Using Agave as a Refined Sugar Replacement

We recently posted some information on agave nectar as a substitute for refined sugar I skin nutrition: Agave: A Healthy Skin Care Alternative for your Sweet Tooth.

Since then, agave has quickly become popular among natural food enthusiasts and even been given “raw” status. As with most popular health food trends, it seems that a great number of companies have jumped on the agave bandwagon. At the same time, many new reports have come out raising some questions on the exact manufacturing process and “healthiness” of agave nectar.

We still really like agave, when ingested in moderation, as a substitute for refined sugars and fake sugars. It is important to research the brand of agave to ensure you are getting the pure plant nectar and not anything overly processed. All agave nectar is processed to a point – heated to breakdown the “sap” into simple sugars – which is why we say use it in moderation. We also say honey is great in moderation – and for those who prefer something non-processed – honey would be a good choice. That being said, we wanted to provide more information on the subject and get your opinion!

Agave is a succulent plant traditionally grown in Mexico and the Southwestern corner of the United States. The sap is used to create tequila, and agave syrup (or nectar), a honey-like fructose sweetener that’s relatively low on the glycemic index.

Here’s a little excerpt from www.foodprocessing.com on the processing of agave:

“…Agave plants are crushed, and the sap collected into tanks. The sap is then heated to about 140°F for about 36 hours not only to concentrate the liquid into a syrup, but to develop the sweetness. The main carbohydrates in the agave sap are complex forms of fructose called fructosans, one of which is insulin, a straight-chain fructose polymer about eight to 10 fructose sugar units long. In this state, the sap is not very sweet.

When the agave sap is heated, the complex fructosans are hydrolyzed, or broken into their constituent fructose units. The fructose-rich solution is then filtered to obtain the desired products that range from dark syrup with a characteristic vanilla aroma, to a light amber liquid with more neutral characteristics.”

Another resource claims that their organic agave is not overly processed at all. Blue Weber Agave explains that their agave is grown without pesticides for about 7-8 years. At that point it is harvested; “sap” is extracted from the core of each plant, filtered and heated to a maximum temperature of 46 degrees C (115 degrees F).

So the processing is actually extraction and heating. No synthetics are added. The processing may not make agave nectar “raw,” but that depends on your definition of the word and how strict you are with your diet.

Here are some articles that point out some concerns about over consumption of agave. Certain parts of these articles indicate that agave should not be ingested at all, as they claim it could have dangerous side effects:

Agave Nectar: Healthful or Harmful

Fructose Food Health

So…what do you think? Will you continue to use agave, cut down on consumption, or eliminate it completely?

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