“Hi Alyse, I just wanted to write you an email to let you know that I love reading your blog. I find it inspiring in so many ways. I just have a quick question, I was wondering if it was OK to use Agave Nectar in cooking? I noticed you don’t use it in your recipes and wanted to know why? Many thanks, Amy”
I absolutely love getting questions from my readers and this one is no exception! Amy, to easily understand why I don’t use Agave, you need to understand the ins and outs of fructose. Fructose has recently been labeled a dirty word, which has left many people confused. How can fructose really be that bad given it is the main source of sugar in fruit? There are two very important things to understand:
- Naturally occurring fructose (otherwise known as Levulose) is found in fruit and vegetables and contains fibre, pectin, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Each and every one of these work together to stop you over indulging in too much fructose – I challenge you to eat 5 apples in one sitting?! Additionally, levulose is not isolated but bound to other naturally occurring sugars, this limits the stress on the liver and ensures natural fructose is broken down in the intestine, with other foods.
- Refined fructose is not found in fruit, or anywhere else in nature. This form of fructose is a man-made sugar created by the refining process. Refined fructose sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) have been stripped of all their nutritional value, therefore they do not contain any natural fibres, pectin, vitamins, minerals or antioxidants. Refined fructose inhibits the production of ‘Leptin’ otherwise known as the “I’m full hormone”. This means that if we were to consume refined fructose, not only does it taste sweet and delicious (just like fruit), without natural fibres, vitamins and minerals, we now have no natural defence mechanism against over-eating. Ever feel like you could eat a whole block of chocolate? This processed form of fructose is almost exclusively broken down in the liver (just like alcohol) and is immediately turned into triglycerides or stored body fat. Due to the fact that processed fructose is so cheap and makes foods taste so much better, it is added to virtually every processed food. As a result, fructose is now considered one of the leading causes of obesity. It is also now being associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis and premature ageing.
Where does Agave sit?
Unfortunately, Agave “syrup” or “nectar” falls into the latter of the two fructose groups. Like HFCS, most Agave products are stripped of all nutritional value during the manufacturing process and as such, we have no natural defence against over indulging.
In many cases, Agave has been labelled worse than HFCS in terms of fructose content:
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola: “Most agave syrup has a higher fructose content than any commercial sweetener – ranging from 70 to 97 percent, depending on the brand, which is far higher than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which averages 55 percent.”
In addition, leading Nutritionist Cindy O’meara also states: “It’s important for you and your family’s health to remember that agave syrup is neither healthy nor natural”
As reported by Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, a fellow of the American College of Nutrition and an associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health: “Agave is almost all fructose, a highly processed sugar with great marketing.”
When considering whether or not Agave is good for your family, take into account that we should aim to keep our fructose levels below 15g per day (the recommended level is 25g per day but you will be surprised how easily fructose can creep in without you knowing it, therefore I have added the 10g buffer to this recommendation). This comes in the form of 1-2 pieces of natural, organic and seasonal fresh fruit and loads of vegetables.