Agave: Hero or Villain

by Susan on March 31, 2010

There has been a lot of negative press about Agave recently. A current article has stated that it is worse than high fructose corn syrup. Some agave is, but please note: Not all agave is processed the same. You can find healthy products.

I am a fan of agave. It is used it in a lot of my raw food dessert recipes. I use it because it only takes a small amount to get the results that I am looking for. The agave that I use has a much lower GI than other sweeteners, including dates. I use it because it doesn’t have a bad after taste. I use it because raw, properly produced agave is a good alternative to other sweeteners and also health benefits that other sweeteners can’t offer.

It is important to note that agave is a sweetener. It should be used in moderation, just like desserts should be eaten in moderation. But is it really the horrible villain that it is being made out to be? I would venture to say that it depends on the agave. Not all agave is created equal.

Because I do not want to write a novel, I am going to touch on a couple of points that were in the latest article stating that agave is worse than high fructose corn syrup. I suggest that you do your own research, check your resources and make sure you are buying a quality product. I would tell you that of every thing you buy.

I spend quite a bit of time yesterday, talking to Stephen Richards, the founder of BetterBody Foods and Nutrition. They are the producers of Xagave, a product that I am quite excited about. Stephen is a passionate man about health and nutrition. I asked him about the recent bad press that agave was getting.

According to Stephen, there are different ways to produce Agave. The unhealthy way basically harvests the agave root and boils it down until the only thing that is left is the nutrient void agave syrup. I believe this is the agave that deserves the bad press.

But there are other ways that agave is made. Xagave is made from both blue and white agave. They harvest the white nectar by collecting the sap or Aquamiel from the plant over a period of days after the flower has been cut off. “Aguamiel is not the sap of the leaves as some have noted (the sap from the Agave Salmiana leaves contain saponins, raphides and calcium oxalate rendering it inedible).”  The Aquamiel is reduced to sap by a vacuum evaporation process that does not heat the agave above 105 degrees. The white agave is then mixed with blue agave which has had moisture removed through a distilling process that does not go over 113 degrees.

Xagave goes further by adding back in the inuline fiber. The result is an agave syrup that has a glycemic index of 30 (date paste has a GI over 103), and contains Inulin, (a prebiotic fiber, promotes the healthy function of your lower intestine that has also been shown to promote regularity, boost the immune system, increase calcium absorption and increase bone density.) The agave plants that they use come from free trade, organic plants (who’s controls meet the USDA requirements for organic). To read tons more about Xagave, including independent lab tests, click here: Xagave

Personally, I believe that you do need to be careful of the agave that you choose. Research the product that you are buying. Don’t just assume because it is agave, it is raw, organic or produced in a healthy way. But, please, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. In my book, a good, high quality agave, consumed responsibly, can allow us to enjoy a lot of the wonderful treats that we love.

I asked Stephen to respond to some of the points made in the Mercola article. Here is what he said: (his answers are in purple)

“In spite of manufacturer’s claims, agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of its pineapple-like root bulb. The root is comprised mainly of starch, similar to corn, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of fructose molecules. The process by which agave starch and inulin are converted into “nectar” is VERY similar to the process by which cornstarch is converted into HFCS1.”
There is no starch in the agave plant.  The agave plant contains fructans which are broken down into sugars by simply applying low heat.  The process by which it is broken down is not even close.

“The agave starch is converted into fructose-rich syrup using genetically modified enzymes and a chemically intensive process involving caustic acids, clarifiers, and filtration chemicals.”
Xagave is USDA organic certified product and we have a GMO free certification.  Thus the statement that chemicals, genetically modified enzymes and caustic acids is incorrect — with respect to Xagave.  Again, I cannot speak for other brands

In addition the fructose content of Xagave is less than sugar (sucrose), about the same as honey and less than HFCS. In addition, Xagave has less total sugars than the above mentioned sweeteners.

Ok. I wrote the novel. But please…do your own research and make your own decisions. I am not saying there isn’t bad agave out there, I am saying that not all agave is bad.  Please note that I do not have any financial agreement with Xagave at the time of writing this post.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

radioactivegan March 31, 2010 at 10:21 am

Thank you for posting this. I’ve managed to miss all the press about agave, and I’m going to look into it more. Thanks for the heads up!

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Pam March 31, 2010 at 10:30 am

I do use agave, but usually I use stevia….that is my favorite!

Great post…thank you!

xoxo

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Hilary March 31, 2010 at 10:40 am

I am SO glad you wrote this! I had read that previous article that compared agave to HFCS, and I have to admit, I was scared! I have grown to love agave as a sweetener, used in moderation, for my baked goods and raw treats. The thought of having to give it up entirely was so sad! I totally agree with you that some agave is probably better than others, depending on brand and how it is produced. Besides Xagave, are there any other brands you personally recommend and/or use? I’m going to go off and try to do some more research on my own, but would love to hear your opinions on what brands are best! And thanks for shedding more light on this issue, with all the articles out there it can get very confusing!
Best,
Hilary

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Susan March 31, 2010 at 10:53 am

I haven’t had time to research many other products. I do know I am not just going to pick up any agave. I will let you know as I find out more.

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Chantal March 31, 2010 at 10:57 am

Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve been very vocally ranting about that article since it came out but didn’t know how to create a constructive response to it myself. You did just what I was hoping someone would do :)

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Miriam/The Winter Guest March 31, 2010 at 11:00 am

I’ve done my research, but really, knowing the exact process used in the making of agave syrup is not always possible. I use an organic agave syrup brand which seems quite ok. And anyway, if the sweetening power is higher than the sugar’s and I need to add less amount, that’s already quite a good reason for using it.

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Susan March 31, 2010 at 11:02 am

I agree. One of the reasons why I like the Xagave people so much is because they are so transparent about their product…and love talking about it.

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Elena March 31, 2010 at 11:51 am

Good article. I tried agave and it just was not my cup of tea. Like you said, though, moderation is very important. It is one thing to have 1-2 tbs of concetrated sweetener and another drink cupfulls of it. A lot of things can be bad when eaten in excess.

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Audey March 31, 2010 at 11:54 am

I have some Xagave in my cupboard. I’m glad to know that it’s processed so responsibly. Thanks for writing about this, as I’ve been confused about it in the past.

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Leah March 31, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Thank you for this wonderful article…. I will be looking for Xagave! I think I saw it at my local health food store, but had never heard of it, so passed right by it. And now I’m wondering if the agave in my cupboard is good or bad. Yikes. Thanks again!

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Dot D. March 31, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Wow, was not aware of this info circulating. Goes to show you what the FDA and others try to do concerning “real health foods” they don’t want us to use. It’s the same with herbal remedies. Thank you for alerting this reader about it!

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Tanya March 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Thanks for posting this! I’ve been so confused about sweeteners lately after reading so many different articles…including Agave!

This was my post about it: http://tanyascooking.blogspot.com/2010/03/sweeteners-and-vitamin-d.html

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Elizabeth March 31, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Thanks Susan. I have been hearing the same thing about Agave and appreciate you doing the research for me/us!

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Isle Dance March 31, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Thanks so much…and again, I love your blog.

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bitt March 31, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I definitely think there is a difference between brands of agave for sure. I wish there was more quality control over it. And health claims. It does concern me that the main people defending agave are the people who produce it. Thanks for your research.

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Janet March 31, 2010 at 4:58 pm

A very helpful article. Thanks!

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Gabreial March 31, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I just read this article yesterday and it had my head swirling! Thanks for investigating!

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Erin March 31, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I am really, really looking forward to hearing what you find in your agave-brand-research, Susan. I conducted some of my own and have essentially come up empty handed and even more confused than when I started…

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Raw Candy March 31, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful article. The agave-bashing articles that keep popping up this week have been irritating. As with any other source of sugar, the key is always moderation. And frankly, I think a fair amount of the content Dr. Mercola produces is, to be polite, not founded in fact.

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Angie April 1, 2010 at 4:37 am

Howdy !
Thanks for the article, it is very interesting.
But is agave raw ?? I have read so many different things, & some saying it wasn’t.
Is it, then, or is it not in the end ??
I love your blog, keep up the good work !

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Brooke April 1, 2010 at 8:57 am

Wow! I am so happy Xagave took the time to sit down with you and explain their product and to talk about agave in general. I am very impressed by companies who hold themselves to a higher standard. It says a lot in my book when a company is so open about their product that they explain exactly how it is made. I loved their remarks to the Mercola article as well – very, very helpful. I think Xagave is a worthy company to vote for with my dollar.

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Sara April 1, 2010 at 9:33 am

Thanks for writing about this. It really made me mad that they posted this article when not all agaves are created equal. My go to agave is Madhava as it is a high quality agave nectar. I think I may have to try Xagave though, this is not the first time I’ve heard about it.

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Robin April 1, 2010 at 10:40 am

Susan! Once again you have blessed us all! Thanks for doing your homework so we didn’t have too!!! ;-) I appreciate you sharing this valuable info! Kudos to all your hard work!
Have a Blessed day! hugs! Robin :)

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s. April 1, 2010 at 10:54 am

The bad press did have me wondering about agave. Great article.
I love that your blog is a quick, easy, to the point, read with practical info. It is very helpful. Thank you so much.

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Aubree Cherie April 1, 2010 at 11:30 am

Thank you so much for this article… I had read the recent articles on how bad agave is and I was really torn over it! I do use it in baking. I am trying to use less of it and use stevia instead, but it does work so nice for certain dishes! I’ll be checking out Xagave. Thanks again!

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Aleta April 1, 2010 at 11:45 am

Debra Lynn Dadd has posted some great information about Agave, the pro’s and con’s. She also tested the effects of a variety of brands on her own blood sugar and found that there was a wide variation between brands in the blood sugar increase. http://dld123.com/sweetsavvy/sweeteners/summary.php?id=Agave%20Nectar

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Judith April 1, 2010 at 12:13 pm

SO glad to know you are on this as the articles about agave were intimidating and concerning. I had been warned to use the clear not the amber of the agave I was buying at the HFS. Now it all makes perfect sense. It would make sense that there are different ways to process.

Personally, I use a powder of chicolin and stevia – very rounded taste with added agave to further round out the flavor. I get such great results with so little sugar of any kind and no aftertaste and as strong a sweet as I want.

So, challenges are what make us stronger. Thanks for writing your novel, t’was very needed and appreciated.

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Just some ole guy April 1, 2010 at 3:31 pm

What is the GI of sucanat ?

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Pat April 1, 2010 at 11:43 pm

We currently use the Agave sold at Whole Foods called Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave. Does anyone know how this compares to Xagave?

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Susan April 2, 2010 at 7:01 am

I would try calling the company if you have questions about your agave. The Wholesome Organic Blue is sold at a lot of places. I don’t have any information about that.

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Roxanne April 2, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I am really confused now. The Wholesome Sweetners Organic Blue Agave is sold in your shop on this web page. I purchased some from your web page. Now, you say you don’t know anything about it (yet you sell it on your site?) I would love to find an Agave that is sold in glass jars. I am trying to rid myself of all plastics. It’s tough to do. I really want to purchase your desert book when it comes out. Will you please state how many non-agave recipes your book has when you promote the release of it. Thank you :)

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Susan April 2, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I have used Wholesome Organic Blue Agave for a long time. I have not had time to try to contact the company and inquire as to how it is made, etc. It is on my very, very long list.

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ekaterina April 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

can we use xagave in raw recipes? tahnks!

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Susan April 3, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I am using it. The temp during evaporation never goes above 116. You need to weigh the options and make your decisions from there.

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Roxanne April 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Thanks for your response,Susan. As far as all this agave talk goes…I think the air we breathe is simply worse than the worst agave we digest. I’ve decided to use the power of positive thinking, getting enough exercise, eating alot of raw food, spiritual growth, donating to those in need, and knowing that after all is said and done, agave certainly won’t harm me. I’ll be the first in line to purchase a copy of your dessert book. Why? Because I work hard and deserve to make myself some wonderfully lucious desserts using agave! :)
Can’t wait to buy a hard copy of your dessert book!

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Christine April 6, 2010 at 9:24 am

Great article! I received a sample of Xagave recently and was very happy with it. I appreciated all of the literature that the provide to educate you on how they make their product. I wasn’t aware that there were Agave products that were made with less conscious methods though and am glad that you shared about it.
Thanks,
Christine

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Jennie April 7, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I got in touch with Now Foods asking them how their agave nectar is made and this is their reply:

Obtained from the “Pina” or heart of the Agave plant by cutting off the long spiny “leaves”.

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Susan April 8, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Madhave Agave weighs in: http://www.agavemythbuster.com/

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Sheryl April 8, 2010 at 8:21 pm

I use Wholesome Organic RAW Blue Agave like many others here. Because it’s raw, isn’t it fine? It says on the bottle extracted from the heart of the agave plant and produced at a low temperature (less than 118 degrees).

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Susan April 9, 2010 at 7:29 am
Eating Raw Foods Info April 10, 2010 at 9:22 pm

I am a little confused. I don’t know which article you are referring to. I use raw agave syrup and really like it. What is Xagave?

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Susan April 10, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Xagave is a very high quality agave. It was an article that came out recently. I don’t want to give it any move coverage because it was found to be filled with a lot of inaccuracies.

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Stacey April 12, 2010 at 10:18 am

Hi Susan,
The link you gave to the Madhava site points to a myths page … but *this* is the actual page in the site where they specifically respond to Dr. Mercola’s article: http://www.agavemythbuster.com/p/comments-on-dr-mercolas-article.html

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Kyle Weber April 23, 2010 at 2:39 pm

This is exactly what I was wanting to know! Thank you so much! Does anyone know how the brand 365 processes their raw organic agave nectar?

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Laurie April 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Thank you for taking the time to put together this information!

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zach September 6, 2010 at 3:25 am

i use organic raw blue agave. it is unprocessed and comes from somewhere in arizona. is the fact that is unprocessed make it bad? and why? thanks just email me back @ z-bone1986@hotmail.com

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Susan September 6, 2010 at 8:34 am

I have not researched that specific company. I would suggest that you call them and find out how they are processing their agave.

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Mama Bee January 13, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I see this is an old thread…but just wanted to warn about Stevia. If you are allergic to ragweed be very careful of this stuff. My son ate some directly from a packet and his hands and face swelled up, and blisters completely covered his hands and fingers for over a week. It was scary. It was an allergy, obviously. Stevia is in the ragweed family. That may not have happened to him if I had mixed it into food or a drink, but why mess around with this stuff? We love raw agave, hands down!

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