Agave is a plant that grows in southern Mexico, South America and the southwestern states of the United States. The sap of the Agave contains a high concentration of carbohydrates which makes it a potential alternative sweetener to plain table sugar. Agave syrup or nectar can be up to three times as sweet as sugar and is touted as a low glycemic sweetener. But is it a suitable sweetener for those who want to lose weight?
Unfortunately, if fat loss is your goal, you should likely avoid agave nectar as a sweetener. There are many problems with this syrup that is marketed as a healthy sweetener for diabetics and those looking to lose weight:
- Most commercial agave is processed. The processing involves heating the product to break the carbohydrates down into simple carbohydrates, most of which is fructose.
- Fructose, the primary sugar in agave, has been linked to diabetes, weight gain and elevated triglycerides.
- Fructose appears to enter the cell without stimulating insulin. This appears to be beneficial on the surface, however, science has shown that excessive levels of processed fructose can cause biochemical imbalance that can set the stage for diabetes and fat accumulation in the blood and fat cells.
- As the agave plant gets more rare, some manufacturers may be cutting their agave syrup with plain old corn syrup. There is little control over this as many manufacturers are located in Mexico.
- The body appears to lack the ability to sense that energy from fructose has entered the body. This means that if you are getting calories from processed fructose products, such as agave, the calories may not register in the brain and thus you may eat more calories throughout the day.
Dr. Ray’s Notes:
I really, REALLY wish I had better news as it pertains to agave because it is SO good! The truth is, our tongues are completely desensitized to sweetness due to the abundance of sugar and artificial sweeteners in our diets. We need to retrain our taste buds to taste again by removing unnecessary sweeteners in our diet so that we can start tasting food again! The smartest minds in food science have been unable to produce a sweetener that is 100% safe and tastes like sugar and I have little hope that they will succeed. If you need to sweeten your coffee in the morning, you can add a bit of honey or try a bit of xylitol or erythritol. These sugar alcohols can be used sparingly but remember, our goal is to try to eat foods in the package that nature provides! All of nature’s foods come with a sticker that reads “No ADDED sugar!”