Why I NEVER Use Agave

Why I NEVER Use Agave post image

I’ve noticed that many people use agave in their recipes even though they are Real Foodies. I just think they may not have heard the truth about agave. According to Russ Bianchi, executive of a globally recognized food and beverage development company, who lectured about this very subject at the Weston Price Mythbusters conference this past fall, agave is one of the greatest frauds perpetrated on the American people. The high levels of synthesized fructose in agave put people at risk for obesity, heart disease, arterial inflammation, high blood pressure and increased insulin resistance.

Agave is not natural

Agave was developed in the 1990’s and is made primarily in Mexico. There is really no such thing as agave nectar. The sweetener is made from the starchy part of the yucca or agave plant — the roots. Inulin, also a complex carbohydrate, makes up about 50% of the carbohydrate content of agave.

To produce so called agave nectar from the Agave Americana and Tequiliana plants, the leaves are cut off the plant after it has aged 7 to 14 years. Then the juice is expressed from the core of the agave. The juice is filtered, then heated, in order to hydrolyze the polysaccharides into simple sugars. The filtered, hydrolyzed juice is concentrated to a syrupy liquid, slightly thinner than honey, from light colored to dark amber, depending on the degree of processing. (source)

It is a highly processed operation to convert the carbohydrates into a liquid nectar. This is done using caustic acids, clarifiers and filtration chemicals and results in a syrup that is from 70% – 92% pure fructose — even higher than high fructose corn syrup (which is 55%).  This is certainly not a raw product and this entire method can’t be good.

Sally Fallon Morell and Rami Nagel, authors of “Agave Nectar: Worse Than We Thought,” write that obese people who drank fructose sweetened drinks with a meal had blood triglyceride levels 200 times higher than equally obese people who drank glucose-sweetened drinks. Clearly, this indicates that synthesized fructose is very bad for you. Agave nectar is packed with it.

Agave is not traditionally used

The marketing moguls portray agave as part of traditional Mexican culture. Agave as a sweetener from the agave plant is used traditionally in Mexico, but it is quite a different substance than the agave on the markets here.

Called miel de agave or miel de maguey, it is actually made from the sap of the agave plant and it is boiled for hours and reduced much like a maple syrup might be prepared. According to Rami Nagel,

The result is a very dark, thick liquid with a characteristic smell and strong flavor. Even to this day this dark syrup liquid is used to treat several illnesses… The strong syrup has a high concentration of mineral salts such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium, as well as amino acids. It has been consumed since prehispanic times.

This is quite a different substance than the agave nectar marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar and should not be confused as such. This agave has deep, intense flavor that most people would not relish — certainly not those who are used to western sweeteners. They are some small producers of this traditional agave, but you would have to really investigate them and know exactly what their processing procedures are.

Is fructose bad for you?

Since agave is primarily fructose, we need to address the various issues around fructose.

Chemically, fructose is a hexose that is just the mirror image of glucose (an isomer) that is active levo-rotatory, hence the name levulose. In fruit (also known as fruit sugar) levulose is naturally occurring and contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin which all help to digest and assimilate the levulose in the intestine.

In contrast, refined fructose lacks amino acids, vitamins, minerals, pectin, and fiber and is metabolized in the liver where it may be a burden. High fructose corn syrup contains free (unbound), chemically refined fructose. Research indicates that free refined fructose interferes with the heart’s use of key minerals like magnesium.

Concentrated fructose is a burden

Research suggests that fructose actually promotes disease more readily than glucose.  This is because glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body, but fructose must be metabolized by the liver. Animals studies show that the livers of animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty deposits and cirrhosis of the liver.  This is similar to the livers of alcoholics.

These studies show that fructose consumption induces insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, hypertriglycerolemia, and hypertension in animal models.

Fructose and cancer

Dr. Robert Lustig has also spoken a lot about the research that shows the ill effects of consumption of concentrated fructose. Research has shown that in rats when fructose hits the liver with sufficient speed and quantity, the liver will convert much of it to fat. If this occurs chronically, it will induce insulin resistance — a condition that is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity and which leads to heart disease and type II diabetes.

Furthermore, the science suggests that it leads to tumor growth.  Studies have shown that sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)  actually drives the obesity epidemic.

Additionally, many of the researchers also believe that it is sugar in the modern diet that provokes cancer. Current studies have shown that having insulin resistance actually promotes tumor growth, because in this condition the body has to secrete more and more insulin and/or insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and these chronically elevated insulin levels support malignancy.

Other reasons to avoid fructose

Fructose may actually contribute to diabetes.  It reduces the sensitivity of insulin receptors. This raises insulin levels and contributes to metabolic syndrome.

Studies indicate that dietary fructose adversely affects macromineral homeostasis in humans. They suggest further studies are needed to see if a high fructose diet coupled with low dietary magnesium and marginal calcium leads to bone loss.

Consumption of fructose causes a significant increase in the concentration of uric acid. An increase in uric acid can be an indicator of heart disease.

Find more reasons to avoid fructose here.

What does this all have to do with agave?

As stated above, most agave is a highly processed, chemically treated substance that is being hailed as a natural sweetener. In fact, it is not natural at all and has no place in a real food kitchen or for anyone trying to improve their health. It is loaded with synthetic fructose. Naturally occurring levulose found in fruits and some vegetables, also contain enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin. All of these elements make natural levulose healthy.

As usual, we are being fed information from food companies that is incorrect, misleading and downright dangerous to our health.

What about fruit?

With all this talk about the dangers of fructose the question always comes up in reference to fruit. From everything I’ve read so far, I am certain that eating 3 -4 pieces of fruit per day is just fine for most people. Eating it along with other food groups, like protein or fat is the best way to maintain steady insulin levels.

People on ancestral diets did not have access to fruit the way we do and so their consumption was limited. Keep that in mind before chowing down on too much fruit (easy to do in the summer with all the wonderful fruits in season).

What sweeteners should I use?

Raw honey, preferably from a beekeeper in your area is the best sweetener. Medjool dates are also a simple, natural sweetener that is great in baking. Lastly, Grade B maple syrup is also good. The darker grade is full of minerals and preferable to the lighter maple syrup.

If you on SCD or GAPS, honey and dates are the sweeteners of choice because they are simple sugars.

According the the Weston Price Foundation, sucanat or rapadura are also acceptable.

Eat fruit, not a lot, not alone.

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Leave a Comment

  • Mary @ Homemade Dutch Apple Pie July 10, 2012, 9:07 pm

    Great post!! I too cringe when I hear people talk about using agave. It’s NOT healthy.

    • John September 18, 2013, 12:33 pm

      Synthetic agave is not healthy anyway. The real agave syrup is just like maple syrup if I go by what this article has said. It’s just like taking fake maple syrup made out of brown sugar and passing it off as the real thing.

      • Joe Cross November 13, 2013, 11:45 am

        I tend to agree John. Agave isn’t good for you just like every other simple sugar isn’t good for you – honey and maple syrup included. Honey has an even higher sugar content and higher glycemic index, if only a little lower fructose level. And the proclaimed antioxidant content is both limited and dependent on the hive. The best bet is to limit all sugars, instead of hyping or criticizing one over another.

    • house for sale in melaka July 2, 2014, 2:11 pm

      This is a topic which is near to my heart… Best wishes!
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  • Laura @ Stealthy Mom July 11, 2012, 3:49 am

    The irony here is paying big bucks for for fructose. (Let’s pretend, for a minute that there is nothing wrong with fructose….) Corn syrup costs a fraction of the price of agave, though it lacks the fancy packaging. You gotta hand it to the folks in marketing.

  • Tessa@TessaTheDomesticDiva July 11, 2012, 9:01 am

    Yes! I agree whole-heartedly! Although I have to admit..when I originally investigated this more thoroughly and decided it did not belong in my cupboard OR our bodies, I was disappointed to lose a more affordable sweetener…another tick up in my already obscene grocery bill! Thanks for the great info, I have been wanting a to write a post, now I can just share yours!

  • Meagan July 11, 2012, 10:02 am

    GREAT post Jill. Well said! This is a great resource

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  • Susan July 11, 2012, 12:07 pm

    A couple of years ago when I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, I was told to stay away from sugar. My friend, thinking I must be suffering, came over one day with a bottle of agave for me. She went on and on about how healthy it is, blah, blah, blah. I had heard of it, but knew nothing about it, so after she left, I did some research. Within five seconds I learned that it is highly processed, so I threw it away. I didn’t need to know anything more about it. So thanks, Jill, for writing this post! It was loaded with info that I hadn’t bothered to investigate previously. Now if I could only get my girlfriend to wrap her head around this concept….She still passes out bottles of this stuff at Christmas thinking it is the greatest thing ever!

    • Jill July 11, 2012, 2:25 pm

      Hi Susan,
      Yes, it’s amazing how powerful a marketing campaign can be! Good for you for researching before using it! We all need to be our own advocates!

    • Katie Newville June 9, 2013, 1:24 pm

      You sound like a terrible friend

      • Jackie D March 20, 2014, 9:59 pm

        Why, for throwing away an unhealthy gift from a thoughtful but poorly-informed friend? I will sometimes get bottles of alcohol as gifts and I either regift it to a drinker or get rid of it, because I don’t care who gave it to me I don’t drink. I never feel bad for it. No one should.

      • Greg S December 12, 2015, 1:39 pm

        Katie probably gives out agave and crappy Christmas sweaters as gifts…

  • Marly July 11, 2012, 4:41 pm

    I agree, most agave is not good for you, but what about Xagave? My understanding is that it is ok. Do any of you have any experience or data on it?

    • John Thomas July 15, 2012, 12:02 pm

      Xagave is not any better for you than other brand names of Agave. It’s just marketing that makes you think you want it.

      • Stuart Pierce July 21, 2016, 11:35 am

        2 g of fiber per T, 49% fructose, 17% RDA of calcium, and 1% RDA of iron would make Xagave better than most other agave to me.

  • jean July 11, 2012, 4:58 pm

    How DO these companies get away with it?!! Just another reason why I shun processed foods. Give me real garden fresh food. Thanks, Jill!!

  • Rita July 11, 2012, 9:27 pm

    Could you do a piece on the sugar alcohols? Erythrital, xylitol, malitol and sorbitol?

    • Scott July 17, 2012, 8:57 pm

      Erythrital would be an aldehyde if it existed. All alcohols end with the -ol suffix. 90% of it is absorbed into the bloodstream unchanged and excreted. It causes no side effects under any normal circumstances and is perfectly safe.

      The thing with sugar alcohols is that regardless of what they might eventually do given enough intake, those levels are never reached under normal dietary conditions. Occasionally nausea can result depending on individual sensitivity, but barring an allergic reaction, the claims of bloating and gas are generally correlated with rather than caused by sugar alcohol ingestion.

  • Linnae July 11, 2012, 10:55 pm

    Awesome post Jill! I fell into the marketing scheme of “healthy sweetener” and “low glycemic” a couple years ago before I new better and only for a very short period. The agave just made me feel like crap! Now I know why it did- it is crap! 🙂

  • amber July 12, 2012, 12:45 am

    Hi Jill,

    You always share such valuable information! I feel like it’s the soy debacle all over again. For years I thought tofu/soy was so good for me and ate it (a lot of it) when I was a vegetarian. After much research, I learned about the dangers and now will only eat a small amount of soy and only if it’s fermented (miso/tempeh). I should know better about the agave. I will admit I did use a lot of agave when I first learned about it. I still use it now and again, but this post really hit home with me tonight. Thank you for bringing this issue to light for me, Jill! I’ve been in denial about agave for some time. And thank you for sharing on AFW – I was hoping you would.

    Be Well,

    • Jill July 12, 2012, 9:50 am

      Hi Amber,
      Thanks for your kind words. I, too, was fooled by the soy industry for years. I’m sure it contributed a lot to the leaky gut I had. As Sally Fallon says, “practice forgiveness” — and that includes yourself. We all do the best we can at the time — with the information available to us.

      That is why it is so important to me to get the word out about “real” nutrition.

      • amber July 17, 2012, 11:59 am

        Yes! And I love you for that. You’re awesome lady. Your food lifestyle and food/health values are so inline with mine that I wholeheartedly trust your opinion! I appreciate having you as a reliable resource. 🙂 Big cyberspace hug.

      • littlefish March 1, 2015, 12:34 am

        Lol. Fooled by the soy industry. Fooled by the meat and dairy industry into thinking soy is bad, more like. Where is the peer reviewed, scientific literature to support your claim? Sure, highly processed soy like milk, cheese, etc. are not healthful, but organic tempeh, tofu, and miso, are fine. You seem to be spreading more misinformation, unfortunately. Or maybe you just didn’t clarify, more specifically, what it is that you’re trying to say? You can be ‘sure’ that it ‘may’ have contributed to your health issues, well, you can’t, actually, but be mindful of what you promote for others.

  • Elise July 12, 2012, 2:09 pm

    Thank you for this! I read about the refining process of agave nectar when I first started hearing about the new fad, and decided to stay away from it. Then when I became pregnant, I read that it should be avoided during pregnancy. Major red flags there!

  • Kathryn Elsayed July 12, 2012, 5:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing this important information. I have many recipes that call for this, and perhaps it’s good that I can’t get it now. Thanks also for telling people what they can use as a substitute in recipes.

  • Jen July 13, 2012, 8:24 am

    Good info Jill. Thanks for sharing. I also used Agave about 2 years back but realized that it was just no good about 1 1/2 years ago. I still have leftover unused bottles in my pantry. I have a hard time throwing it away for some reason. . . .

    • terre July 24, 2012, 8:08 am

      dump it in your garden-they’ll take care of it and extract any benefit

  • Kate July 13, 2012, 10:03 am

    Thank you for the very informative article!

  • Kendra | Our Homemade Happiness July 13, 2012, 10:30 am

    I’d read once that agave was super processed so it’s good to hear it from another source. Thanks for the great info!

  • Diane Balch July 13, 2012, 12:55 pm

    I’m glad I never tried the product. I just use straight sugar any kind of fructose makes me light headed. Have you heard anything about Stevia. I know at one time they thought it could be bad for your liver.

    • shiggie July 17, 2012, 7:18 pm

      There was a study that was highly criticized, and done in such a way that distilled water would be shown to be harmful to your liver.

      I don’t think you can get much more natural than stevia. I just toss in a leaf or two for some added sweetness. (Of course, you can get it processed, too. And that’ll depend on the processing method.)

  • Winelady Cooks July 13, 2012, 1:54 pm

    Hi Jill, I just came from MomTrends Friday Food and clicked on your picture. I’ve been using agave for about 6 months thinking it was better than white sugar. I didn’t do my due diligence on it but decided to give it a try when I read several recipes from so-called healthy food bloggers who were using it. I just never thought to research it.

    Thank you so much for sharing this information with everyone. I’m now troubled as to how I can add a sweetener to my dessert recipes. I just might try dates and the maple syrup. It’s back to recipe testing and hope I can get the kids to like my cookies.

    Thanks again for sharing,

    • katy July 17, 2012, 4:04 pm

      Agave and white sugar are the same thing. They are both fructose based ingredients and neither are healthy for you. Give your kids a piece of fruit instead of a cookie. They will thank you later.

      By the way, to the author of this post, fruit is not just full of sugar. It’s also full of fiber and other vitamins and minerals that your body needs. It’s a complete LIE that fruit needs to be eaten in moderation.

      See: http://www.discovergoodnutrition.com/index.php/2011/02/the-truth-about-sugars-in-fruit/

      • Rich July 20, 2012, 1:04 pm

        White sugar is sucrose, not fructose.

      • Bob Candelaria July 25, 2016, 2:55 am

        The key to a healthy lifestyle is “Moderation” in “ALL THINGS”!!! People have even died from water in excess, such as in a water drinking contest!!!

  • Chantal July 13, 2012, 6:04 pm

    Thanks for the article. Ayurvedic perspective warns against baking with honey. Do you know anything about baking with honey having negative effects on arterial health? Beyond Ayurveda, I find no source to support that claim.
    Thanks again!

  • Linda July 14, 2012, 2:18 am

    Hi Jill,
    I’m wondering what the difference is between agave and raw agave. I thought the raw was significantly less processed. Would love to know the difference.

  • Dr Dave Frahm July 15, 2012, 8:58 am

    In my work with food substances I make it a point to withhold opinions, and simply acquire the body’s feedback about how it responds bio-electrically to a substance presented it….via muscle response testing. Everyone I’ve ever tested always tests strong to Agave, all forms. In that light, it makes my list of “good guy” sweeteners. Maple syrup always tests weak, but recently I found Agave Maple, and it always tests well. Yay. Dr. Dave Frahm, ND, MH, CNC

  • JOAN July 15, 2012, 9:22 am

    I have written about this issue in my blog in 2010. Ultimately, moderation and conscious choice is the way we ned to lead our lives. I also agree with Dr Frahm’s comments above.


  • Susan V July 15, 2012, 7:19 pm

    Thanks for the great post! I’ve shared this on my fb page: https://www.facebook.com/learningandyearning.

  • William July 15, 2012, 7:38 pm

    I have been using agave for many years to replace sugar in almost everything. It has no fat, no sodium, total carbs is 16g, and sugars are 16g. I lose weight when I work out and run. Plus I do not really eat that much of anything fattening nor do I use the products that are in place of sugar because they all taste horrible and can be damaging to the body. Agave is USDA ORGANIC!

  • Libby July 16, 2012, 11:39 am

    Sugar is sugar..

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  • Brandis July 16, 2012, 12:44 pm

    Awesome post! No, sugar is not sugar, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to explain that here and now. And I always wonder how in the heck people who “don’t eat anything fattening” end up responding to a post on a real/traditional foods blog. Sigh.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I share your post. I was luckily only pulled into the agave trap for like 2 seconds- I bought a bottle, used about a third of it, and then read a well researched article on Mercola.com (and no, I’m not that easily swayed, I’m actually pretty wary of anything posted on Mercola, at least until I hear it elsewhere). So I threw it away. I always thought it tasted too fakely sweet to be a good option anyway.

  • Billie July 16, 2012, 12:53 pm

    Organic soy is very good for you. Only if you have an allergy to it will it cause leaky gut. Gluten could also be a culprit. Also you should absolutely eat fruit alone 30 minutes before or after a meal. Fruit tends to digest quickly if it is eaten with another meal it will ferment and puttify in the gut especially with meat protein, which is very bad within itself. Billie m. NC

  • melanie keck July 16, 2012, 2:36 pm

    I knew it! I had not investigated yet, but I had a feeling that this was not as good as it sounded. I stick to time tested old fashioned fruits and veg grains etc. food that is nature made. Our world food should come from nature not a chemical plant. As a society we have come to believe whatever is marketed to us. He who has the most money and markets the best wins. People don’t really get it. Thank you for your post and real information about it all.

  • Carey July 16, 2012, 3:00 pm

    Two questions: 1) What about coconut sugar/palm sugar? It is supposedly low glycemic and made from the sap of coconut blossoms. It is a traditional Thai sugar. We use that and sucanat. We used to use Rapadura, but it’s apparently not gluten free… oops.

    2) I have the same question about honey and ayurveda. I hope it’s OK in tea, which is different than boiling it. But in baked goods? What is harmful about it? Has any research verified this ayurvedic belief that it is toxic when cooked? The old Vermont Folk Medicine classic says it’s better than maple syrup, judging by testing the acid/alkaline balance of urine in people who eat both.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Savy naturalista July 16, 2012, 3:32 pm

    Thank you so much for this article! I was looking to try agave since I am on a weight loss journey. I was looking for sweeteners other than sugar and honey to use. I will not be wasting my time or money on agave. Thank you!! 🙂

  • Jerna July 16, 2012, 3:35 pm

    I’m sticking with plane ol’ cane sugar, just less of it. So lovely and simple.

    • Mia Hess July 23, 2012, 12:59 pm

      I’m with you, Jerna, good old cane is fine. I’m really glad to read this about agave and I have heard soy is troublesome too!

      I’m sorry but there is nothing quite like a home-made Toll House Cookie….I know because I have a gluten free, lactose challenged niece I’m always devising desserts for that don’t taste like crap!

      I’m really reading labels and watching out for fructose, anything with “ese” and “ose”. I am an omnivore, trying to buy local, humane, all that —– just trying to eat less of everything and exercise more.

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        I also read that when pigs get loose in a slaughter plant, they go around and let all the other pigs out of their pens.
        Just interesting reading, and I’m just saying. Plus.. most meat has been dead for 30 days plus. Yum!

  • Rose July 16, 2012, 5:03 pm

    A few years ago I started using agave nectar as an alternative to sugar, thinking that it was healthier. Then I started gaining weight, and not just a little weight either. Over the course of 6 months I gained 40 pounds. I didn’t think that the agave nectar could be contributing to it, because of the “all natural” label slapped on it. After going to the doctor and finding out I had insulin resistance it occurred to me that I had done this to myself, using agave nectar as a catalyst. However, that was a (positive) life changing event for me, because if I had not gone through this and started to educate myself about the food I eat I never would have found the WAPF and started eating real food.

    • Jill July 16, 2012, 7:19 pm

      Hi Rose,
      That is an incredible story. So glad you found WAPF and I hope you have forgiven yourself for something you do not know about.

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  • Tiffany @ DontWastetheCrumbs July 16, 2012, 6:12 pm

    Visiting from Hey What’s for Dinner… I appreciate you taking the time to explain what agave nector truly is. It’s incredible how some clever advertising and misconceptions can trick us into consuming things that are truly destructive to our bodies. A great example how we should all do our due diligence when it comes to researching what truly is healthy and “real.”

  • Conor Brown July 16, 2012, 8:35 pm

    Russ Bianchi, the main source of information for this article, is not a credible: not only is the science behind his conclusions misleading, but almost all Agave on the market now is made using completely different processes, from a different species of Agave, than he was referring to.

    • Jill July 16, 2012, 9:18 pm

      Hi COnor,
      Russ Bianchi is not the only source I have used. What makes you say he is not credible? He works in the industry and knows how it operates.

      • Tui September 14, 2013, 3:11 pm

        Readers should be aware that Bianchi is actively marketing competing products without disclosing the full ingredients or nutrition information, and he was successfully sued in 2006 for attempting to appropriate the chemical formula for a low-calorie sweetener called “Replace.

  • MaryClare July 16, 2012, 8:48 pm

    Fruit is a complex food and w/the entire fruit being consumed, sugar uptake is slowed down by the fiber, skin, seeds, etc. of the fruit. Fruit requires at least 20+ minutes to digest and should ALWAYS be consumed before meals as in the a.m. Otherwise it interferes w/protein and carbohydrate digestion. It requires different enzymes than meats, starches, and vegetables therefore should not be combined w/these foods. Eat fruit alone or leave it alone…

    As far as low-glycemic sweeteners, coconut sugar is an excellent choice, although not as sweet as sugar so takes some getting used to. It tastes like brown sugar and is wonderful in baked goods for ex…Xylitol, from the birch tree, is also good, however, caution is advised to be sure no pets ever ingest any as it is difficult for them to metabolize and therefore hard on their liver. I usually stick to coconut palm sugar and sometimes will use ginger syrup or maple syrup on my pancakes or added to a recipe.

    • Jill July 16, 2012, 9:23 pm

      Hi MaryClare,
      I wonder where this particular wisdom comes from? That fruit should ONLY be consumed in the AM and only alone? As far as the enzymes go — there are hundred upon thousands of different enzymes operating at any given moment in metabolism. To say that because the enzymes for digestion of fruit are “different” is ridiculous. Every different molecule requires a different enzyme — they are all operating there at the same time whether they are for fruit, protein, starches, etc.

      In fact, everything in nature is made up of a multitude of different substrates that require different enzymes all working at once.

    • Mia Hess July 23, 2012, 1:03 pm

      Xylitol, like sorbitol, now in most gums, will give most people GAS! Me included!!

      What the heck is wrong with plain old cane sugar?? My grandparents lived to be in their 90s and they had plain old sugar…..

      • Munchkin November 11, 2012, 9:05 am

        I agree, not much wrong with sugar if it’s used in moderation, and not in moderation that we think of today, but very little sugar, like our grandparents used, there are statistics and graphs showing how much less sugar was used back then, and they probably at more natural foods, so it balanced itself out.

        • Nancy December 7, 2012, 10:19 pm

          When our grandparents ate sugar, it was “evaporated cane” that was not processed and still had trace minerals. It wasn’t the processed white table sugar, stripped of all the minerals that most people refer to as sugar nowadays. It’s the same difference between using “real salt” (Celtic Sea Salt, for instance) vs what is called just “salt” nowadays.

      • Barbara April 2, 2013, 4:09 pm

        There is also the modern problem of sugar being made from genetically modified plants.

  • steve July 16, 2012, 9:00 pm

    Coconut palm sugar is great, I’m sure, but its not sustainable…if you are making sugar from its sap, the tree cannot produce coconuts…which do you want?…the sugar or all the other great products from healthy, viable, coconut trees? See this article for the full story:
    So…choose better sweeteners, which are more sustainable, like honey or maple syrup, as noted by the author. Enjoy!

  • Jen July 16, 2012, 11:33 pm

    Totally agreed, I have also blogged on this topic. Agave has such a health halo around it! I would also love to hear your review of different sweeteners. I have tested out coconut palm sugar, xylitol and date syrup: http://firststepnutrition.com/coconut-palm-sugar-xylitol-date-syrup-reviews

  • Debby July 17, 2012, 7:28 am

    wow…I use agave syrup thinking that it’s more natural and better than say muscovado sugar…I thought it was as good as honey. I use dates in baking to sweeten but will now use honey or maple syrup instead of agave.

  • George July 17, 2012, 11:06 am

    This article isn’t convincing at all. What about RAW agave before all the processing? Where’s info on that?

    • Jill July 17, 2012, 11:48 am

      Hi George,
      The info isn’t there because there is no RAW agave. In order to be sweet it has to be heated to hydrolyze the fructosans into fructose. And just because it is marketed as raw doesn’t mean it is good for you!

      • Maria Paray July 20, 2012, 5:56 pm

        I just looked at my bottle from Trader Joe – says organic raw blue agave. The only ingredient is organic agave nectar. It is a dark amber color. I’m confused. So they cook it to make the nectar – but they can still call it raw? That doesn’t sound right. I may have to give them a call tomorrow.

      • Tui September 14, 2013, 3:18 pm

        Yes there is! To be considered ‘raw’ it must not be heated about 115 degrees Fahrenheit. There are a number of agave products that meet this criteria, Xagave, is but one.

  • Jason Williams July 17, 2012, 11:57 am

    Here’s a more moderate and somewhat opposing view on the agave debate: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400722/Is-Agave-Syrup-Dangerous.html

  • Heidi July 17, 2012, 12:41 pm

    I read you article, thought it was good. I have been having my kids use agave instead of artificial syrups on the market. So I clicked on the icon of where to buy real sweeteners and agave was the first on the list. So you don’t use it but you promotes first on the list? I don’t get it.

    Why are you still selling this product if you are against it?

    • Jill July 17, 2012, 1:53 pm

      Hi Heidi,
      Good point. This is a great company that sells a lot of products — most of which are excellent quality and in line with my very high standards.

      I am not selling this product. I do not have control over every single product my suppliers sell. This is one product I would not buy from this company and neither should you after reading this article.

  • Bart Rood July 17, 2012, 3:46 pm

    “If you on SCD or GAPS . . . ”

    You forgot a word.

  • Rachel July 17, 2012, 3:52 pm

    Agave nectar is fructose, which is sugar, which is bad for you in any form. It doesn’t matter whether you get fructose from agave, honey or regular table sugar, it’s all sugar and it’s all bad for you in large amounts. Yes, the marketing departments have duped people into thinking that agave is healthier, but you should realize that honey and any other sweetener is just another form of sugar and is therefore bad for you. It doesn’t matter where it comes from!

    Also, the first section of the article about how agave nectar is made is incorrect. You quoted wikipedia (which should never be used as a source in the first place) and you doesn’t understand that all packaged food needs to be processed in some way. If you read the patent, you will find that the agave needs to be filtered and clarified, otherwise it has toxic substances in it. They don’t use the acids (sulfuric and hydroflouric) stated anymore because of the newest advances in technology. They now use enzymes, filtration and centrifuges to separate out the final product from the starting product. Otherwise, if they didn’t use these techniques, you would get a gross mess that wouldn’t be a nice final product. It’s the same thing with any other processed item you buy at the store.

    Just remember that sugar is sugar, no matter which way they advertise it.

    *Credentials: BS in Chemistry, working towards MS in Nutritional Science.

    • Jill July 17, 2012, 4:57 pm

      Hi Rachel,
      BS in chemistry notwithstanding, it does matter where the fructose comes from because if it is synthesized artificially it does not have the natural fiber, enzymes and other nutrients that are in, say, honey. For instance, raw honey has beneficial enzymes.

      The most important point is that agave is VERY high in fructose — higher than HFCS — which is a burden on the liver.

      Most people will not give up all sweeteners. It’s important to be informed about what are the best choices.

      Finally, I chose Wikipedia as a source, because most other sources say the same thing.

      • Leandro November 25, 2014, 5:52 pm

        Honey is not a food. It is just a (non ethical) remedy, used in the preparation of a drink to provoke vomit.

  • Lisa Keller-Johnson July 17, 2012, 10:47 pm

    Thanks! My Mom read your article and made me aware. I’ve only used Agave a relatively short time. I’m disappointed and will now go back to almost strictly using Stevia which I use mostly but will now do away with Agave. Thanks, again!

  • jillian July 18, 2012, 12:16 am

    Thanks for this! I knew agave was highly processed and not allowed on SCD, but I didn’t really know why!

  • Dana July 18, 2012, 10:38 am

    Thanks for this helpful information! I had already stopped using agave, but I didn’t know all of these details.

    I have seen some people recommend coconut crystals or coconut “nectar” as wholesome, natural, low-glycemic sweeteners. What do you know about these products?

  • marcus July 18, 2012, 10:49 am

    many of the points in the article are not exactly true.
    i am preparing a document i will post offering a counter point to your argument.

  • Tory July 18, 2012, 11:58 am

    I work with Producers of Agave down in Mexico for the purpose of producing Mezcal and first let me say Agave is Natural and it comes from the Maguey or Agave plant. The way Agave is cooked for the purpose of Mezcal is natural as well. It’s called Cooked Agave and I’ve watch them do it with my own eyes. You can eat it like candy once it’s cooked because the cooking process converts the starchy Agave Pina into Sugars. I don’t know about the process for producing Agave Sweetner or if it’s natural. This is all very interesting information so thanks for bringing up the topic. I recently brought back a jar of Mel de Agave or Agave Honey and it is much different than what you might buy at Trader Joe’s. Perhaps we’re just being sold the hi-frucose version in the US. I did ask our Master Mezcalier her thoughts and she commented, “Mmmmm I say this is BS… The agave nectar obtained by cooked agave has been used for more than a millennium… That was the only sugar source the indigenous had… And also it is easier for the body to process. Maybe the way they obtain it now is different, but still both are similar sugars and starches.” My final comment, change change your title to “Why I never use agave sweetner” otherwise its incredible insensitive to many Mexicans and perhaps investigate if there is difference between the Mel de Agave we can get here in Mexico and what’s being sold as Agave Sweetner there in the U.S.

    • Jill July 18, 2012, 2:46 pm

      Hi Tory,
      Thanks for this information about the true Mexican Miel de Agave. I guess you missed the part of the article in which I stated all that. I hope your Mexican friends did not, as I do not wish to be “insensitive” to anyone.

      This is from the article and may be found in paragraphs 6 – 8.

      “Called miel de agave or miel de maguey, it is actually made from the sap of the agave plant and it is boiled for hours and reduced much like a maple syrup might be prepared. According to Rami Nagel,

      The result is a very dark, thick liquid with a characteristic smell and strong flavor. Even to this day this dark syrup liquid is used to treat several illnesses… The strong syrup has a high concentration of mineral salts such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium, as well as amino acids. It has been consumed since prehispanic times.

      This is quite a different substance than the agave nectar marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar and should not be confused as such. This agave has deep, intense flavor that most people would not relish — certainly not those who are used to western sweeteners. They are some small producers of this traditional agave, but you would have to really investigate them and know exactly what their processing procedures are.”

  • Tanya Sahota July 18, 2012, 12:25 pm

    Thank you! Wasn’t aware of this and we are all about educating on how to end sugar addiction.

  • Beth @ Aunt B's Kitchen July 18, 2012, 4:08 pm

    Thank you for this well written piece. I’m sharing a link to your post on my FB page today.

  • mnchick July 18, 2012, 4:11 pm

    Agave nectar is not the enemy. Look, sugar is sugar in any form and obese people are obese because they overeat and are not active. Sure, they have marketed Agave Nectar to be a healthier alternative to sugar. In a way, isn’t it? Does it not have a lower glycemic index than regular sugar? That’s good right? They have also touted that high-fructose corn syrup is the Devil when really, that too is simply just sugar. My point is that for every time “they” come out with something touting its health benefits or the perils of eating certain things, there is always going to be someone to counter that with “why it’s bad for you” or with “why it’s good for you and not so different than ______ so eat it anyhow…”

    • K July 18, 2012, 4:49 pm

      The problem with your logic here is that, to use your example, high fructose corn syrup is not “just sugar.” HFCS is made through an intensive process (versus honey, which is sometimes sold without an processing at all!). To make matters worse, genetically-modified corn is generally utilized to make it, which could have negative consequences apart from the insalubrious nature of HFCS itself.

      “They,” being the companies that sell “healthy” food, are corporations just the same. The best thing to do is to do lots of research, as Jill has done here, and try to understand what the thing “they” are touting is, and if it is really healthy. In this case, I think Jill has clearly done her research, explained both sides of the argument, and reached the conclusion that agave is, in fact, highly processed and not as desirable as a sweetener as, say, raw honey.

    • Valerie July 23, 2012, 6:03 am

      Watch the YouTube video of Dr. Robert Lustig on fructose. He gets all technical and explains precisely why fructose (processed, not naturally occurring in a piece of fruit) is poison. He presented his research to a man who had been involved in the fructose business for 15 years, and after looking at Dr. Lustig’s findings, said to his horror, that he was correct, fructose is a poison.

    • Mia Hess July 23, 2012, 1:17 pm

      Respectfully disagreeing here about HFCS….it is totally different than sugar. try and find something that DOESN’T have it in its ingredients!

      HFCS breaks down and processes in your body totally different that pure cane sugar does. It is found in so many processed food nowadays that it’s hard to get away from it!

      If you go on an “ose/ese” free diet and I have—that eliminated all breads, pasta, potatoes and CORN which turns into sugar in your body. Very hard diet to live by, and I was recommended to only be on for 2 months and then gradually introduce things like pasta, potatoes etc. That was where I learned to read labels and to make my own mac and cheese..

      If I need energy during a long cycling event, I will chug a cup of iced coffee with 2 sugar packets in it. Many pro cyclist do this to give them a jolt during an event.

      The obesity problem is due to people eating too many processed food with HFCS, eating too much food in general and NOT exercising.

      Honey, if it’s nice, natural or raw stuff, is great IF you like the taste (I don’t), so is Maple Syrup! I think Maple Syrup is nectar from the gods myself.

      I don’t know about molasses (like black strap) but that’s long been used in baking as sub for sugar.

  • Alicia July 18, 2012, 6:01 pm

    I’m so tired of alarmist anti-agave nonsense. I don’t use much because I am perfectly happy with sugar (gasp! how can I still be breathing?!), honey, maple syrup, fruit and so on, but I’m not all freaky about it and it can be a nice product in some raw recipes. Here’s a great article about the process at one agave plant. The woman actually went to a Mexican factory and photographed and wrote about every step of the process instead of blindly following Weston Price gurus or reposting from other internet sources. She also clears up some misconceptions (like the color is largely dependent on the filter type, not the processing, there are not any additives at all that are added to that particular company’s agave, and fructose is also the sugar in FRUIT). http://www.gnosischocolate.com/agave-report#

    • Rachel July 18, 2012, 6:41 pm

      Great article! Totally agree with you about the whole alarmist anti-agave nonsense!

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  • Michael July 19, 2012, 11:46 am

    Interesting article. A few things bother me about it: the first comes in the very beginning of the article, “According to Russ Bianchi, executive of a globally recognized food and beverage development company, who lectured about this very subject at the Weston Price Mythbusters…” and the continual references to “marketing” throughout the article when talking about Agave’s ability to become so popular and fool the people.

    Of course a major food and beverage company is going to say Agave is bad and try and find all kinds of “evidence” skewed or otherwise to keep people buying their products – talk about marketing. The food and beverage companies are huge marketing empires trying to keep us addicted to sodas with either sugar or NutraSweet (aspartame) – which is pure poison. Again, talk about marketing!

    So, based on the source of the information I am very skeptical that we have been given a full picture, but a carefully manufactured and processed and highly marketed rendition.
    Is Agave the wonder substitute, probably not – it’s just that, a substitute. We really need to learn how to curb our sweet tooth instead of seeking substitutes.

  • Kristen @ For The Love Of Fiber July 19, 2012, 1:40 pm

    GREAT post! I’ve been steering my clients away from agave for a while now, have had an article on the very subject in my bucket list, and now you’ve answered my prayers ’cause I don’t have to do it now. 🙂 Thanks for the comprehensive breakdown. This has been bookmarked and will be shared liberally! 🙂

  • Maria July 19, 2012, 3:07 pm

    Hi Jill,

    Thanks for this informed piece. what do you think about xylitol? There are a lot of raw chocolate recipes that ask for it.

    • Valerie July 23, 2012, 5:53 am

      My functional med doc doesn’t have a problem with me using it, but it is a laxative, & can cause stomach discomfort for some if not used in small amounts. A book you may be interested in is “Kiss Your Dentist Good-bye!” written by Ellie Phillips, DDS. I have been using xylitol orally (Tom’s toothpaste & Biotene) and eating 6 g. of granulated xylitol a day, and I can actually see my teeth getting whiter. They are still yellowish (sorry, Yuk!), but are getting better day by day.

  • Chavo Cheque July 19, 2012, 3:30 pm

    Thanks for the article, great topic. I don’t dispute the main argument here – I simply don’t understand the underlying nutritional science to have an opinion.

    BUT, since this is a plant that is close to my heart (I’m a tequila and mezcal specialist), I must make a few observations.

    1) “Agave” is a plant. Or rather, a cluster of around 200 closely related plants. It drives me nuts to hear people call the syrup “agave.” Do we pour “maple” on our pancakes. Annoying enough when bartenders do it, I would hope plant folks would take more care!

    2) Agave is not yucca. They are both agavaceas. End of story. Again, frustrating coming from a plant-y source.

    3) It is my understanding that most agave syrup IS produced in diffusors, with chemicals. But it is not _necessary_ to use “caustic acids, clarifiers and filtration chemicals.” I know of at least one product that is produced by cooking the agave (plant) with steam, just as in tequila production. As a sidenote, the author (who it sounds like has never tasted “real” traditional agave syrup) greatly overstates the difference in taste between the natural and processed products.

    4) Doesn’t everyone know sugar is bad for you? I don’t use this stuff to be healthy. I use it to sweeten cocktails. Which are also bad for you. 🙂

    Thanks, and salud!

    • Jill July 19, 2012, 3:50 pm

      Hi Chavo,
      Thanks for the information. I just became aware of how complicated and interesting the production of tequila is!

      I have never tasted “real, traditional agave syrup” — i hope it is good.

      • Chavo Cheque August 20, 2012, 12:32 pm


        Thanks again for the article, and for your response to my comment. If you are ever interested in visiting this unique region of the world, to learn first-hand about the hundreds of agave species, the production of tequila, mezcal and agave nectar, please let me know! http://www.ExperienceTequila.com

        Salud, y gracias!

  • Aunti July 19, 2012, 10:13 pm

    I’d like to see you give us detailed information on the use of Stevia as a sweetener. What about sweetening with juices like pear, apple, or carrot? What are the dangers of using those as sweeteners.

    I appreciate the info about Agave, which I never liked anyhow, for some reason, but I would really like to know more about other sweeteners besides honey and the dates. Thanks.

    • Bob Candelaria July 25, 2016, 3:34 am

      As in a previous reply post to someone else, moderation in all things is the key to a healthy life style!
      Fruit juice and their concentrates are essentially like white sugar, that is you’re concentrating the sugar(and removing the fiber) so you’re making it less and less healthy instead of being moderate. That is unless what you’re mixing it into highly dilutes it to even a lower concentration of sugar than juice witches almost like drinking soda as far as sugar content!!! Consider this, could you eat the number of pieces of fruit that it would take to make a 12 ounce glass of juice??? After that 3 – 6 pieces of fruit could you eat anything else?

  • Rich July 20, 2012, 1:01 pm

    Fructose is not the mirror image of glucose. The mirror image of D-glucose is L-glucose. Although the research is mixed, it really is not really clear that fructose is worse than glucose. It might be, but the evidence is mixed.

  • Kellie Hill July 20, 2012, 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the information. Although I don’t use or recommend agave I’d never taken the time to really learn how it was processed. Appreciate the article.

  • Crystal July 20, 2012, 2:36 pm

    Congrats! Your post was my #5 most clicked post in the Mommy Club this past week! I’m always blown away by your information.

    Thanks for sharing and stop on over and see your feature. I can’t wait to see what you share this week!


  • Jo July 22, 2012, 9:50 am

    I had a prof while at University that taught an Anthropology lecture on what early man’s diet consisted. Many of us were surprised to learn that if you added all the sugars an early human could find and consume in their natural environment up, it would equal a small (not the tiny Halloween size and smaller, just not the giant size) Snickers bar! If that is all our bodies can handle then, what does that say about what we are doing to ourselves by consuming mass quantities of sugars? Even a hundred years ago sugars were rare and a birthday cake and sweetened foods were truly special! We might go months without consuming the amount we do today in just an afternoon.

  • Jill July 22, 2012, 11:53 am

    Hi Jo,
    I so agree. Chronic health problems arise from the food we eat — which is why there is such an epidemic of chronic health problems today. But realistically, how many people do you know can go without some sweetened foods? It is very hard to remove sweeteners of all kinds from the diet. The least we can do is try to use the most natural forms and in small increments.

  • Michelle July 22, 2012, 12:59 pm

    Wow, I had no idea. I’m always looking for natural sugar substitutes and I had heard this was best next to stevia! Thanking for informing us of how bad it really is! This thanks by the way is from a family prone to Diabetes.

  • Gen July 22, 2012, 3:54 pm

    What’s wrong with organic agave, it’s not processed synthetically. Most corn syrup is a by-product of bt toxin and is genetically modified so I wouldn’t trust that at all.

  • Skylor @ Sprouthealthlifestyle July 23, 2012, 12:25 am

    Awesome break down of agave! My question is this- I’ve read that fruit and protein together can be problematic because protein breakdown happens earlier in digestion than fruit- which can hold fruit up and cause fermentation. Thoughts?

  • Valerie July 23, 2012, 5:40 am

    I LOVE Dr. Robert Lustig! He has a (rather lengthy, grab your laundry basket) YouTube video on fructose everyone should watch. Perhaps that is what you are linked to above. To put it simply: fructose is poison. My functional med. doc. said no to agave – he advises only honey, maple syrup, dates, xylitol & stevia. I am so concerned with what children are fed these days, popsicles, fruit snacks, fruit juice, cereals, cereal bars, and of course candy, many of which are full of fructose. I’m fearful many will have cirrhosis of the liver (or worse) by the time they are adults. I love a quote I just read in Reader’s Digest: “Chronic disease is a foodborne illness. We ate our way into this mess, and we must eat our way out. – Mark Hyman, MD, huffingtonpost.com” Truer words were never spoken. We need to stop looking for the ‘magic pill’ to cure our ills, and get down to the basics – eating real food and getting real nutrition, not just filling up our stomachs with who knows what. It will be 2 years in August since I was ‘educated’ and therefore ‘sugar’ free. Another plus to the natural sugars I listed above, you really don’t have cravings. And for the chocoholics out there – making your own is easy! About 1 tsp.-1 T. coconut oil, 2 c. maple syrup, 8 oz. 100 percent cacao bakers chocolate. Melt in a double boiler till the right consistency, stirring often. I like to dip pecans in. Yum! Great article!

  • Swathi July 23, 2012, 11:19 am

    Very nice post, I use agave nectar rarely. Thanks for sharing with Hearth and Soul blog hop.

  • Alaine @ MY GF & DF LIVING July 24, 2012, 9:21 am

    I had no idea about agave before I read the article posted link on the Gluten Free Pantry. I will definitely not be using agave anymore. Thanks for the great article! It really helps break it down and put it in simple terms.

  • Patrick July 29, 2012, 1:26 am

    Well… I am bummed out because I fell for the marketing at least 3 or 4 years ago and will dump out the Agave nectar I have… BUT… Real Food Forager needs to get it’s act together a little. I clicked on the “Where to buy natural sweeteners” link at the end of the article… and it directed me to a company that sells… AGAVE NECTAR!!!!! :-# (my “GRRR!!!” emoticon) Other than honey is there ANY good sweetener. I have also been buying some kind of Fair Trade raw sugar hoping it was okay. :-/

    • Jill July 29, 2012, 6:34 am

      Hi Patrick,
      Good point. This is a great company that sells a lot of products — most of which are excellent quality and in line with my very high standards.

      I am not selling this product. I do not have control over every single product my suppliers sell. This is one product I would not buy from this company and neither should you after reading this article.

      Stevia is another natural product that is a good sweetener alternative. But be careful which one you buy — here is my post on stevia:


  • Greg July 29, 2012, 8:44 am

    What about stevia? IS it ok? I use mostly honey or stevia.

    I had thought about trying Agave but now I don’t think I will.

  • Lisa L. July 29, 2012, 3:44 pm

    About the fruit…yes in moderation. First of all its sugar is fructose and it raises blood sugar. Too much of a good thing is not good. The standard american diet is full of sugar and too much of it. The constant (3 or more times a day) eating of wheat (turns to sugar in the body) and sugar (fructose, glucose, sucrose, HFCS) causes the body to release insulin. The constant blood sugar highs and lows don’t help the body and can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. Read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. I don’t eat wheat, and limit my fruit intake. I eat very little sugar in any form. I want to avoid diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease. Join me and limit your sugars even in fruit.

  • Maxime G-B July 29, 2012, 11:09 pm

    Not a bad article, although I have some issues with the way it is worded or the angle taken. My main issue is with the “Natural vs Chemical”. Chemically made fructose or naturally occuring fructose is the same thing, the molecule does care about where it was synthesized.
    Natural does not mean good and chemical does not means bad. Are acetone and formaldehyde chemicals? Yes and they are both naturally occuring in apples. Does it mean apples are bad for you? Absolutely not! The dose matters. What is all the food we are ingesting made out of? Chemicals, a complex mixture of chemicals in various doses. I however agree that people should be careful of their fructose intake, as they should be careful with any simple carbohydrate.
    P.S. Here is a link to TED talk by Dr Joe Schwarcz about common misconception of chemicals :

  • Tawny July 31, 2012, 8:18 pm

    Does anyone know who funded this study? I couldn’t find it on here.

  • felicity August 11, 2012, 1:47 pm

    i thought agave was low on the glycemic table and didn’t spike up and crash your sugar levels like regular white granular sugar, so if all agave is processed how are they labeling it raw and why was it advertised that it is healthier than sugar if it is in actuality just as much bad for you as hfcs??

  • Andrew August 13, 2012, 9:36 pm

    Interesting read- But I think the sentence: “Agave was developed in the 1990′s and is made primarily in Mexico.”

    Is factually incorrect- Agave plants were described back in 1843 and not really ‘developed’ more ‘discovered’. My guess is you forgot the word ‘sweetener’ or ‘syrup’.

    • Jill August 13, 2012, 10:08 pm

      Hi Andrew,
      Yes it should be agave nectar. I will fix that.

  • Sara - My Merry Messy Life August 14, 2012, 6:54 pm

    I also have a debate on my Facebook page in regards to a post I wrote about agave. From the research I did, I found that agave can be a wonderful sugar replacement when it is raw and organic and minimally processed, and there are a few manufacturers out there who do that. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that making the claim that all agave is bad isn’t true. Did you come across that in any of your research? https://www.facebook.com/mymerrymessylife

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  • Phil Yates September 5, 2012, 1:54 pm

    Great article. Even if you don’t use Agave, the information on fructose was very good. I sent it to my kids!

  • Wendy Kobylarz September 9, 2012, 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the thoughtful article. I have heard varying stories about agave, and need to do a little more research. My acupuncturist, who is vegan, has always recommended rice syrup as the best possible sweetener. I am somewhat concerned by the connection to the Weston Price Foundation.

    I would advocate, if you are concerned about agave, to move toward grain sweeteners like barley malt and rice syrup, and if you have to, maple syrup.

  • sheryl September 10, 2012, 5:34 pm

    Hi there – I’m new to this site and loving it :o) I have recently done a lot of research on the ‘agave thing’ and it has been awakened again by your post. I would like to know if you use or have used raw coconut palm sugar as a sweetener? I’ve been using it recently as I’ve cut out refined sugars and have the weakness of a sweet tooth… I’d be curious to know what you know about coconut palm sugar and if you’ve used it –
    thanks :o)

    • Jill September 10, 2012, 6:27 pm

      Hi Sheryl,
      I haven’t researched coconut palm sugar.

  • Vanessa December 20, 2012, 6:12 pm

    I am with you on everything you said about HFCS, agave and the facts on fructose but do not understand why the recommendation for honey or maple syrup at the end. Yes, they are natural, but both are 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Where does one draw the line? Agave syrup is anywhere between 75-90% fructose, sugar is 50% fructose, HFCS is 42-55% fructose. I have done research on coconut palm sugar, it too is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Would love to continue this discussion with someone who is as passionate as I am about health, not to change your mind, but to understand your point of view. Thanks! Vanessa

  • Atlas January 21, 2013, 6:22 pm

    The claim that agave syrups are produced from starch or the roots of Agave is a myth and no one uses caustic acids to make them. Since the time of the Aztecs, the fructan-rich sap obtained from the short, pineapple-shaped stem was heated as a solution (thermally hydrolyzed) to produce the syrup. That’s not marketing but historical and scientific fact. The figures of 75-90% fructose in agave syrup refer to the contents in the solids and not the pourable form which contains about 55-70% fructose. Besides fructose, the syrup also contains glucose and about 25% moisture which allows it to be poured. If a syrup contained 90% fructose, how would you pour it? It would be like roofing tar. As for fructose raising fasting triglyceride levels, it takes at least 100 g/day to even budge them. That’s twice the mean intake of fructose in the U.S. (49.1 g/day). Uric acid levels? Go through the clinical trials on fructose for the last 40 years and you’ll see that it takes a over 200 g/day for any significant increase in their levels. Outside of a clinical setting, no one consumes that much fructose. Leave out the dosages and you can say anything negative about fructose, even if the amounts required are not what people are consuming. And the negative effect on mineral balance that the article above references? Have a look at what they actually consumed. It was HFCS; not fructose. And the amount they consumed each day? Try 20% of a 2500 kcal/day diet. That’s 500 kcal/day. From the mean intake of 49 g/day in the U.S., fructose supplies 9.1% of kcal. And what about insulin resistance? Check the human clinical trials on fructose and you will find that an increase in insulin resistance takes well over 100 g/day. Try 150 g/day or 250 g/day. At 150 g/day, which, again, is more than anyone consumes, glucose also increases insulin resistance. But such high amounts do not mean that normal levels of intake produce the same effect or lead to them. And the obesity claims? A lot of that is based on rodent studies with 60% of their diet as fructose. Another problem with those studies is that rats turn at least 50% of carbohydrate into fat, whereas we don’t. To produce even a modest increase in body weight in humans takes a daily intake of at least 104 g of fructose as excess calories. And the cancer connection? An increase in the proliferation of cancer in humans from fructose has not been established and the body of evidence does not show that to be the case. In vitro studies will show that even glucose will increase tumor cell proliferation, but that’s outside of living organism and both fructose and glucose and broken down when digested.

    • Tui September 14, 2013, 12:07 pm

      Thank you. You clearly know more about this than Jill does. This article is not accurate.

  • Jill January 21, 2013, 8:31 pm

    It’s actually easy to consume over 100 gms a day of fructose. One can of soda has about 12 gms and every packaged food has HFCS. It all adds up.

  • lilii February 7, 2013, 6:24 pm

    This are all lies!!! I am a diabetic since 1996 and since using Agave my sugars are better, i’m off to half dosis of medicine and I’m losing weight!!!
    I’m a real person and not trying for anyone to buy the product.
    It’s just my experience. I love agave.

  • anada March 6, 2013, 4:55 pm

    I knew it! I knew it! AGAVE is too easy to find–its even at Wal-Mart. And Agave has been mentioned in mainstream television ads and its also embedded product placement within television programming. The good stuff never getting that much programmed press.

    I’ve been growing my own Stevia for years!
    Patent That!!

  • Mukunda March 15, 2013, 9:25 pm

    Does anyone knows about brown rice syrup ?

  • Laura March 15, 2013, 11:05 pm

    Thoughts on stevia?

    • Jill March 16, 2013, 11:03 am

      I think Paul Jaminet of the Perfect Health Diet uses brown rice syrup.

      @Laura I use green leaf stevia in baking.

  • ALMA March 23, 2013, 9:31 pm

    NO WAY, AGAVE IS NO FRAUD AT ALL !! You may not like it but is your personal like. Agave is been usen for many many years in remedies for the stomach, headeaches, wounds, skin burns, face, now pharmaceuticals laboratories use in on many medicines you’ve taken but never look into the components. Agave honey is completely well recommended for people with Hepatitis II, I’ve used and I know people who has used too, and those people have Hepatitis II. You should do your research better and you should skip important facts, names, dates on your info, like ” Russ Bianchi, executive of a globally recognized food and beverage development company” ¿which company? when was his conference??? and where are the studies made on agave???

  • Atlas March 25, 2013, 2:25 pm

    “The high levels of synthesized fructose in agave put people at risk for obesity, heart disease, arterial inflammation, high blood pressure and increased insulin resistance.”

    Since when was the fructose in Agave or, for that matter, agave syrup, ever synthesized? And where are the studies to show the dosages required to produce any of the effects you name? Read the scientific literature and you will find that so much of this fructose fear-mongering is based on amounts that people are not even consuming or worse—animal studies in which rats were fed 60% of their diet as fructose. Then check the extremely high rate at which rats convert carbs to fats (50% plus) versus the low rate in humans (3-5%). Can you say junk science? Read the scientific literature and you will see that even scientists who have conducted the animal studies with fructose have since admitted the folly of their ways and now advise that future studies be conducted with humans.

    Alma is likely referring to type 2 diabetes and not hepatitis II. As for the other conditions, it would be interesting to see exactly what Alma means by “Agave”. That aside, who is this Russ Bianchi and what evidence does he have to support his claims against agave syrup? Let’s see it.

    As long as you claim that science or some would-be authority has shown this or that, you have an obligation to present the facts AND their support, right down to the amounts and their contexts. Just as Dr. Lustig can and has since be called out on his claims, I would put the same requirement to the Weston A. Price Foundation, who, among other things, claim that agave syrups contain “toxic” saponins. Did they ever show that to be the case? Did they offer any sound reason or conclusive evidence to show why it should or could? No, but they strongly advised that every product made from Agave should have a warning label!

  • Tim March 31, 2013, 7:31 pm

    Its ok I am replacing my white sugar

  • Suzanne Perazzini April 1, 2013, 8:08 pm

    I loved this article until I got to the bottom. I suffer from fructose malabsorption and know about the dangers of fructose first hand and agree with everything you have said but then you go on to say you can safely use honey and dates as sweeteners and, even though I know most people are not fructose intolerant like me, both of these are very high in fructose and I can’t eat them at all. I just thought that might be worth mentioning in an article which is predominantly about the dangers of high levels of fructose. Otherwise, thank you for your research. This information needs saying over and over again.

  • Jill April 1, 2013, 8:42 pm

    Hi Suzanne,
    Yes, of course those that are fructose intolerant should avoid any sweeteners with fructose. Since the article was about agave, I did not give this point any thought. Thanks for mentioning it. It is a topic for another whole post.

    • Suzanne Perazzini April 1, 2013, 8:44 pm

      Honey and dates are certainly more natural ways to sweeten food and I used them myself in the past. Great article.

  • Rebecca April 3, 2013, 8:20 am

    What are your thoughts on reading the below article? After reading both your article and the below article, I get the impression that anything can be contrived to look like poison or food from heaven, depending on what “credibility indicators” are used in writing… Confused and disappointed!


    • Jill April 3, 2013, 10:07 am

      HI Rebecca,
      She makes some very good points. However, most agave that is used commercially as stand alone or as an ingredient in products are not the low temperature, organic product that she describes. Most people are not as discriminating when it comes to which agave to buy and the high quality organic products she describes is more expensive and harder to find.

      There are a few agave products that are OK — if you read comments above the information is there.

      • Mickie April 4, 2013, 11:31 pm

        ah the old patronising approach of using blanket statements, with the justification that most people are too stupid to seek out the healthier low-temp organic option.

  • Ophiolog April 5, 2013, 4:52 am

    Nearly all the agave syrups sold in the U.S. are certified organic. As for the so-called “raw” syrups made with lower temperatures, they are not at all uncommon. It remains to be shown that they are significantly different in composition compared to the syrups at high temperature. Until that can be established, there is no reason to believe that either type is better than the other.

  • Amanda April 11, 2013, 4:04 pm

    I’m curious as to your response to this blog. I honestly don’t know what to believe anymore. All sugar in moderation I get, but beyond that, everyone seems to have their own views–where is the unbiased research!? Thanks, I really do appreciate it if you could respond 🙂

  • Mitch April 11, 2013, 7:28 pm

    I used to know how bad agave was….then the facts would fade, and I would be tempted in to using it again…until I read something like this post…A big reminder of WHY it is bad…And I just bought another bottle today. Guess I should chuck it.

  • Ophiolog April 13, 2013, 7:15 am

    Amanda: Like so many others, you have undoubtedly been confused by those with an emotional agenda built upon faulty research and unsubstantiated claims. For agave syrup, they largely began with the Weston A Price Foundation in 2009. Shortly thereafter, they were seized upon by Dr. Mercola who only added to the mess left by the Foundation with further unsubstantiated claims, many of which members of the agave syrup industry have since addressed. As for sugar, whether a person is diabetic or not, how much is unhealthy depends entirely on the amount consumed on a daily basis. For any recommended limit, one must first examine the evidence used to arrive at them. The same is true of agave syrup. What facts serve as the basis for the claim that agave syrup is “bad” and have they been substantiated or refuted? It’s one thing for people to toss out opinions; it’s quite another for them to back them up with facts based on sufficient evidence. Nearly every negative claim about agave syrup has since been refuted. However, without a background in science, putting it all together to arrive at your own balanced conclusions won’t be an easy task.

  • Mine April 28, 2013, 5:26 pm

    As a mexican, we never use this thing in our country…

  • Kerry June 5, 2013, 4:38 pm

    Just wrote about this post on my blog, I think you did a great job with a fair-minded approach to educating readers about why agave should be avoided. I do wonder about Madhava’s raw product, but since it’s hard to tell whether any agave product is worthwhile, it’s best to just avoid it altogether, I think. Thanks for the post!

  • Holly June 15, 2013, 6:40 am

    Nothing like our original Mexican handcraft production. Shame on the American marketing…

  • liz A July 13, 2013, 3:23 pm

    Sorry if someone already asked this, but what about organic agave??? How differently is it made?

  • Tui September 14, 2013, 12:15 pm

    I disagree with this article. I easily found an agave product that was just under 50% fructose- as per the companies website with a link to lab analysis. They aren’t all highly processed either, MANY are not. The one I found was produced at low temperatures. This article is misleading people.

  • Tiffany January 12, 2014, 5:37 pm

    The company Wholesome Sweeteners has done an article regarding their agave product titled “Agave Fact vs Fiction” in response to consumer concerns regarding their product. I recommend that you read it. The agave they sell is minimally processed, 100% natural, and contains no HFCS. Because some of this information conflicts with what you claim as fact, I recommend you revise your article in a way that readers know that what you are saying is merely your opinion. While I’m not claiming that every manufacturer of agave is legitimate, you’ve overgeneralized implying that every manufacturer is not, which is wrong.

    • Aimee March 2, 2014, 5:04 pm

      Tiffany, Thank you for posting that article. I appreciate it. I am new to the no sugar lifestyle and am presently beginning to add sugar back to my diet but only healthy and natural sugars. I have been looking into Agave Nectar as a replacement, along with raw honey and pure maple syrup so reading the above article was part of my reading. I almost skipped the comments section below but I am grateful for reading the remarks you and Atlas posted here. I have read the article from Wholesome Sweeteners and it shed a bit more light on how they process their agave nectar. I am now looking into the research Atlas spoke of.

      In researching the best changes to make in my own diet, I have found that just because you read one article doesn’t mean you got the whole truth. If you want the truth…you better research it. Readers above have said they were going to throw out their agave when in fact, they should be saying…hmmm that was an interesting article…I wonder how much of it is true and then start researching.

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  • DesertDrifter February 3, 2014, 4:58 pm

    Weird, I didn’t know you could buy it in the store. I learned to make it when I went to college in mexico, and always just made it from the abundant old plants sitting around in the desert here. I prefer it’s taste to honey although I use honey sometimes. I’ve never had to use any chemicals to extract the agave nectar though, maybe you should find another brand! The only hard part of making it is finding the properly aged pieces.

  • Julie M February 7, 2014, 4:03 pm

    EXCELLENT article. I have shared this with family and friends. Thanks so much for the education as it is much needed. So many people looking for the magic bullet, grasping at fad everything. We do NOT eat out of a box or can and eating real organic, local and home grown foods is the way to go.



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  • Rebel N. Dog March 14, 2014, 12:02 pm

    Yeah, drive down the price of agave nectar! As you say, it’s had the pectin stripped out…which is GREAT is you’re making agave wine. Why? Because you will produce no methanol. Very important if you are going to distill the wine to tequila. So, yeah, use another sweetener and let me pick up the agave nectar stocks at reduced price. Currently it costs $35 to get 12 pounds of agave which will make a little more than a gallon of tequila. And that’s will A LOT of shopping around and finding reasonable shipping.

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  • littlefish March 1, 2015, 12:37 am

    Is maple syrup any less processed than agave?

    • Jill March 2, 2015, 9:54 am

      Hi littlefish,
      Maple syrup is a different sugar while agave is pure fructose. Most agave products are highly processed much more so than maple syrup.

      • puetzaroni December 10, 2015, 7:38 pm

        It says not to use as much, 2/3 of a cup to 1 cup of sugar. How its processed is a different story but know what your using and how to use it to benefit you.

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  • January @ January Wellness May 25, 2015, 7:02 pm

    Thank you for this post! I send it to clients and my Sugar Detox groups frequently when they ask about why so many people think agave is somehow healthy!

  • Brenda June 23, 2015, 4:03 pm

    Would love if you could cite your sources for any of the above info please.

  • Dove September 6, 2015, 12:43 pm

    Just read your post about this, and I live in Mexico. What is commonly sold as “agave syrup” in the USA is not the same as the dark, cooked syrup made from MAGUEY. These two plants are similar, but the agave is not what traditional people used to make the dark syrup. Also, the “miel de maguey” is the UNCOOKED honey taken directly from the maguey plant. Agave is traditionally used for making tequila. Completely different thing.
    Also, your link to the quote above; “According to Rami Nagel” is broken.

    • Jill September 7, 2015, 9:47 am

      Hi Dove,
      Thank you for clarifying this. I am aware of some new products on the market that are called “maguey” that are traditionally made.

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  • puetzaroni December 10, 2015, 7:37 pm

    So where are the links to get real agave?

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