Recently there has been a storm of controversy surrounding agave nectar, an ingredient that I use frequently in my dessert recipes. This controversy seems to have been kicked up by Dr. Mercola, who is generally ahead of the curve when it comes to medical and dietary information. I didn’t say he is always right, I did say “ahead of the curve.”
People such as Dr. Mercola often promote things I heartily believe in such as the consumption of fish oils, large doses of vitamin D, sleep, aerobic and non-aerobic exercise, etc. If you are a proponent of the alternative lifestyle, this stuff is about as controversial as baseball and apple pie.
Alas, I digress. Back to agave. I was somewhat surprised by the vehemence of Dr. Mercola’s article that came out against agave. Both my husband and I read his article, several times over, in order to digest all of the information in it. He does have some good points that I very much agree with. However, we were both curious as to why he went on a rampage against agave. While his article also calls out honey as being worse than HFCS…
Use raw, organic honey in moderation or avoid it completely as it is 70 percent fructose
…he stops at one sentence and does not have a full polemic ranting against honey. Kinda odd. His article was so vicious (and full of generalizations) that we were actually a little bit suspicious (and this is a guy whose advice I generally enjoy) of his motives.
Let’s start at the beginning.
- Agave is a sweetener made from the agave plant
- Agave can be higher in fructose than other sweeteners
- Mangoes are higher in fructose than other fruits
- Mercola states that human beings should consume no more than 15 grams of fructose per day
- Therefore, Mercola states that it is best not to eat anything sweeter than one large apple per day
- If you’re following Mercola’s advice, don’t eat mangoes, they’re too high in fructose
- Mercola cautions against consuming desserts made with sweeteners other than stevia; he also advises against consuming anything more than one apple per day –so forget mangoes
So there you have it. Agave is just another form of sugar and sugar causes inflammation. Back in the day, the old days, that would be, we humans didn’t have access to sugar, let alone fruit, all year long like we do now. We had some apples in the fall, and maybe some tart blueberries in the summer (unless we lived in the tropics).
We are not designed to eat sweets all year round day in and day out.
Then there is dessert. I like my dessert. If you want to follow Mercola’s advice, don’t eat dessert. Or have an apple for your dessert –and goodness gracious, don’t dare to have anything more or sweeter than one large apple the entire day.
Now don’t get me wrong. When I am feeling weaker and need to heal, I give up agave, along with every other sweetener there is and I also give up fruit. Entirely. This is not easy in our sugar shocked culture. This type of eating plan –lean protein and green vegetables has helped me through just about every healing crisis I’ve ever had. I’ve gone without agave for months, at certain points, and fruit too. This plan works well for me and I drink a lot of green juices when I do it. It’s kind of my own Paleo plan.
My family however, is surrounded by a world of sugar. Sugary cakes and cookies served to the boys at school. Teachers who give them candy for answering a question correctly (yes, I wanted to start a protest at the school over this one).
I find that making treats sweetened with agave that use high protein almond flour (I have an entire book of those called The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook) is a fabulous compromise when it comes to the wide world of desserts. However, Dr. Mercola does not want you to compromise. He wants you to eat no more than one apple a day for your total fructose consumption and calls for the use of stevia “in moderation.”
That’s a little extreme for me. So I’m choosing balance. And no, I don’t think that agave can be compared to anti-freeze (as Mercola states). I frankly think he’s a little over the top when it comes to most of that article. Then again, in all movements, political, healthy food, etc. we need all the points of view and they all have a place within the movement. So, thanks Dr. Mercola for your perspective. I’m going to try different sweeteners out on my own body and see which ones suit me best.
Yes, agave does sometimes have a higher percentage of fructose than other sweeteners. However, those mangoes also have more fructose than an apple.
No, I’m not going to go into how fructose is metabolized by the liver and how it can raise your triglycerides to unhealthy levels –by the way, I have my triglycerides tested twice per year and they are off the charts low.
If you don’t like agave, don’t use it. We are all bio-chemical individuals and different things work differently for all of us.
So now you know. Buy good agave from a source you know. I try to know the source of all of my food. Maybe do a little research and find an agave company you like. Or not.
Have a good day, and please, let’s drop the agave focus before it becomes a fetish. There’s plenty of good stuff to eat out there, let’s focus on that.