In this era of extreme health consciousness, natural sweeteners are worth consideration. The market is flooded with lots and lots of so-called ‘healthy’ sugar replacements intended especially for thousands of calorie-counting dieters. However, most of them pose severe risks to our health, and agave nectar is just one of them. Even though it is touted as a healthy, diabetic-friendly substitute for sugar as well as various artificial sweeteners, the truth is far away from it. This post will discuss agave nectar and why we should avoid it. (1)
What Is Agave Nectar?
Agave nectar or agave syrup is a golden-colored liquid sweetener with a maple syrup-like consistency. It is derived from the desert plant species ‘agave,’ native to central Mexico, and is almost 40% sweeter than table sugar. Agave has several, and Agave Tequilana and Agave Salmiana are two of the two most popular Salmiana (or Green Giant Agave), which are known to contain a nectar-like substance, mainly used for preparing traditional agave wine. However, Agave Tequilana (or Blue Agave) is fermented to make the alcoholic beverage ‘tequila’ and is extensively processed to prepare the widely known agave nectar.
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How Is Agave Nectar Prepared?
The manufacturing process of agave nectar is similar to those used to prepare other unhealthy fructose-rich artificial sweeteners. At first, the leaves from a mature Agave Tequilana plant are removed and discarded. The core is harvested by cutting the stalks from the middle and leaving wide holes—the sugary circulating fluid pools in the holes collected for processing. The fluid is then filtered to eliminate impurities and heated with or without enzymes to break down the complex sugars present in it. Finally, the liquid is concentrated into a dark syrup, known as the commercial ‘Agave Nectar.’
Why Should You Steer Clear Of Agave Nectar?
According to Mexicans, agave nectar has excellent medicinal properties and comes with a wide range of health benefits. Is it also true for the refined agave sweetener that has become the go-to natural sugar alternative for millions worldwide? Well, the answer is ‘NO,’ and we will explain why in this section. Keep on reading:
It Is NOT At All Natural
Agave syrup is promoted and marketed as a ‘natural’ sweetener that is healthier than regular sugar, as well as all other ‘artificial ‘sugar alternatives available in the market. In reality, it is not at all a ‘natural’ product. Rather, it is a chemically processed, highly refined sweetener. Although it is sourced from a plant, it is processed and refined just like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) with genetically modified (GMO) enzymes and chemical compounds (hydrofluoric acid, sulfuric acid, etc.). Hence, the claim that it’s ‘natural nectar’ is untrue.
It Has No Health Benefits
The agave plant fluid usually contains certain healthy compounds, such as fructans, which regulate our insulin level and improve our bodily metabolism. However, when processed and refined in the factory, it is exposed to heat, enzymes, and chemicals to break the fructans down into fructose. As a result, all beneficial health effects of agave are eradicated.
It Is Loaded With Fructose
Agave syrup is primarily made of fructose (70% fructose, 30% glucose), making it very unhealthy. Our body doesn’t metabolize fructose the way it metabolizes glucose. Fructose molecules are broken down in our liver and transformed into fatty deposits directly. This increased body fat can eventually make us overweight/obese. Too much consumption of fructose is also linked to several other health issues like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, a spike in uric acid levels, messed up appetite control mechanism, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance (in the long run), fatty liver disease, liver damage, gout, mood instability, and so on. Hence, a high agave syrup dose harms our health and body.
It Is Toxic To Some Extent
Highly processed and refined agave nectar contains large amounts of toxic steroid derivatives called ‘saponins.’ The compounds can do a lot of harm to our health by causing vomiting, diarrhea, RBC (red blood cell) disruption, miscarriage in pregnant women (due to increased circulation of blood in the uterus), etc. Agave nectar might also contain hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), an organic contaminant derived from heat and responsible for cancer.
It May Cause Addiction
Being highly concentrated and much sweeter than table sugar, agave nectar may turn out to be very addictive in some cases.
In a nutshell, agave nectar is an unhealthy sweetener, even worse than plain sugar. Therefore, it is wise to avoid this highly processed sugar alternative and stick to pure, raw organic honey for sweetening your foods.
Agave nectar, often promoted as a natural and healthy sugar substitute, is far from it. Derived from the agave plant, its processing involves chemicals and refining, making it similar to unhealthy fructose-rich sweeteners. Despite claims of medicinal properties, refined agave syrup lacks health benefits, as its natural compounds are destroyed in processing. With 70% fructose content, it poses health risks, contributing to weight gain, metabolic issues, and potential toxicity due to saponins. Its addictive nature and lack of genuine health benefits make it advisable to opt for raw organic honey instead.