Agave syrup can cost as much as £20 a litre. You can get a kilo of refined sugar for well under £1.
But it’s worth the extra for a healthy, natural sweetener – isn’t it?
Let’s look at that…
The truth is that the way agave has been marketed, and the reality about it, are two very different things.
Agave comes from a plant…but so does sugar!
During processing, the starch from the agave plant is converted into concentrated, refined fructose.
You’ve heard of high-fructose corn syrup…
This is high-fructose agave syrup.
Only while the fructose content of high-fructose corn syrup tends to be around 55%, in agave it is often 75% to 95%.
Refined fructose has been linked with insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, accelerated aging, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and liver inflammation.
Yet another problem with refined free fructose is its impact on the liver.
The livers of laboratory animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty deposits and cirrhosis, and excessive fructose consumption is believed to contribute to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in humans.
And a number of studies have demonstrated that high fructose consumption can cause elevations in blood levels of uric acid. Elevated uric acid has been linked with heart disease, and it has also been shown to raise blood pressure, cause kidney damage and interfere with insulin responses.
In some people, uric acid accumulates in joints and causes gout, and gout has been increasing in prevalence in the US ever since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup 40 years ago.
Shocking but true: some raw and other healthy-looking recipes contain such a crazy-high amount of agave they are actually worse for your body than a regular dessert as their fructose content is off the charts.
They should come with a government health warning and are best avoided altogether.
I could list the sweeteners that are better than agave here, but that’s another article.
The most important thing is to keep your intake of added sugars to no more than 1 to 2 teaspoons a day. It’s also good to choose a lower-fructose option like brown rice syrup.
But all things in perspective…no need to throw out that bottle of organic agave.
If you find that a little smoosh of it (and a smoosh = approximately 1 teaspoon) makes your favourite tea or smoothie extra special, go ahead and enjoy!