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Agave: Why I Was Hesitant to Use It, And Won’t Be Using It Anymore

Posted Mar 15 2010 7:20pm 1 Comment

Disclaimer: The opinions in this post are  my own, and are not meant to sway your decision of consuming agave. I am speaking from my “gut feeling” and the information I’ve personally come across – that is all.

So glad you’ve enjoyed my story about Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis + Fibromyalgia – your comments and emails have truly blessed my heart!!

And yay for Strawberry Serenity Kombucha . Thanks for your rave reviews of my review. ;-)

Oh, and I hope you enjoyed the post I published right before this one: Nuttzo + Apple Slices + Berry Blackstrap Smoothie = Delicious Lunch !

It truly was a fantabulous lunch. Yum!

Anyway, on to the topic at hand: agave and why it’s banned from my kitchen….

Finally!

Agave & Me

For years, I’ve listened to people “ooooohhh and aaaahhhhh” over Agave. Health food store employees have tried to sell me on it, too.

“You can sweeten tea or coffee with it!”

“It’s a delicious addition to recipes!”

“For vegans, it’s a wonderful replacement for honey!”

These are some of the sell points I’ve heard over the years. And while I absolutely agree with each statement (remember, I finally gave in and used it myself – and loved it!), I’ve come to the conclusion that I should have followed my initial gut instinct – and listened to my mother – and avoided agave all together.

Agave found its way in to my chocolate pudding and raw chocolate .

Organic-Blue-Agave-Syrup-225x300

I realize that a TON of you use and enjoy agave and have made up your minds to continue using it, regardless – and we are all entitled to our opinions and food choices. ;-) But I’ve really searched my heart and soul on this one, and it felt right to not only quit using agave, but to share with you why.

Inflammation

As I recently mentioned in my post about living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia , I’ve battled inflammation for several years now. Most days, I win. Some days, I don’t. But I have to be very careful about what I eat – or drink – because if I’m not, the old symptoms come back full force.

And I don’t like going backward. I don’t enjoy feeling stiff and not being able to freely move my fingers across the keyboard or have increased back pain.

I don’t enjoy hurting so badly, I can’t practice yoga . And I really hate hurting so badly that I can’t sleep – Raw Juice Girl is a grouch without enough sleep! ;-)

What to do?

Adios, Agave

I decided to say adios to agave because I literally feel horrific when I consume it.

How do I know this? I started noticing I was hurting worse than I had in a LONG time. Aches and sharp, piercing pains were back. I didn’t like that. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done differently. I wasn’t eating more fruit than normal. I wasn’t eating white sugar or bread or pasta. I wasn’t eating 100% raw at this point, but my diet consisted of really, really clean food.

What could it be? I thought and thought and couldn’t figure it out. Then it dawned on me… Aha, the agave – it was the ONLY thing I’d done differently.

So I cut it out of my diet. Just as an experiment. What happened? Within days, the extra aches and pains and aggravated Arthritis and Fibromyalgia symptoms were gone. Gone.

Amazing, huh? I think so.

Confirmation

The following article just sealed the deal for me and I knew I’d had one too many “signs” and “gut feelings” to do anything other than cut agave from my diet. Period.

 

Here’s an Excerpt

In spite of manufacturers’ claims, agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules.Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.34

The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which corn starch is converted into HFCS.35 The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites. 36 (One agave manufacturer claims that his product is made with “natural” enzymes.) That’s right, the refined fructose in agave nectar is much more concentrated than the fructose in HFCS. For comparison, the high fructose corn syrup used in sodas is 55 percent refined fructose. (A natural agave product does exist in Mexico, a molasses type of syrup from concentrated plant nectar, but availability is limited and it is expensive to produce.)

According to Bianchi, agave “nectar” and HFCS “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.” The result is a high level of highly refined fructose in the remaining syrup, along with some remaining inulin.

In a confidential FDA letter, Dr. Martin Stutsman of 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 requires the label “hydrolyzed inulin syrup.”37 Even though, like corn, agave is a starch and fiber food processed with enzymes, it does not require the label “High Fructose Agave Syrup.” Agave “nectar” is a misnomer; at the very least, it should be labeled “agave syrup.”

Agave syrup 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, thus creating a darker, or amber color.” However, the labels create the impression of an artisan product—like light or amber beer. As consumers are learning about problems with agave syrup, the label “chicory syrup” is beginning to appear as a non-conforming word for the product. Consumer beware!

Like I said, this article sealed the deal for me. I knew in my heart agave wasn’t for me – it just resonated with me.

Closing Thoughts

I did enjoy agave’s taste; I don’t enjoy the side effects it has on my body.

Learning things like this, and following my gut instinct, is why I feel I will probably never be 100% vegan.

Here’s why…

I do eat mostly vegan foods – most of the time, for days or weeks – but there are times I use a little (raw) honey or want to eat an omelet (made with organic eggs from right here on my farm) or I give in to a craving for organic Oikos Greek yogurt. And I personally feel it’s better to eat a little honey (something my body doesn’t have trouble processing) than to eat agave and ignore that tugging feeling, and suffer the painful side effects it has on my body.

I know there’s a lot of controversy about agave and a LOT of people who are never going to give it up. This is just my opinion and decision. And I thought I’d share it with you.

And I also personally feel it’s in the best interest (for MY body and happiness and overall health) to stick to “real” foods and not consume a lot of processed vegan/vegetarian stuff. This is where the whole vegan/vegetarian thing can get “sticky” because while a lot of people may judge me for eating an egg or Greek yogurt once in a while, I am not chugging soy milk, highly processed “vegan” and “vegetarian” foods and eating what is really “fake” food, in my opinion. Ya know?

I am not judging you if you do eat those things – I actually feel it’s better to eat them than lots of meat and fast food. So, I feel there’s really not a black and white understanding – or rules even – when it comes to living a raw/vegan/vegetarian lifestyle.

In the end, we all have to make the best possible choice we can at the time and just go from there. :-D

So now you know why agave is no longer in my life. Is it what you suspected? Do you agree? Disagree? Even care at all? Is agave something you use every single day, or just on occasion? Do you agree that it’s better to use the real thing in place of a fake alternative? Such as a real egg instead of fake egg substitutes? Or honey instead of agave? Or real butter instead of fake? Do you eat foods or drink beverages because they taste good – or because they’re good for you?

Coming Next

  • Health Benefits of Blackstrap Molasses – And Why I Drink It
  • Tart Cherry Concentrate Health Benefits – And Why I Drink It
  • More reviews and giveaways!

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Comments (1)
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Michelle, I am sorry that you are suffering from these symptoms. You may want to consider that the information you are sighting about agave nectar is inaccurate. Agave contains no starch at all. The information you are sighting is from a source that clearly does not understand what agave is made of, or how it is actually produced. I use agave nectar daily in my tea, and have dumped all other sugars in my house, except I also use a small amount of stevia too, and my inflammation and blood sugar problems are gone. It's fine if you want to choose not to use agave nectar, but I hate to see misinformation swaying you or others. There is an anti-agave campaign in full swing right now, being pushed by some who profit from selling other products using other sweeteners. So please beware and understand that agave nectar in moderation is fine.
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