Is Agave a Healthy Natural Sweetener?

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Because of its reputation as a “natural” sweetener, agave is widely used in products claiming to be good for health. However, recent evidence suggests that when consumed in excess it can be detrimental to health leading to decreased insulin sensitivity and increased abdominal fat. Also research suggests that higher intakes of fructose are associated with these conditions: heart disease, cancer, liver function, obesity and type 2 Diabetes.

I don’t recommend agave as a healthy sweetener because it has a high fructose content. In fact, agave has a higher fructose content than any other common sweetener, even more than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Agave is 82% Fructose and 18% Glucose. HFCS is 55% Fructose 45% Glucose

There are several popular sweeteners that health conscious people often eat instead of sugar: maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses, and honey. They really aren’t much different from sugar. Although maple syrup has a much lower fructose content and lower glycemic index. Raw honey does contain fructose, but it has a relatively low glycemic index.

Of course, the harmful effects of sweeteners depend completely on the context of your personal diet.  In the context of a real food, plant based, healthy diet, small amounts of these sugars or sweeteners won’t cause harm.

What to use to sweeten your food instead? I use maple syrup, raw honey, stevia and erythritol depending on the food I am adding it to.

Sources: David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD – Examining the Health Effects of Fructose – Journal of the American Medical Association, July 2013 Basciano, Federico and Adeli – Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia- Nutrition & Metabolism 2005, 2:5  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-5

 2015 Nov 13;6(6):729-37. doi: 10.3945/an.114.008144. Print 2015 Nov.

Health implications of high-fructose intake and current research. Dornas WC1de Lima WG2Pedrosa ML2Silva ME3.

Luo et al –  Differential effects of fructose versus glucose on brain and appetitive responses to food cues and decisions for food rewards – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Feb 2015

Hill JO, Lin D, Yakubu F, Peters JC: Development of dietary obesity in rats: influence of amount and composition of dietary fat.

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1992, 16:321-333.

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