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?

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A few days ago, I read the Mercola agave article that’s generated lots of buzz recentlyBeware 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:

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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.

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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.

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9 Responses to “Searching for the Truth About Agave Nectar or Syrup”

  1. […] any other natural sweetener, agave is harmful in large quantities.  However, having read several articles about it, I’ve decided that, for me, agave is a good sweetener as long as it’s organic […]

  2. Savvy Veg says:

    Yes, agave syrup is surrounded by hype, and I’m not convinced it’s safe for diabetics to eat any more than white flour or white rice.

  3. agave syrup says:

    Thank you for your post. It seems that agave syrup is marketed very well making it seem like a healthier option. I am mixed in my feelings but am trying it out since I live in New Orleans where diabetes is taking over.

  4. Savvy Veg says:

    Hi Kessa, there are two types of agave plant used to make agave nectar or syrup: Agave Salmiana (White Agave) and Agave Tequilana (Blue Agave). White Agave has a clean sugar taste, and Blue Agave has a slightly ‘nutty’ aftertaste. Both can have the same consistency, depending upon processing.

  5. Kessa says:

    I was wondering if anybody knows if there is a difference between Agave Nectar & Blue Agave???

  6. Dani says:

    I have no issues with Agave Nectar. I’ve heard a lot of the debate and have dove into fairly deeply. I use the Raw Unprocessed kind.. and yes there is a difference even though many cry otherwise. Everything is ‘technically processed’… if you put an apple in a juicer it is ‘processed’. The key is whether there is harmful adulteration during that ‘process’. And there are different types of Agave and ways in which they are processed depending on the manufacturer. It’s key to know and trust those who make the products you take into your body.

    A few reasons why I use it.. 1- I don’t have to use as much. So comparing if you eat a pound of each… Is a bad way to assess their merits. With Agave I use WAY less to achieve the same sweetness. 2- Fructose is what you find in NATURAL fruits like apples, etc. Fructose is absorbed into the body slower than sucrose(therefore the much lower glycemic index) so there’s no Spike then Crash of your blood sugar which causes one to lose energy and BURN LESS CALORIES. Regardless of whether you’re Diabetic OF COURSE it matters! It might not kill you, but there is an adverse effect. And finally.. 3- Sugar is processed using Animal products such as BONE CHARCOAL! ICK!

    So to sum it up… Agave allows me to moderate my sugar intake a great deal!

  7. SandraWray says:

    Help! Three months ago I discovered agave and began a love afair that may have a sad side affect.I have dumped cola at last, but have sucummbed to a daily green tea fest, and a nightly “agave over greek yogurt” habit. At the same time, I have suffered a severe THREE MONTH HEADACHE.Has anyone had such a problem with this delicious nectar? Is my blood dugar plummeting and causing this? Any thoughts would be welcome.

  8. Savvy Veg says:

    Hi Pat, from everything I read in the above articles about how agave is processed, the initial process of reduction through heating turns it into syrup, and that means minimum heat of 140 degrees. Which means agave syrup isn’t raw. Unless there’s a heat free process, such as evaporation, that I don’t know about, which can do the same thing? Anybody?

  9. You say: “Agave syrup is not raw, and it is a processed food.”

    Processed, I agree :) And I’m not too worried about having every tiny thing raw. However, I note that Dr Mercola (because you mention him) says that some agave nectar is indeed raw as well as organic. I buy such a product and use it only occasionally and very sparingly. (The flavour is delightful btw.) Are you meaning that ‘raw’ isn’t really raw in the case of agave nectar?

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