You may be unaware of the agave nectar debate, or you may be geniunely curious about whether it is a health food or not. If we look at it honestly it is a sweetener and any sweetener isn’t the best thing for you, but usually fine in moderation.
The question mostly comes from the raw food community, where many tout it’s raw deserts as being health foods. Being a raw foodist I have been amazed at how liberally agave nectar is used in some recipes. Sometimes it is not used just as a sweetener, but a major component of the recipe. This is when I stopped myself and started questioning this sweetener. This is what I’ve found.
Agave nectar is about 90% fructose and 10% glucose, this ratio is not found anywhere in nature. The high amount of fructose makes it a low glycemic sweetener and is great for diabetics, in the short term. The long term risks are high triglyceride counts. This is because when fructose enters the body in this isolated form it immediately goes to the liver and produces fat cells. Unlike glucose which immediately causes a surge in the blood sugar levels.
If we consider agave nectar’s sugar ratio and compare it to high fructose corn syrup which has a 70% to 30% ratio, we can immediately see that it is unnatural. Although we should not put agave nectar on the same shelf as HFCS, it still IS processed, we can not ignore that. How is agave nectar processed? This seems to also answer another question…is agave nectar actually raw?
Agave nectar comes from the same plant that tequila is made from, a type of cactus. In order to prevent agave nectar from turning into tequila the enzymes must be destroyed, therefore agave nectar really isn’t raw.
So, is agave nectar a ‘natual sweetener’? Well that depends on your defintion of natural. I would recommend maple syrup, honey, or dried fruit over agave nectar. But sometimes a particular diet calls for it, then I would say to use it in moderation. I would not however put it alongside HFCS or white sugar as some people do. Agave is not processed with mercury and chlorine, like HFCS and sugar. Agave nectar lays somewhere in the middle on the spectrum of sweeteners, use it sparingly and you should be fine. However, I would not consider it a health food.