Agave Agave

We’re talking about fructose! Agave.

You’ve definitely heard of it, it might be in your cupboard, your diabetic friend may tout it as a saviour in their diet.  Too good to be true?? ….well at least I think so.

There have been many concerns raised lately as to the processing of Agave.  “It’s the same as high fructose corn syrup” reads many a blog post.  While the principles of this statement are correct when it comes to fructose, I would disagree with it being the same.  High fructose corn syrup is a cheap sweetener derived commonly from genetically modified corn, which undergoes many processes to convert it from starch into fructose. And let’s not forget that genetically modified organisms have their own set of issues not to mention the countless pesticides that are used to yield corn.

Alternatively, through traditional processes, the sap from the agave plant is collected and boiled down for hours, a similar process to making maple syrup.  The end result is a very thick and dark liquid with a very strong flavor.  Reported to be too robust for the sweet tooth North American.  This ‘miel de agave’ is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium.

What you see on the market shelves being served up as the greatest sugar alternative for diabetics is typically not processed like this.  The aged agave plant has its leaves removed to access the core where the juice is extracted.  The juice is heated at low temperatures and then filtered with chemicals and enzymes to shorten the long boiling process.  This is where many of the ideal nutrients and minerals are removed leaving you with a high concentration of fructose, ranging from 70%-90% and a deliciously sweet taste.

Don’t get me wrong.  A far better cry from aspartame and other chemically derived sugar substitutes, but listen up: sugar is sugar is sugar! Especially when we’re talking about fructose.  How does fructose react in the body?  It causes insulin resistance, increases the visceral fat around the body and increases your chances of developing liver damage, heart disease and diabetes.  Not something I would recommend for a diabetic.

What we’re seeing is a common theme.  When certain foods become revered for their health benefits they become greatly desired, become overly processed to satisfy the masses and then lose their once wonderful characteristics. Look for agave products marked as ‘raw’ as their processing will be less aggressive based on our research.

If you’ve come to a point where you’re pre-diabetic, diabetic or hypoglycemic then you’ve got to make some drastic changes to your diet, including the reduction or elimination of sugars.  Much attention should be put on refining your diet and combining foods to reduce sugar spikes and dips in addition to exercise, stress management etc, etc.  Point being, not to find a “healthy” substitute and continue with the same eating patterns, but to make the appropriate changes to get your health back on track.

By Jeanette Rauch Registered Holistic Nutritionist

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