You might have heard of agave nectar. Hailed as the healthy sugar substitute, this little number can pop up in some healthy foods – particularly things like granola and health bars. So what’s the deal with it?
What is agave nectar?
A light coloured syrup, a little more runny than honey and with a milder taste. Agave nectar, as the name suggests, comes from the sap extract of a cactus-like plant. However, by the time it reaches our shelves, it’s usually been heavily refined and processed. A negative before I even start!
Healthy or not?
Agave is marketed as healthy for two main reasons:
- It has a lower GI than regular sugar
- It is sweeter than sugar so you need less of it
Whilst both of these things are true to some extent, the outweighing problem is that agave can be up to 90% fructose. I’ve posted about fructose previously, but just to hammer it home, you need to limit your total consumption of fructose because…
- An excess of frustose can lead to elevated uric acid levels (which can lead to gout), and is also associated with diabetes and kidney stones.
- Too much fructose converts to fatty acids which are then stored as fat (belly fat if you really want to know)
- Fructose is the addictive ‘I want more’ part of sugar that causes the emotional attachment and physical craving
In a nutshell, if you’re trying to cut your sugar consumption (i.e your fructose consumption), agave nectar is a no go. If you spot it on a list of ingredients, beware. I’ve noticed quite a few ‘healthy’ products which have it. Your sugar savvy radar should now be primed with this one.
Fruit or raw honey (approx. 30-40% fructose) would be better. Brown rice syrup or rice malt syrup would be even better (only 2% fructose).
Have you tried agave nectar and heard any of the hype? Spotted it anywhere?