Agave nectar (or syrup) is basically high-fructose corn syrup impersonating a healthy sweetener. Many manufacturers and marketing gurus have jumped on the ‘facts’ about the health-promoting properties of agave.
While the ‘blue agave’ species is grown in rich volcanic soil, there is unfortunately no evidence that any of these compounds remain present in the commercially manufactured syrup.
Agave is much sweeter than cane sugar and it pours more readily than honey. It’s also low-glycemic and, for this reason, is often marketed to diabetics and those wishing to lose weight.
While that all sounds like it’s the nectar of health, now let’s look at the facts…
The reason agave is low-glycemic is due to the fact that it is composed predominately of fructose. Agave nectar boasts the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener.
So what does this mean?
All sugars are a mix of glucose and fructose. Regular cane sugar is 50:50. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is 45:55 in favour of fructose. Agave nectar is 90:10…almost twice as high as HFCS!
When fructose is found naturally in fruit, it is relatively low (apples are 7% fructose) and it is accompanied by a combination of fibre, antioxidants and other nutrients. Unfortunately, when we extract this and concentrate the fructose into a sweetening agent, it can have dire health consequences.
Fructose causes a myriad of metabolic issues, such as insulin resistance and increased triglycerides (a risk factor for heart disease), increased visceral fat (around the abdomen & internal organs) and increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, diabetics are warned not to consume fructose. Fructose digests like a fat – via the liver – and has been linked to non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease.
All-in-all, agave and other commercially produced ‘syrups’ are no healthier for you than plain old sugar. My advice? Try training your taste-buds to enjoy the flavours in food rather than feeling the need to sweeten everything. The less ‘sweet’ you have the less you want. If this is not an option, try using naturally sweet foods, such as a passionfruit or berries or, if you must, a touch of Stevia.