Agave: Sweet revenge

My last post looked at the current trend of using natural sugars and why they might not necessarily be healthier for you. One of the sweeteners, agave, has become more popular than some of the others. A lot of bloggers, media personalities and commercial food companies are using this seemingly healthy natural sweetener in their recipes. But what exactly is it?

Agave is made from the same plant as tequila. The ratio of fructose to glucose 90% fructose to 10% glucose is found no where else in nature and per gram it has more calories than sugar (60 calories V 40 respectively!). It is not a whole food and is highly processed. The sap is hydrolisied and boiled for 36 hours to produce syrup. Not sounding so healthy is it!

Shocked

Agave does have a low GI (score on the Glycaemic Index) so it is sometimes recommmended for diabetics! But its low GI is a result of the low glucose content, which affects insulin production. However as discussed already fructose is processed by the liver and causes its own problems here. It is also gluten free and vegan friendly.

In the interest of full disclosure, trials in mice have produced mixed results. Most of the studies I looked at stated that mice fed diets high in agave found no significant weight gain or blood insulin levels. So it could be linked to a weight loss or diabetic diet. But on the opposite side of the argument it has been used as a weightgainer for sheep in clinical trials! Most of the research has been carried out on lab animals and as of yet research is yet to examine the long term effects of eating agave on humans.

This is just the tip of the research on agave on the whole I was shocked by what I read. I believe that a diet based on whole foods and reduced sugar consumption will lead to a healthier lifestyle. I avoid artificial and heavily processed sweeteners preferring to get my sweet hit from dried fruit and spices. Whats your opinion on artificial or natural sweeteners? Comment and let me know!

Stay healthy X

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