Friday, July 2, 2010

Agave Blues

Still confused about agave? Don't worry - you're not alone!

Honestly, over the past year or so, "Tell me the truth: is agave good or bad, Diana?" is among the most frequently asked questions I've received as a nutritionist.

Turns out a lot of people in the raw food community got upset after they learned that agave, initially promoted as a 100% raw sweetener, actually wasn't raw.

No one likes being misled...or lied to intentionally. But just because agave isn't raw does not make it the devil. The truth is that raw agave juice would ferment in days, if not hours, so it needs to be processed to be used as a shelf-stable sweetener.

I describe how agave nectar is made and discuss its pros and cons in my booklet Natural and Healthy Sweeteners, which features an entire chapter on agave. To learn more about agave and other natural sweeteners, I really encourage you to read my book! Or you can read this article by raw food nutrition expert, David Wolfe: The Agave Blues. (David references my booklet in the article - exciting!)

In the meantime, here's the sweet low-down on agave:

Agave Pros: low glycemic, pure sweet taste, convenient to use, mixes easily into cold or hot liquids, may contain pre-biotic inulin

Agave Cons: moderate to highly processed, may not be "pure" (some brands spiked with corn syrup or other adulterants, including colors), higher in calories than sugar

Ideally, we wouldn't use ANY sweeteners, ever. Ideally, we'd be living in a tropical paradise: swimming in fresh water all day, soaking up the ozone layer-protected sunshine, sipping young coconut water on the sand and enjoying ripe juicy fruits when we were hungry. (mmmm...Calgon, take me away!)

Back in the real world (which has its Paradise moments, don't get me wrong!) most of us can use sweeteners in moderation and still be healthy. (Moderation means up to a couple of teaspoons of sweeteners per day; some days not at all.) Raw honey and maple syrup top my list. Stevia would be a strong contender if I liked the taste. (I'm just not a licorice person.) And yes, agave is on my shelf. It's great to have on hand and fits the bill perfectly for some recipes.

Personally, I only use and recommend Ultimate Superfoods Ojio brand Organic CLEAR agave because it is the most reliable, best quality, unadulterated (high inulin, moderate fructose, low glucose) organic agave product I have found. Now bottled in a beautiful GLASS jar instead of plastic.

You can buy Ojio Agave at my ✪community superfoods✪ store, at 15% off regular retail price. Open Wednesday nights from 5-7. See you there!

In sweet joy, Diana


Mindy said...

Ooh, I just bought some of the product you describe for the first time recently. I love it. It's sweet, but it tastes really pure and clean, with a very subtle sweetness; and yes, the glass bottle makes it really special. I also enjoy the fact that it doesn't affect the color of a dish when you use it (unlike the dark brown "raw agave" I have used in the past).

Diana Allen, MS, CNS said...

Thanks for stopping by eat2evolve, Mindy! When doing research for Natural & Healthy Sweeteners, I had an impossible time getting a straight answer to my question: what gives the different "grades" of agave their tints? Possibilities included: impurities, heat processing, colorants. One person said that when agave syrup was developed, manufacturers thought the naturally clear color would be a turn-off. Au contraire!

Laura Bruno said...

Thanks, Diana! This is one of the most common questions I get asked, too. ... and congrats on the David Wolfe citation. Maybe a little Sacred Chocolate celebration is in order? xx

Diana Allen, MS, CNS said...

Laura, thanks for the suggestion: I'll accept any excuse for a Sacred Chocolate celebration! (...after White Passion nibbles for breakfast, I'm already there ;-)