How Sweet it Is? 12/03/2010
These days, concerns about sugar consumption seem to be at an all time high. Table sugar has gotten a bad rap for diabetics and health foodies alike, so alternatives are everywhere — date sugar, Truvia, Splenda are alongside the old standards of Sweet n’ Low and Equal.  Agave nectar has also risen on the scene. When I became vegan, and more ingredient conscious in general, agave nectar was touted as a far healthier alternative to honey, without the “sugar high,” since its glycemic index was much lower. The agave plant is similar to a cactus, and the sweetener comes from both Salmiana agave and agave Tequilana (or Blue Agave, known best for tequila). The liquid is collected from the plants and then are processed thermally or by enzymes into agave nectar.

The liquid is not naturally sweet but when its fructose units are separated in production, the syrup becomes so. However, through this process, many of the original nutrients that would be factors toward more optimal health are lost.

Additionally, the end product is about 90% fructose.  It is low glycemic but research on the high consumption of fructose shows that other health related issues may arise, like interference with the formation of collagen and elastin (important for our connective tissue health), and an impaired ability to metabolize glucose. Agave nectar also converts to fat more easily than any other sugar.  Clearly not ideal!

So what's the bottom line?  If you don't feel you can eliminate sweeteners from your diet, at least use them sparingly.  Try to stay away from substitutes like agave nectar which are highly processed, and aim for those which are also chemical free. By trying to avoid sugar, you just wind up with sugar in a different form that may in fact be more harmful to your body.



Veg and the City