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Agave - friend or foe?

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  • Agave - friend or foe?



    Greetings! I became a member after about a year of following the blog because I am beginning to have questions that don't seem to be answered anywhere.


    This one is about Agave nectar. I incorporated it in small quantities in place of sugar after seeing it in Mark and his wife's food journals and recipes. I read up on it and saw that it has a lower glycemic load than sugar while tasting sweeter. Awesome! I was so excited that I wrote a post for my gym's little blog: http://fahbg.wordpress.com/2009/10/14/introducing-agave-primal-ambrosia/


    But now I am reading that it is highly processed, that all the fructose will lead to fat storage, and that basically it is the devil in a bottle. See CrossFit Invictus' post here: http://www.crossfitinvictus.com/blog/2010/02/wednesday-february-3-2010/


    So what's the deal? CrossFit Invictus says to use honey if absolutely necessary. If so, why do Mark and Carrie use Agave?


    I understand that ideally we would not add sweetener to anything, but sometimes we just need something to taste good - something that's not fruit.


    So what's a primal sweettooth's best bet?


  • #2
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    I've read bad things about it, too, and one item was from a person I respect who said you might as well be using sugar.


    I have been entirely 'sweetener' free for about 6 or 7 months, and it's the best thing I ever did--no sugar, no artificial sweeteners at all.


    My big 'treat' is a teaspoon of almond butter.

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    • #3
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      It's definitely the devil. In sugar, fructose is worse than glucose, and agave has a higher concentration of fructose than any of the sugars. And then it gets marketed as a "healthy" sugar, even though it's worse.


      Too be fair, it does have a lower glycemic index, so lots of people recommending agave have believed it to be healthier, but fructose messes up your liver and your insulin sensitivity.


      There was a study recently which showed weight gain linked to consumption carbs. One group used glucose and the other used glucose/fructose. Only in the fructose group, was there the stimulation of new fat cells to be created around the vital organs.


      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article6954603.ece


      "Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a strictly controlled diet, including high levels of fructose, produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs. They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. Another group of volunteers on the same diet, but with glucose sugar replacing fructose, did not have these problems.


      People in both groups put on a similar amount of weight. However, researchers at the University of California who conducted the trial, said the levels of weight gain among the fructose consumers would be greater over the long term.


      Fructose bypasses the digestive process that breaks down other forms of sugar. It arrives intact in the liver where it causes a variety of abnormal reactions, including the disruption of mechanisms that instruct the body whether to burn or store fat."


      Dr. Robert Lustig's talk on YouTube, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth", details the metabolism of fructose versus glucose. Fructose is converted into fat by the liver, and basically creates those "small, dense LDLs" thought to cause heart disease. Fructose is treated by the liver almost identically to ethanol, so consuming 15 grams of agave nectar (a few teaspoons) is as hard on the body as drinking one beer. The only major difference between fructose and ethanol is that the brain is unable to recognize fructose at all, while ethanol has quite an effect. So, fructose is, "alcohol without the buzz".

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      • #4
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        Also, the best bet for a primal sweet toother, is to give up sugar and let the taste buds reset themselves. However, sugar can be terribly addictive, and some people need additional help to normalize their brain chemistry to break this addictive cycle. The book, "The Mood Cure" (http://www.moodcure.com/), details natural ways to normalize your mood and break these cravings if going cold turkey is simply too hard.

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        • #5
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          @buffalo


          Absolutely. Natural food tastes so much better after giving up sugar.


          It may be tough to give up, but you are doing yourself no favors by adding sweeteners of any kind except for fruit itself, and that includes things like stevia. Doesn't matter how stevia or maltitol or whatever affects your hormones; as long as you're a slave to sweet, the real bad stuff like donuts and ice cream will continue to tempt you.

          You lousy kids! Get off my savannah!

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          • #6
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            Do a search on the forum. Addressed numerous times. Agave nectar is made the same way HFCS is, end result is it's fructose.

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            • #7
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              Do a search on the forum. Addressed numerous times. Agave nectar is made the same way HFCS is, end result is it's fructose.

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              • #8
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                I endorse stevia, xyltol and cinnamon. Actually I endorse cinnamon quite heavily as it has been shown to reduce the glycemic index of carbohydrates it has been eaten with, less insulin!

                Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

                Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!

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                • #9
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                  Agave nectar can be over 90% fructose. I endorse a belief that sweets are for kids and eating unsweetened stuff instead.

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                  • #10
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                    John R, my kids completely agree with you.


                    When I want something sweet? I'll eat 70% or 85% chocolate. That's got sucrose in it, so I'm not totally opposed to refined sweeteners. But if I'm baking something to take to a gathering, like a pumpkin pie for Turkey Day, I use honey. And I'm stingy with the honey too, so usually no one but me and my kids eat any of it. More for me, yay! ;-)

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                    • #11
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                      Agave is 55%-97% fructose, depending on how it&#39;s processed. it cannot be "raw" since you have to cook it to produce the nectar. [b]It is typically higher in fructose than HFCS.</b> It is low on the glycemic scale because it doesn&#39;t have as much glucose as other foods! Is it better for you than sugar? IMO, no. Check it out on wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave_nectar.

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                      • #12
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                        I&#39;d back the idea of just abandoning sweets. From a guy that had 6 Pepsis and a pint of Ben and Jerry&#39;s every day (on top of more sweets, cookies, candy and cake than my quivering pancreas cares for me to recall) for years, nay, decades, I understand a sweet tooth and sympathize. But after such a long time Paleo/Primal now, and a complete zeroing of sweets, I can tell you a blueberry is truly an explosion of flavor and sweetness now. Can&#39;t stomach the thought of an M&M.


                        Agave is the same poison as corn syrup, consume accordingly.

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                        • #13
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                          Acmebike, have you eaten cashews lately?

                          They literally taste like candy to me now.

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                          • #14
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                            Pikala, I&#39;ve noticed most nuts are sweet as the dickens, cashews especially so! I really limit nuts, have had most of them eliminated for some time now. Dessicated non-sweetened coconut flakes are super sweet as well. Carb counts of some of this starchy stuff is in line with the sweetness I detect in them. Heck, raw yams *smell* sweet.


                            I do enjoy the control I&#39;ve gained by giving up sweets/sugars. I&#39;m not a carbo-phobe, but I sure don&#39;t take in much carbohydrate and am glad to have that monkey off my back.


                            Again, Agave is bad.

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                            • #15
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                              Thanks everyone.


                              (I finally figured out that searching mda does not search the forum... found older posts on the topic as well...)


                              I think I understand the difference between non-insulin producing but otherwise harmful fructose and insulin producing but in some ways less harmful glucose. Seems the focus on glycemic load is potentially misleading.


                              I also understand the processed issue, as well as it being just another way to keep giving into the culturally induced sweet tooth. Guess I just need to keep fighting the good fight to get all truly sweet stuff out of my diet. Still a long way to go!


                              Cutting out most non-primal stuff was easy, but I have been hanging onto the last comforts of my old way of eating, and it is harder than I expected to see them go! Not particularly liking meat means that most foods I enjoy eating are conspicuously absent, and no amount of bacon is going to make up for them!


                              But of course, I do feel (and look, to play into Mark&#39;s recent post) so much better!

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