I found this article to be very interesting, it talkes about how agave cannot be considered raw, and the not so natural process that goes through. The writer, Dr. Mercola is far from being a vegan, but he is all for clean, organic and raw food, and also for local food production/consumption:
The popularity of agave syrup, also called agave nectar, is on a meteoric rise -- thanks in large part to clever marketing which positions the product as a healthy alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. Agave is also heavily promoted as a low glycemic food, enticing diabetics. I’ll discuss just how “healthy” agave is in a minute.
The Amazing Power of Marketing
In case you doubt the influence of marketing in setting trends and consumer buying habits, look at these statistics. Agave products more than tripled in number between 2003 and 2007. McCormick & Co., a major food manufacturer, placed agave syrup in its “top 10 flavors” list for 2009. Agave can now be found in prepared tea, energy and “health” drinks, nutrition bars, desserts, and other food items typically found in health food stores. Agave is also quickly crossing over from the health food market to mainstream grocery chains, and consumers (especially vegans and raw food enthusiasts) are buying up bottles of the stuff to use in place of other sweeteners, like honey.
Why Agave Syrup is the Hottest New Trend in Sugar Alternatives?
Taste. Agave has a subtle, delicate flavor many people enjoy. Sweetness. Agave syrup can be up to three times as sweet as table sugar, so it takes less to sweeten a food or beverage. Public perception. Highly effective agave product marketing campaigns have persuaded consumers the sweetener is a healthy alternative to sugar. As more and more people veer away from deadly artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup (but not from their sugar addiction, unfortunately), they are on the hunt for safer, healthier alternatives.
About the Agave Plant
Agaves grow primarily in Mexico, but you can also find them in the southern and western United States, as well as in South America. Previously, it was most commonly known as a primary ingredient of tequila. Agaves are not cacti, but are actually related to the lily and amaryllis families of plants. There are over 100 species of agave plants, in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Edible parts of the agave are the flowers, leaves, stalks and the sap. It is the sap of the plant that is used to make agave syrup. Commercially available agave syrup or nectar is thought to be produced primarily from blue agave plants grown in Southern Mexico. This is because the blue agave has a high carbohydrate content, which results in a high concentration of fructose in the final product.
Harvesting the Sap
When an agave plant is about seven to 10 years old, the leaves are removed to expose the core, or pina, of the plant. The harvested pina looks like a large pineapple and can weigh anywhere from 50 to 150 pounds. Sap is removed from the pina, filtered, and heated to break down the carbohydrates into sugars. The same agave plant produces all three varieties of commercially sold syrup, depending on the amount of heat used in processing. These varieties include:
Raw (color is similar to maple syrup and flavor is similar to caramel)
Light (lighter color and flavor than raw)
Amber (similar in color and flavor to raw)
Many varieties of agave nectar are processed at relatively low temperatures (below 118°F) and are marketed as a “raw” food.
The Myth of Agave as a “Healthy” Sugar Substitute
- Agave syrup is neither a natural food nor organic. Fully chemically processed sap from the agave plant is known as hydrolyzed high fructose inulin syrup. According to 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, highly processed sugar with great marketing.”
- Agave syrup is not low calorie. Agave syrup is about 16 calories per teaspoon, the same as table sugar.
- Agave syrup may not have a low glycemic index. Depending upon where the agave comes from and the amount of heat used to process it, your agave syrup can be anywhere from 55 percent to 90 percent fructose! (And it’s likely you won’t be able to tell from the product label.)
This range of fructose content hardly makes agave syrup a logical choice if you’re hoping to avoid the high levels of fructose in HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). And if you’re diabetic, you should know that the alleged benefit of agave for diabetics is purely speculative. Very few agave studies have been documented, and most involved rats. There have been no clinical studies done on its safety for diabetics. Since most agave syrup has such a high percentage of fructose, your blood sugar will likely spike just as it would if you were consuming regular sugar or HFCS, and you would also run the risk of raising your triglyceride levels. It’s also important to understand that whereas the glucose in other sugars are converted to blood glucose, fructose is a relatively unregulated source of fuel that your liver converts to fat and cholesterol.
A significant danger here is that fructose does not stimulate your insulin secretion, nor enhance leptin production, which is thought to be involved in appetite regulation. (This was detailed in one of the most thorough scientific analyses published to date on this topic.) . Because insulin and leptin act as key signals in regulating how much food you eat, as well as your body weight, dietary fructose can also contribute to increased food intake and weight gain. Therefore, if you need to lose weight, fructose is one type of sugar you’ll definitely want to avoid, no matter what the source is.
Other Dangers of Fructose
In addition, consuming high amounts of concentrated fructose may cause health problems ranging from mineral depletion, to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and even miscarriage in pregnant women. Fructose may also interfere with your body’s ability to metabolize copper. This can result in depletion of collagen and elastin, which are vital connective tissues. A copper deficiency can also result in anemia, fragile bones, defects in your arteries, infertility, high cholesterol and heart disease, and uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Additionally, fructose consumption has been shown to significantly increase uric acid. Elevated levels of uric acid are markers for heart disease. It has also been shown to increase blood lactic acid, especially in diabetics. Elevations in lactic acid can result in metabolic acidosis.
Isolated fructose has no enzymes, vitamins or minerals and can rob your body of these nutrients in order to assimilate itself. Hence, consumption of fructose can also lead to loss of vital minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Other Reasons You Should Steer Clear of Agave
There are very few quality controls in place to monitor the production of agave syrup. Nearly all agave sold in the U.S. comes from Mexico. Industry insiders are concerned agave distributors are using lesser, even toxic, agave plants due to a shortage of blue agave. There are also concerns that some distributors are cutting agave syrup with corn syrup -- how often and to what extent is anyone’s guess. In addition, the FDA has refused shipments of agave syrup due to excessive pesticide residues. Agave syrup is not a whole food -- it is fractionated and processed. The sap is separated from the plant and treated with heat, similar to how maple sap is made into maple syrup. Agave nectar is devoid of many of the nutrients contained in the original, whole plant. Agave syrup is not a live food. The natural enzymes are removed to prevent agave syrup from fermenting and turning into tequila in your food pantry or cabinet. Agave is, for all intents and purposes, highly concentrated sugar. Sugar and sweeteners wreak havoc on your health and are highly addictive.
The Case Against Sugar
No matter your nutritional type, sugar is not good for you. Certainly you can tolerate small amounts if you are healthy and the majority of your diet is healthy, but let’s face it the average American is consuming over 150 pounds a year of sugar or nearly half a pound a day. Ideally your annual consumption should be well under ten pounds per YEAR. Sugar increases your insulin and leptin levels and decreases receptor sensitivity of both these hormones. This can lead to a wide range of health problems, including weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, premature aging, and heart disease. Sugar suppresses your immune system, causing problems with allergies and digestive disorders. It can even bring on depression. For a comprehensive list of the dangers of sugar to your body, read 76 ways sugar can destroy your health now.
Worse Than Any Sugar: Artificial Sweeteners
The worst of all possible choices are artificial sweeteners. They are, without question, far more damaging to your health than regular sugar. While I don’t recommend it, consuming sugar in moderation isn’t likely to cause serious health problems. Moderation in this case is five pounds or less per year, which is a far cry from the 150 pounds per year consumed by the majority of Americans. If you’re interested in kicking your sugar addiction, I highly recommend trying a meridian tapping technique called Turbo Tapping, which has helped thousands of people kick their sugar and soda habits.
Have You Tried Stevia?
If you’re determined to sweeten your foods and beverages, I urge you to consider using stevia. Stevia is a sweet herb, safe and natural. It is much sweeter than sugar, but has no calories. It is my personal choice of sweetener. In the U.S., you’ll find stevia not in the sweetener aisle of your local grocery, but in the supplement section. It can be used in appetizers, beverages, soups, salads, vegetables, desserts -- just about anything.
If you’ve tried stevia and were bothered by an aftertaste, it could be the way the plant was processed. You should try a few different brands until you find one that tastes good. However, if you have insulin issues, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or if you’re overweight, I suggest you avoid all sweeteners, including stevia, since any sweetener can decrease your insulin sensitivity.
For everyone else, my recommendation is to:
Eliminate all artificial sweeteners
Use raw, organic honey in moderation
Use regular stevia in moderation, but avoid stevia-based sweeteners like Truvia and PureVia
I've just finished reading this article, but I still have mixed feelings. Whenever I read articles on Dr. Mercola's website I always read the reviews/responses of the members of his site. In this case of Agave people had both agreed and disagreed about the article.
I think personally, that in the world today where both ordinary people and experts and scientists seem to be telling us what is and isn't health, with a lot of them giving good reasons, the only thing that we can do as consumers is do as much research as possible on the food and products we consume. Then we base all the information on how we feel health wise consuming and not consuming said food or product, and then make a decision on whether or not to continue consuming said food or product.
Just remember, a lot of mainstream health practitioners still believe that us raw fooders are nuts and will eventually became malnourished emaciated messed up individuals.
For myself, as a critical thinker, I intend to pursue this health issue on Agave and make an informed decision based upon my best deductive reasoning.
We have always wondered about Agave. Thank you so much for the article. I think we will make the switch to stevia. Or like the other person above me said "Hurray for honey"!~ It's the bee's knee's ahahah :)
Once again people. This is ONE ARTICLE! PLease, Please don't make your decision based on reading just this. This is how we all got into trouble in the first place. By trusting one person, or multiple people that said SAD FOOD was OK. All it makes me want to do is read more about Agave, and maybe find a source that does do it the right way, etc... I feel better than when i'm consuming regular sugar, so that's something for me. When I tried stevia, the aftertaste was SOO horrible, i don't ever want to taste it again. And the stevia I had was at a Organic LOcal Coffee Shop. You would think they would have the good stuff. but i don't know for sure. The stuff I use, which i'm sure lots of people do is Madhava Organic Agave Nectar. So right there, he was saying they aren't organic, but mine is. unless the whole "organic" label is entirely greenwashed. but i don't think so. not yet.
Read people read. be skeptical. just because it's on a "raw food forum" does not make it instantaneous truth.
That is true, one article does not provide all the evidence. However, my personal problem with agave is not whether is raw, or organic, but is the fact that has been processed. We all know that there is a processing involved when agave does not go bad for weeks and weeks in our pantry.
I am also concerned about the high fructose content, and the health effects associated to it. I will certainly keep investigating and reading to inform myself (although the decision in my case has already been made), and good luck with your own research.
If you happen to find relevant information, maybe you could post it here? I think that it would be great to see what others find.
To read the response by the president of Madhava Agave Nectar, Craig Gerbore, to the many attacks against agave syrup and the process by which it is obtained, here is a link that gives the real story. There is a lot of mis-information out there. http://alteredplates.blogspot.com/2008/12/madhavas-craig-gerbore...
I, for one, continue to view it as a healthy sweetener...in moderation.
This has actually been debated a lot quite a bit lately. I actually looked into it enough to know that there are some Agave Nectar out there that are truly raw. The fructose thing I am still not sure about, but It's definitely not as bad for you as HFCS. I just use it in more moderation now. I started putting less on my breakfast cereals and go for raw honey more often now too. There are a lot of things that can be bad for you in excess. I believe agave is still a great sweetener and will always be good in the right moderation. Give it some time and they will start finding problems with Stevia too. I personally don't really like Stevia, I will use agave or honey over that any day.
I am with you rawlizard, I prefer whole foods. Not processed "foods" or extracts. As for stevia, again, I prefer the whole (green!) herb, powdered. Tastes much better than the *white* powdered processed *extract* (or clear liquid, depending on what type of processing.) The extracts are bitter.
I have no issues with Agave Nectar. A few reasons why I use it.. 1- I don't have to use as much. So to your point comparing if you eat a pound of each... THATS the key. With Agave I use WAY less to achieve the same sweetness. 2- Yes it's very high in Fructose... but that's what you find in NATURAL fruits like apples, etc. Fructose is absorbed into the body slower than sucrose(therefore the much lower glycemic index)... so there's no Spike then Crash of your blood sugar which is a Calorie burning screeching halt! And finally.. 3- Sugar is processed using Animal products such as BONE CHARCOAL! ICK!
I think the info about the sugar interesting- sugar was one of the foods I tested intolerant to and it says it can suppress the immune system and bring on allergies. I never bought it but sadly it is added to nearly all processed foods- even organic sauces and baked beans.So it was in my diet.
I hardly use sweeteners now, and when I do it is organic, fair trade wild forest honey.
Less of the lecture please- some of the vegan info is biased and exggarated. Bees looked after by small keepers here in Britain or wild forest bees are not exploited like the huge US bee places in the USA. I know a local bee keeper and bees continually make honey- they only eat a very small amount of it- they make far more then they would actually eat. I have rescued an injured bumblebee and taken care of her til she died. I don't agree with big scale exploitation of them and using chemicals in their hives etc but the bee keeper I know locally uses homeopathy for the bees if they are not well, loves them and cares for them. The bees have plenty of honey for themselves.Honey has health benefits other sweeteners don't- especially manuka.
rawcanadian I'm 42 and been vegan/veggie for 24 years. I don't need a lecture from you. I think, actually I feel, that bees are in fact quite intelligent for insects.I love them and as I posted before I rescued one when I found her lying weak and dying on a pavement. I took her home and cared for her for 3 days- made her a shelter in a box with leaves to sit on and gave her honey and water. She was dying and I made her last 3 days more comfortable. I devoted 3 days to her and loved her.When she passed I made her a little coffin out of a matchbox and buried her. Would you have taken this amount of trouble for a bee?
I will reiterate that bees make far more honey than they will ever eat and honey has health benefits- manuka can be used instead of antibiotics on wounds. Antibiotics are made by compnaies which do horrific animal testing and are getting resistant to bacteria strains. I think it is better to use manuka honey. Bees will carry on making and making honey they will never eat-they cannot stop themselves even when they have more than enough. The honey would be left sitting in hives when it could be put to good use by people. Bees work for themselves and the planet- their pollinating, medicinal honey, propolis etc. Bees should be honoured for the service they do for the planet indeed and not treated cruelly. Ethical bee keeping is the way to go. They evolved as a crucial part of the ecosystem.
And regarding eggs and milk, I'm not against humans taking a little eggs and milk when there is abudance of it and people need it to survive- that's how it started. I'm intolerant to milk and eggs myself so wouldn't partake.
If I knew someone who had a few pet cows and chickens and took some eggs and milk once in awhile I wouldn't judge them harshly.
I once read a biography about a girl who married a Tibetan man and she went to stay in Tibet with his Buddhist family for 6 months. Her Tibetan mother in law would only eat meat when an animal was found dead. They lived on land where much didn't grow and she was forced to eat meat for survival sometimes but she wouldn't have an animal killed for her. I don't like meat at all but respect what this woman did.
No cruelty was involved in her meat eating.
Sometimes one needs to get a wider perspective.
I'm a vegan, so I don't eat honey, of course. And I am really saddened that honey is taken from bees so humans have the pleasure of eating/tasting/using it. Someone always comes on and says "well, some bee keepers care" "are gentle" "only take a little," etc, but those are all subjective conclusions made to appease someone's yearning for the honey, which they don't need in the first place, and the cruelty-free, gentle, peaceful way to live in harmony with animals is to not eat/use it.
If individuals choose to eat/use honey, that's their choice, and I wouldn't call someone's opinion on it a "lecture" just because you disagree with them or think you've been vegetarian longer; however, one thing is for sure: honey is not vegan. There are definitely nonvegans on this board, and that is fine - they are allowed to be here and are welcome by me. The discussions are supposed to be vegan, though.
I'm not sure why people disrespect that especially more so with regard to honey; I've never seen someone post that instead of eggplant, they will choose to eat deer. It's no jump to say that it's all in someone's head/made up that somehow insects are less important/more "gently" exploited than, say, a cow or a larger animal.
But again, it's someone's choice to eat honey; they don't need to defend their choice, but the discussions here are supposed to be vegan.
Rawcanadian, I don't think questioning Greenwood about his choice of eating honey is appropriate on this thread. It's not vegan and shouldn't even be discussed on this forum. That said, if greenwood made a thread actually asking what people thought about it, that would be one thing. He said his piece; you said yours......and you're asking questions to continue the conversation in a way that makes Greenwood put on the defensive. This is not the thread for it, and I don't see any reason why Greenwood would respond to a post like that.
Or maybe your not vegan, then you wouldn't care about animals??
No idea why you think taking something that doesn't belong to you as being all right as long as you leave a little for the animal you are stealing from."
Raw canadian your post is very rude- I already told you how I cared for a dying bee and that I know they have intelligence. Stealing is a human word- squirrels have been known to "steal" or take peoples' sandwiches- going in windows and helping themselves. Animals take/steal all the time- some even kill other animals for food. Nature is red in tooth and claw. I'm a Druid and Bee is one of my totems, my consience is clear having a tiny bit of ethically sources honey. I do not have to live the way you tell me to- I'm 42 and live a spiritual life, your judgement of me is rude.. I know of other vegans who choose to have a little ethically sound honey in their diets. I only go through a jar a year. I have seen posts from others here who eat honey but it is only me you choose to lambast. Show some respect as I will live my life the way feels right to me.
"Also please don't tell me what to do.
I just wanted to point out that honey isn't vegan.
Just wanted to get the facts straight for the BEES.
Do what you want, do what you believe, eat honey if you want, I don't care."
I'm not telling you what to do, asking for you to respect other peoples' choices and yes even if that means they eat meat- coming all critical will not win fans to your causes. You do care as you have been posting rather vehemently.
I told you I don't eat meat and have not done so for 24 years.I don't judge people like the Tibetan Buddhist who eats animals who have died of natural causes- some people are forced to make choices like that as they don't live in the West were shops are full of vegan food. Some people in the world have to kill animals for food as they would starve otherwise. That is the harsh fact of life. It is not ideal but it is how it is. I suppose you are very young and ideal and think everyone in the world has the opportunity to be vegan- they sadly don't. I wish it were so but it isn't.
"How can murder not be cruelaty?? LOL
Meat is Murder!!!
Eating meat is murder!!!
Last time I checked , the meat is usually killed in order to eat it."
Did you not see that I posted that the Tibetan lady only ate animals that had died of natural causes not killed for their meat? I certainly do not like meat eating, but as I said sometimes one needs to see things from a different perspective- some people eat animals they find dead already. Death doesn't always come via human hands. They die of hunger, illness and old age. Animals kill each other for food- how do you feel about that? The tiger rips open the antelope. I don't like it, but it happens.
Whereas agave may not be raw, it is still much healthier than most sweeteners. It doesn't make your body crash out and strip it of nutirents like other processed sweeteners.
I have noticed a rash of these anti-agave articles and what I have to say is this...
It may not be "the best thing in the world" but thats okay because as a healthy person we know that we shouldn't eat a lot of concentrated sugars.
As a person with kidney problems and hypo-glycemia who really has to watch my sugar intake or I feel it deeply, I can tell you that agave doesn't effect me negatively unless I use a huge amount of it. If I ingest cane sugar, beet sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, I am feeling horrible within minutes.
Honey is a really great sweetener, but unfortunately it doesn't work for everything, and agave, although not as great as everyone hoped it was going to be, is still better than any mainstream processed sugars.
Sugar is just never going to be good for you in large doses.
Personally. I don't find it necessary to eat sweet tasting foods, as they are not good me (or anyone too much) I find the best solution to this problem is to train yourself to like foods even when they aren't sweet, even when you are used to them being sweet. I've noticed that this really starting enhancing your flavor receptors for other hidden wonderful flavors that you have been missing out out.
In the end, my conclusion is to be careful when taking in new information. Research can sometimes differ from study to study, and the most important thing is to stay cleansed and in touch with your body, and you will know what is good for you and not. There are a lot of articles debunking a lot of things that I wouldn't be as healthy without. Everyone is different.