More and more health conscious people are turning away from sugar and towards so-called ‘natural’ alternatives such as agave syrup. But is the popular substitute all its cracked up to me?
Grown from the same plant that gives us tequila, agave has become an increasingly from the same plant that gives us tequila, agave has become an increasingly popular choice for the nutrition-focused, as an alternative sweetener to sugar. Regarded as more natural and less processed than regular table sugars or other artificial sweeteners, agave syrup comes from the blue agave plant, found in Mexico. Thinner in consistency than honey, it features either a dark or light amber colour.
However, agave syrup can contain anywhere between 55 to 90 per cent fructose (putting it in the same league as corn syrup) while regular sugars usually contain 50 to 55 per cent fructose. But because agave is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, you use less of it.
Therein lies the first potential problem; the issue with a diet high in fructose is that your body must convert it to glucose in the liver, but in the instance that you have too much, it gets stored as fat. High-fructose diets have also long been linked to heart disease and insulin resistance. This is not so much a concern for natural fructose, such as the type found in fruits, but more of a problem with the synthetic variety. Which brings us to the next important question: is your agave syrup organic or manmade?
According to Dr. Edward Group of the Global Healing Center, not all agave is made equally. While some brands of the syrup have sustained extensive heating or chemical refinement, leading to a higher fructose content, other organic brands use minimal heat and no chemicals.
In conclusion, if you prefer a more organic sweetener in your cakes, cereal or cup of tea, then opt for an organic brand of agave syrup. Or better yet, train your taste buds to adjust and go without. You’ll be surprised how, within time, you won’t even miss it.