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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Diabetic Cooking / Agave Nectar
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    Agave Nectar

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    Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:34 am
    Forum Host

    Most of us have heard of the Glycemic Index but how many of use fully understand or use this helpful tool? The Glycemic Index (GI) is a numerical system of measuring how much of a rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers–the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. So a low GI food will cause a small rise, while a high GI food will trigger a dramatic spike.

    Below is an example of the Gylcemic Index of a small sampling of common foods. Note that dried beans, lentils and split peas have a lower GI number where white rice, bread and potatoes are much higher.

    So what does all this have to do with Agave Nectar? Agave makes a good substitute for sugar for a variety of reasons. Agave nectar is a real sugar, as opposed to an artificial or non-nutritive sweetener. It has properties similar to many sugars with one important exception: its glycemic index is significantly lower. This makes it a healthier alternative to many processed AND natural sweeteners, including:

    * white granulated sugar
    * brown sugar
    * demerara or turbinado sugar
    * maple sugar crystals
    * dehydrated cane juice
    * date sugar

    Jacqueline and I thought it might be fun to see how using lower GI foods affects blood sugar readings. For the month of September we started with "A".....Agave Nectar. So who is interested?

    Rules of GI Tag are quite simple, select a recipe using

    * white granulated sugar
    * brown sugar
    * demerara or turbinado sugar
    * maple sugar crystals
    * dehydrated cane juice
    * date sugar or
    * artificial sweetener

    Prepare the recipe using Agave Nectar as the sweetener and report back on taste and effects on blood sugar. You can tag as many recipes as you wish but only one at a time. After you have made the recipe and reported back then you can select another recipe.

    Please note that Agave Nectar is much sweeter than other sweeteners. It is more calorie-dense than brown or white sugar and about 40% sweeter, so the amount can be reduced. It may take some adjustment of recipes to substitute agave nectar for granulated sugars, but it's much easier than using an artificial sweetener to substitute for sugar. Artificial sweeteners provide sweetness, but few of the functional properties of real sugars. Agave provides the same variety of functions (including browning, moisture retention, softening and food preservation) as processed sugars.

    Substituting Agave Nectar for Liquid Sweeteners
    Replace each cup of honey with one cup of agave syrup.

    Maple Syrup
    Replace each cup of maple syrup with one cup of agave syrup.

    Brown Rice Syrup
    When replacing a cup of brown rice syrup, use 1/2 to 1/3 as much agave, and increase other liquids in the recipe by up to 1/2 a cup.

    Corn Syrup
    When replacing a cup of light corn syrup, use 1/2 as much agave, and increase other liquids in the recipe by up to 1/3 of a cup. Like corn syrup, agave nectar will not crystallize.

    Substituting Agave Nectar for Granulated Sugar
    White Sugar
    For each cup of white sugar replaced, use 2/3 of a cup of agave and reduce other liquids by 1/4 to 1/3 cup. This substitution will also work for Demerara Sugar, Turbinado Sugar, Evaporated Cane Juice, or Sucanat.

    Brown Sugar
    For each cup of white sugar replaced, use 2/3 of a cup of agave and reduce other liquids by 1/4 cup. Because the moisture content of Brown Sugar is higher than that of white sugar, liquids may not have to be reduced as much when substituting agave nectar.

    Other Considerations
    Agave syrup may cause baked items to brown more quickly, so reduce oven temperatures by 25°F is and increase baking time slightly.

    Soure: All About Agave

    Last edited by PaulaG on Thu Oct 01, 2009 9:15 am, edited 1 time in total
    Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:23 pm Groupie
    Be wary of agave nectar- while it is advertised as a "diabetic friendly," raw, and a "100% natural sweetener, it is a highly refined form of fructose, more concentrated than the high fructose corn syrup used in sodas. Refined fructose is not a 'natural' sugar, and is not a health building product, but rather a deceptively marketed form of a highly processed and refined sweetener.

    Test, test, test- YMMV with agave nectar!!
    Fri Aug 28, 2009 7:18 am
    Forum Host
    Lisa, appreciate your input. That is the sort of information that is very helpful. Different foods are marketed as "diabetic friendly" and are shown to have low indexes. Being a novice I have gone by what I have read. Do you have a link with the information you provided? I think it would be interesting reading.
    Fri Aug 28, 2009 8:37 am
    Newbie "Fry Cook" Poster
    While the glycemic index shows promise for diabetics, it is not perfect yet. It only measures glucose and agave necter is fructose and a lot of it, more than high fructose corn syrup. Since the index is measuring glucose, agave measures low on the index. I would recommend using extreme caution if using agave. Here is what Wiki says about it:

    Agave syrup consists primarily of fructose and glucose. One source[4] gives 92% fructose and 8% glucose; another[5] gives 56% fructose and 20% glucose. These differences presumably reflect variation from one vendor of agave syrup to another. Due to its fructose content and the fact that the glycemic index only measures glucose levels, agave syrup is notable in that its glycemic index and glycemic load are lower than many other natural sweeteners on the market. [6].

    However, the extremely high percentage of fructose (higher than that of high-fructose corn syrup) can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome[7], hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation.[8][9][10] Low-carb diet advocate Dr. Michael Eades M.D. advises to "avoid it [Agave syrup] like death".[11]

    Some criticism [12] has targeted agave syrup. In the late 1990s, the agave syrup on the market contained 90% thermally or chemically hydrolyzed fructose. However, while the salmiana variety syrup on the market today is still primarily fructose, it is enzymatically hydrolyzed using a black mold enzyme.[13]

    Here is the link to entire article:

    Last edited by darla1 on Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:49 am, edited 1 time in total
    Fri Aug 28, 2009 8:38 am
    Forum Host
    Darla, thanks for the link. I'll look it over this evening after work. There are many tools that can be useful; however, not tools will be effective for everyone. The glycemic index is just that a tool that if researched and used can show promise.
    Fri Aug 28, 2009 1:22 pm Groupie
    Though it is natural and not as overly processed as HFCS it does NOT mean that it supports a low carb lifestyle. Because it is primarily fructose, it causes the liver to store fat - NOT a good thing!

    Here is another article, could not locate the link.
    Agave nectar is advertised as a "diabetic friendly," raw, and a "100% natural sweetener." Yet it is none of these. The purpose of this article is to show you that agave nectar is in reality not a natural sweetener but a highly refined form of fructose, more concentrated than the high fructose corn syrup used in sodas. Refined fructose is not a 'natural' sugar, and countless studies implicate it as a sweetener that will contribute to disease. Therefore, agave nectar is not a health building product, but rather a deceptively marketed form of a highly processed and refined sweetener.

    Agave nectar is found on the shelves of health food stores primarily under the labels, "Agave Nectar 100% Natural Sweetener," (1) and "Organic Raw Blue Agave Nectar." (2) In addition, it can be found in foods labeled as organic or raw, including: ketchup, ice-cream, chocolate, and health food bars.

    The implication of its name, the pictures and descriptions on the product labels, is that agave is an unrefined sweetener that has been used for thousands of years by native people in central Mexico. Botanically, agave plants are in the lily order Liliales and the order Asparagales (depending on which botanical taxonomic system you use) both of which define agave as a flowering plant. For "thousands of years natives to central Mexico used different species of agave plants for medicine, as well as for building shelter," so claims the fanciful pedigree of this plant. Natives would also allow the sweet sap/liquid of the agave to ferment naturally, which created a mildly alcoholic beverage with a very pungent flavor known as 'pulque'. They also made a traditional sweetener from the agave sap/juice (miel de agave) by simply boiling it for several hours. But, as one agave seller explains, the agave nectar purchased in stores is neither of these traditional foods: "Agave nectar is a newly created sweetener, having been developed during the 1990's." (3)

    What is Agave Nectar?

    The principal constituent of the agave is starch, such as what is found in corn or rice. The process in which the agave starch is converted into refined fructose and then sold as the sweetener agave nectar is through an enzymatic and chemical conversion that refines, clarifies, heats, chemically alters, centrifuges, and filters the non-sweet starch into a highly refined sweetener, fructose. Here, a distinction must be made. Fructose is not what is found in fruit. Commonly, fructose is compared with its opposite and truly naturally occurring sweetener, known as 'levulose'. There are some chemical similarities between fructose (man made) and levulose (made by nature), and so the synthetically refined sugar fructose was labeled in a way to make one believe it comes from fruit. Levulose is not fructose even though people will claim it is. Russ Bianchi is Managing Director and CEO of Adept Solutions, Inc., a globally recognized food and beverage development company. Russ explains:

    "If fructose were natural, I would be able to go out to corn field and get a bucket of sweetener. I can go to a beehive and get honey that I can eat without processing it. I can go to an apple tree and pick an apple and eat it. I cannot go out into a cornfield, squeeze corn, and get fructose syrup, and I cannot go into an agave field, and get the product sold on retail shelves, as agave nectar. Falsely labeled agave fructose and high fructose corn syrup are both products of advanced chemistry and extensive food processing technology." (4) Mr. Bianchi has an insider's view of the health food industry and the food creation industry, having worked in the industry for decades.

    Take water for example. We all know that the chemical formula for water is H2O: two hydrogens and one oxygen. The opposite would be O2H, which is nothing close to water. Likewise, man-made fructose would have to have the chemical formula changed for it to be levulose, so it is not levulose. Saying fructose is levulose is like saying that margarine is the same as butter. Refined fructose lacks amino acids, vitamins, minerals, pectin, and fiber. As a result, the body doesn't recognize refined fructose. Levulose, on the other hand, is naturally occurring in fruits, and is not isolated but bound to other naturally occurring sugars. Unlike man-made fructose, levulose contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin. Refined fructose is processed in the body through the liver, rather than digested in the intestine.(5) Levulose is digested in the intestine. Refined fructose robs the body of many micronutrient treasures in order to assimilate itself for physiological use. While naturally occurring fruit sugars contain levulose bound to other sugars, high fructose corn syrup contains "free" (unbound), chemically refined fructose. Research indicates that free refined fructose interferes with the heart's use of key minerals like magnesium, copper and chromium. (6)

    The reason why refined fructose is used so commonly as a sweetener is simple: it's extremely cheap in cost.

    Agave nectar, as a final product, is mostly chemically refined fructose, anywhere from 70% and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites. The refined fructose in agave nectar is much more concentrated than the fructose in high fructose corn syrup. For comparison, the high fructose corn syrup used in sodas is 55% refined fructose. High fructose corn syrup is made with genetically modified enzymes. Is agave syrup (refined fructose) made the same way?

    "They are indeed made the same way, using a highly chemical process with genetically modified enzymes. They are also using caustic acids, clarifiers, filtration chemicals and so forth in the conversion of agave starches into highly refined fructose inulin that is even higher in fructose content than high fructose corn syrup", says Mr. Bianchi. Inulin is a chain of chemically refined fibers and sugars linked together, and, this bears repeating, high fructose inulin has more concentrated sugar than high fructose corn syrup!

    In a confidential FDA letter, Dr. Martin Stutsman (from the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Labeling Enforcement) explains the FDA's food labeling laws related to Agave Nectar: "Corn syrup treated with enzymes to enhance the fructose levels is to be labeled 'High Fructose Corn Syrup.'" According to Mr. Stutsman, agave, whose main carbohydrate is starch, requires the label "hydrolyzed inulin syrup." Even though, like corn, agave is a starch processed with enzymes, it does not require the label high fructose agave syrup because the resulting refined fructose sweetener is so sweet that it is chemically closer to inulin.

    From this point forward, agave nectar will be referred to by a more accurate name: agave syrup. This name is also legally uncomplicated and non-deceptive, per US Federal labeling laws, even though the true name would be hydrolyzed high fructose inulin syrup. "The product called 'agave nectar' is really chemically refined hydrolyzed high fructose, which is intentionally mislabeled to deceive consumers," states Mr. Bianchi.

    In a stunning report released in October 2008, the U.S. government's own accountability office reported that of the thousands of food products imported into the US each year from 150 countries, just 96 total food items were inspected by the FDA to insure label accuracy and food safety. (7) The FDA doesn't usually protect consumers regarding food safety or food labeling, nor does it usually take action against many misleading labels. This was seen with the processed infant formula scandal from China, where infant milk powder was tainted with toxic melamine.

    High Fructose Agave's Dubious History

    In the year 2000, with warrants in hand, federal agents from the Office of Criminal Investigations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came banging on the door of North America's largest agave nectar distributor, Western Commerce Corporation in California. In an extremely rare case of the FDA protecting consumer interests (rather than supporting big business, while shutting down legitimate and health consciousness competition), they discovered that Western Commerce Corporation was adulterating their agave syrup with high fructose corn syrup (to lower the cost even more and increase profit margins). While the federal agents confiscated the material in the warehouse, the owners of Western Commerce Corporation were nowhere to be found. Those who ran the company fled the country with millions of dollars in assets to avoid criminal prosecution.

    This adulterated agave syrup (refined fructose) was also labeled as certified organic (icon_cool.gif to fool consumers into thinking they were getting a pure product. This shows you how unverified organic labels were used in the USA, and continue being used even now.

    Today, high fructose agave syrup is made primarily by two companies, Nekulti, and IIDEA. Yet a third agave marketer, by the name of 'Volcanic,' has a suspicious claim on their website. "If your agave comes from one of the other two companies in Mexico, something has been added." (9) They are referring to Nekulti and IIDEA. Their claim is based upon an analysis, which claims that their agave nectar has a lower refined fructose level.

    Blue Agave Nectar is Not a Safe Sweetener

    When the Spaniards came to the New World, around 1535, they brought with them a
    desire for brandy. When their supplies ran out they had to find a new alcoholic beverage to replace their lost brandy. The Spaniards found that by distilling the juice of the plant now known as the blue agave plant they could produce a potent alcoholic beverage, which over time has evolved into what we now call tequila. In order to produce a sweetener from the blue agave plant, the entire pineapple -like, giant root bulb of the plant is removed from the earth. It is then dried and juiced, making an agave starch juice. This in no way resembles any form of traditional use of the blue agave plant. While great for distilling tequila, the blue agave plant, when transformed through a chemical process into refined fructose, may contain many properties that make them dangerous and toxic for regular human consumption.

    "Yucca species, together with other agaves, are known to contain large quantities of saponins," according to Tyler's Honest Herbal. Saponins in many varieties of agave plants are toxic steroid derivatives, as well as purgatives, and are to be avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding because they might cause or contribute to miscarriage. These toxins have adverse effects on non-pregnant people and many health compromised consumer categories as well. They are known to contribute to internal hemorrhaging by destroying red blood cells, and they may gravely negatively harm people taking statin and high blood pressure drugs. Agave may also stimulate blood flow in the uterus.(10) Other first hand reports indicate agave may promote sterility in women. Since the agaves used for agave syrup are not being used in their traditional way, there should be a warning label on the sweetener packages that it may promote miscarriage during pregnancy, through weakening the uterine lining.

    What's Wrong With Fructose?

    Once eaten, refined fructose appears as triglycerides in the blood stream, or as stored body fat. Elevated triglyceride levels, caused by consumption of refined fructose, are building blocks for hardening human arteries. Metabolic studies have proven the relationship between refined fructose and obesity.(11) Because fructose is not converted to blood glucose, refined fructose doesn't raise nor crash human blood glucose levels -- hence the claim that it is safe for diabetics. Supposedly, refined fructose has a low glycemic index, and won't affect your blood sugar negatively. But the food labels are deceptive. Refined fructose is not really safe for diabetics. "High fructose from agave or corn will kill a diabetic or hypoglycemic much faster than refined white sugar," says Mr. Bianchi. "By eating high fructose syrups, you are clogging the veins, creating inflammation, and increasing body fat, while stressing your heart. This is in part because refined fructose is foreign to the body, and is not recognized by it."

    The average person consumes about 98 pounds of highly refined corn fructose per year in the USA, that roughly translates into half a cup of refined fructose per day. In an average supermarket, at least 2/3 of all items contain some form of highly refined fructose, because it is one of the cheapest ingredients and fillers for foods, next to water, air, and salt. In health food stores, some foods contain a sweetener called crystalline fructose or other sweeteners labeled as fructose. Essentially, these are all refined corn fructose, labeled in a way to trick people that it is something more natural. Mr. Bianchi concludes:

    "The simple answer tends to be the correct one. There is no land of milk and agave. Milk comes from goats, cows, humans, etc., and honey comes from bees. What I want people to understand is that mislabeling a sweetener like agave syrup is about money and profit, to the real determent of your health. The unethical factor is that the natural health food business has gone to great lengths in the case of agave to defraud consumers, by deceiving and lying to those who are trying to seek better health. There is something ethically worse about a company pretending to sell something all natural to people seeking health, than a mainstream company not pretending that their food is healthier. For example, nobody selling fast and junk foods is advocating it is health food. When you are in a natural health food store, you expect to pay extra money for something that is good for you. We have con artists here, pretending to deliver better health at a higher cost, when in reality it is equal to, or much worse than the many other sweeteners or harmful junk food. People are expecting to receive health, and are intentionally being defrauded for profit."

    Amber Agave Syrup (refined fructose)

    Agave syrup (refined fructose) comes in two colors: clear or light, and amber. What is this difference? Mr. Bianchi explains, "Due to poor quality control in the agave processing plants in Mexico, sometimes the fructose gets burned after being heated above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it creates a darker, or amber color."

    Chain Food Stores and Health Food Stores

    When Western Commerce Corporation was shut down, due to their agave syrup alteration scheme in 2000, the big guys in the food industry stayed away from any agave syrups. They knew better than to risk lawsuits, and health consumer fraud. "They were clear that agave was criminally mislabeled per US Code Of Federal Regulation labeling laws, with an untried sweetener, new to the market, that contained saponins, and was not clearly approved as safe for use." explains Mr. Bianchi. For many years following this bust agave syrup was not used.

    But recently, some sellers in the agave syrup field, once quiet, have begun sneaking back into the food and beverage chain. And retail food giants like Whole Foods, Wegman's, Trader Joes and Kroger, (12) who should know better, and who should know the food labeling laws and requirements, still have no hesitation in selling the toxic, unapproved, and mislabeled refined fructose agave syrup, as well as products containing it. Mr. Bianchi explains the legality of this practice. "The simple answer here, again, tends to be the correct one. The stores carry agave products knowing that if they are caught, the legal responsibility will be on the agave sellers and producers, and not the stores. They will just pull it off the shelves. They may also be victims themselves and lied to by the purveyors and sellers of agave products. So long as agave products are profitable, the stores will carry them, regardless of fraudulent labeling or health concerns. Stores will continue to carry agave until consumer fraud complaints to local district attorneys, consumer unions, class action litigation or severe reactions like death ensue."

    Conclusions on Agave Syrup

    Without the FDA making efforts to enforce food-labeling laws, consumers cannot be certain that what they are eating is even what the label says it is. New sweeteners like agave syrup (refined fructose) were made to coin a profit, and not to help or assist vital health. Due to the lies from many companies who sell agave syrup (refined fructose), you have been led to believe that it is a safe and a natural sweetener. The retail refined agave syrup label does not explain that it goes through a complicated chemical refining process of enzymatic digestion, which converts the starch into the free, man-made chemical fructose that has a direct link to serious the degenerative disease conditions so prevalent in our culture. While high fructose agave syrup won't spike your blood sugar levels, the fructose in it will cause: mineral depletion, liver inflammation, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance leading to diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, obesity, and may be toxic for use during pregnancy.

    If you want to buy something sweet, get a piece of fruit, not a candy bar labeled as a "health food." If you want to create something sweet, use sweeteners that are known to be safer. For uncooked dishes, unheated raw honey or dates work well. For cooked dishes or sweet drinks, a good organic maple syrup, or even freshly juiced apple juice or orange juice can provide delicious and relatively safe sweetness. In general, to be healthy, we cannot eat sugar all day, no matter how natural the form of sugar is, or is claimed to be. One should limit total sweetener consumption to approximately 10% of daily calories. Or one sweet side dish per day, (like a bowl of fruit with yogurt.)

    While it may be depressing news to hear about the lack of standards in the health food world, let this news help encourage you to seek access to more pure and unrefined foods and sweetener sources, so that you can be healthier.
    Fri Aug 28, 2009 6:42 pm
    Forum Host
    Thank you for your input Lisa and the research you have done. Anything to excess can be bad. The thread was meant to assist people in making different choices about diet and to offer an alternative method of sweetening.

    Agave Nectar is reported to result in lesser spikes in blood sugar which can be caused with honey and other sweetening agents. It is also much sweeter and therefore uses less. There are those that can not use honey and prefer not to use artificial sweeteners. Moderation to anything is highly recommended whether it be with sweeteners or other food items.
    Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:42 am Groupie
    ITA, Paula, getting off my soapbox... icon_redface.gif Excess of anything is not good.
    Jacqueline in KY
    Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:54 am Groupie
    They don't sell it around here so I have never tried it but would really like to.

    This could turn out to be like so many produces. i.e. coffee, bacon and butter come to mind. We have been told the side effects and how bad they are for you, bacon was said to cause cancer, yet now they say that coffee is good for you as is butter and you can once again eat butter and they actually say it is better for you.

    Who knows how this will end up but I say let's all sweeten the way we so desire as long as it is not having an ill effect on you and 10 years from now the truth may be out.

    Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:33 am
    Forum Host
    Good morning Jacqueline. Hope all is well with you. I concur, years ago I had a friend who had high cholesterol. She loved shellfish but was told not to eat it because it was bad for her. After several years of research they found that shellfish was actually okay.

    Lisa, yes my train of thought is moderation. One can find resources to support their opinion but again I posted the thread as an alternative to using other sweeteners that might not be acceptable to some. Also, one of the key components was to

    see how using lower GI foods affects blood sugar readings.

    This takes into consideration that foods don't effect everyone the same way. Your input is appreciated and I hope that others will stop in and offer their point of view.
    Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:38 am
    Forum Host
    Pumpkin Carrot Pudding (Kugel) by chia was made last night using Agave Nectar. It was lightly sweet without the aftertaste often associated with sugar substitutes. Will let you know how it affected DH's readings this morning.

    Tue Sep 01, 2009 4:49 pm Groupie
    Well, I like it. I follow a low gi diet for insulin resistance and PCOS management and I have had no problems using it. I have been using it to sweeten fat free Greek yogurt for my breakfast instead of honey.
    Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:11 pm
    Forum Host
    Sarah_Jayne wrote:
    Well, I like it. I follow a low gi diet for insulin resistance and PCOS management and I have had no problems using it. I have been using it to sweeten fat free Greek yogurt for my breakfast instead of honey.

    Thanks for stopping in and sharing your experience with us. DH hasn't had any significant change in his blood sugars by using the Agave Nectar instead of artificial sweetener and it doesn't have the aftertaste. For me, I am not diabetic but do have hypoglycemic tendencies (whatever) and I have found I do not have the peaks and valleys.
    Jacqueline in KY
    Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:30 am Groupie
    Paula, I just want to let you know that I plan on tagging a recipe when I more like cooking. I have not felt good for over a week now and am hoping I soon feel better. I still have not gotten that package mailed to you and figure it will be next week when I mail my swap package. I just don't get out of the house except to go to the doctor or to take dad to the doctor, heck recently ever time I have said I need to go to the grocery one of my sisters pop up and says they need to go and will get what I need. I did stop by the grocery today on the way back from taking dad to the doctor though and pick up some milk and a couple of other things, but was not able to get to the PO.

    I want to make a savory dish with it because I do not do sweets if I can help it. So I need to find one that uses some type of sugar. If I don't find it I will make something sweet. icon_smile.gif

    Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:20 am
    Forum Host
    Jacqueline, don't worry about it. I hope you find interesting ways to use the nectar. I know you have lots going on. Take care of yourself.
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