Good or Bad: Everything You Need to Know About Agave
As I am sure you're aware, there is currently huge controversy over whether or not Agave is a suitable substitute to refined sugar. This is mainly due to its high levels of fructose. We have done some research to hopefully get to the bottom of this, and will look at the pro's and cons of its use based our health. However I would like to emphasise that here at Honestly Healthy, we stand by the notion that moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle. As a result, we emphasise that over indulging in anything sweet, whether that be agave or even stevia, it is not so healthy. Yet in moderation, like anything else, it is up to you to make the decision whether it is right for your body, and if not then replace it with any of the other sugar substitutes that we discussed in our article on The Many Alternatives to Refined Sugar
What is Agave?
Agave is derived from the Blue Weber Agave plant and is sweeter than refined sugar. It has been used for thousands of years from being used topically on wounds, to being an ingredient of tequila - agave has numerous uses. Our new book, Honestly Healthy For Life
states that we recommend that you buy organic raw (where possible) agave and use it in small quantities. Like yacon syrup and xylitol, it also has a low glycaemic index; it's 39 on the scale (anything below 55 on this index is considered low) which means that it affects your blood sugar balance far less than any refined cane sugar does.
In addition to this, we would promote opting to use Blue Agave.
The reason Blue Agave is the preferred choice is that the fibre content is higher, therefore providing a lower GI (Glycaemic index) when digested. The processing is minimal, with the 'nectar' of the Blue Cactus plant being collected and often pasteurised (to meet the demands of the health and safety measures within the food industry) but with no further processing than that. Less expensive brands are thinned, processed and pumped out with far fewer nutrients, and a far higher fructose level than the original. Our verdict is unfortunately - as with many healing foods - it pays to pay more for the original!
Find below the pro's and con's of agave.
- Agave is low on the glycemic Index
- It has been used for centuries and has many healing benefits
- It is sweeter than refined sugar, so it takes less agave to achieve the same level of sweetness.
- Vegan friendly
- The agave plant contains phyto-chemicals associated with many beneficial and immune-boosting capabilities
- Compounds from blue agave have been studied for their potential for treating colon diseases such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and crohn's disease.
- The main reason it is low in the glycemic index is because it has a high fructose content instead.
- Agave has a higher fructose content than any other sugar substitute. Eating too much fructose has been associated with health issues like liver and kidney disease and high blood pressure.
Arguably there appears to be more pro's than con's on agave. Yes it has a high fructose level, but with that comes its low rating on the glycemic index and a high fibre content. Perhaps it is not completely the holy grail of sweetness that some people have believed it to be, but at the end of the day as a substitute, it still stands as a product that is healthier than refined sugar!
If you do have a sweet tooth, perhaps alternating between different sugar substitutes is advisable rather than just using agave. Furthermore, if you do decide that agave is for you, make sure that you check the ingredients, and we really suggest going organic wherever you can!