious. It has a low glycemic index because it’s low in glucose and high in fructose, which apparently is equally bad for you.
4. The claims made by agave detractors are – um, overwrought, for want of a better word, and their motives are suspect. To a slightly lesser extent, ditto the agave promoters.
5. Agave syrup is not raw, and it is a processed food. How processed depends on the manufacturer. Madhava appears to be one of the good guys, which you should not take as an endorsement since I’ve never used their products.
6. As far as I can see, agave syrup is no better or worse than most “natural” sweeteners on the market. High Fructose Corn Syrup is still evil.
7. As with any other sweetener, buy organic agave syrup, minimally processed, from a reputable source, and use sparingly. Keep in mind that all sugar is Bad For You, and you’re better off without it.
Disclaimer or Cop-Out: I have no desire to be embroiled in the agave controversy, as I consider foaming at the mouth impolite. So please don’t take my personal opinions as definitive answers to either side.