Maguey or agave nectar, more precisely, agave syrup, is a sweetener that comes from several species, including Agave tequilana (blue agave) and Agave salmiana. The syrup contains fructose as a carbohydrate that provides sweetening properties.
Maguey – What is it
Produced primarily in Mexico, agave is a syrup that is made from the Agave tequiliana (tequila) plant. It is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than regular sugar and contains about 60 calories per tablespoon, which is about 20 calories more than the same amount of table sugar.
Despite being more calorie dense, agave manufacturers are marketing directly to diabetics because it is supposedly lower on the glycemic index (a number that represents the effect that a particular food has on someone’s blood sugar) . However, these claims do not appear to be based on sound science. A growing number of sources are calling for an elephant in the room saying, “There is NOT a lot of research to back that up, and one of the studies was done on laboratory animals, not people!”
Being a relatively new product on the market, there has been limited research on the health benefits and risks of agave. However, as research emerges, we are beginning to see these kinds of official definitions and descriptions from medical dictionaries.
Maguey – Characteristics
One of the most common questions I get is what natural sweeteners do I recommend using. At this point, we all know that sugar and high fructose corn syrup are bad for us, but when it comes to the products on the shelves of health food stores, things are a little less clear cut.
Without a doubt, someone will always ask my opinion on agave nectar, which is a hot topic right now for two main reasons:
1. The alternative sweetener industry made $ 1.2 billion in 2010, making agave big business.
2. There is a debate in the natural health arena and in medical circles as to whether or not the manufacturers’ health claims are true, which makes agave all the controversy.
To better understand why there is such a heated debate about the health benefits / dangers of agave, we cannot discount the importance. In the spirit of commercialism, I can understand why a competing company hits the marketing strategy that promotes agave nectar as a health food. But what about the claims of a growing number of scientists and natural health experts?
Is it healthier than honey?
“Agave is no healthier than honey, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or any other type of sweetener.” In fact, the truth about agave nectar has taken a complete turn and is now condemned by various health experts.
A perfect example is how Dr. Oz has officially changed his official stance on sweetenter. “In recent months, I have become increasingly concerned about a sweetener that I have recommended in my program in the past. After carefully considering the available research, today I ask you to eliminate agave from your kitchen and from your diet. “
Reading this may surprise you because you’ve probably heard that agave is a “natural” health food. It is actually manufactured using a highly processed procedure that essentially removes the nutritional value of natural agave juice (called pineapple). Surprisingly, the end product contains more fructose than HFCs, making it extremely dangerous to consume!
Maguey – Nutritional information
The fact is, there is much more to the story than the so-called “low glycemic load.” In its current form, one ounce (28 grams) of agave contains a glycemic index of approximately 13, 20 grams of sugar and 1 gram of fiber. Unfortunately, when it comes to agave nectar nutrition, this is it!
Every time you consume excess sugar, the ability of your white blood cells to ward off illness literally drops for several hours. This does more than you might think, and when you look at the research, the dangers of sugar are quite shocking. According to Nancy Appleton, PhD, there are 141 ways that sugar destroys your health.
What are the risks of consuming a lot of sugar?
- Chronic fatigue
- Dental leads
- Depleted metabolism
- Hormonal imbalance and adrenal fatigue.
- Osteopenia / osteoporosis
- Skin conditions like acne and eczema.
- Stomach ulcers
- Type 2 diabetes
When someone learns how sugar can cause cancer, the danger of this tasty morsel usually comes home. In the words of the American Anti-Cancer Institute,
When we consume sugar, we are simultaneously shutting down our defenses while pouring gasoline into the fire that is Cancer. When we consider that “50-70% of our total immune cells cannot see cancer … even on our best day,” the idea of adding it to our diet seems even more blasphemous.
Made primarily from genetically modified corn, HFCS is anything but natural and anything but healthy. The main ingredient in most sodas, baked goods, and many HFCS canned goods is processed by enzymatically converting glucose to fructose. Its manufacture is exceptionally inexpensive.
Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.