Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wholesome Wednesdays: Agave Nectar

As i eat my hot cereal (cooked whole and ground wheat berries with flax seeds and raisons) I wonder what i should write about today. Since said cereal is sweetened with agave nectar, i thought i'd do some research on that.

The main draw of agave nectar is that it is low glycemic - this means that the sugars are broken down more slowly and the energy should last you longer throughout the day, instead of spiking like refined sugar or honey. It is runnier than honey,  i generally use it in recipes the same way as i do honey, or just add a smidge for a little dose of sweet instead of using sugar. A.N. has a long shelf life, and doesn't tend to crystallize as honey often does (which i actually really enjoy). I have purchased a few different brands, and am quite enjoying this specific brand that is harvested in Mexico and processed/distributed out of Sugarland, TX - which is really pretty local considering i live in central Texas. Certainly more local than cane sugar coming from Hawaii or some other foreign land across various seas.

Look at all of that lovely information on how agave nectar is so great. However, i must touch on the 'controversy': I am against the use of high fructose corn syrup. It's just not a wholesome ingredient and is found in SO many processed foods. (just yesterday i was about to buy us some Miracle Whip, because although we both love my homemade mayo, and i want to make all our own condiments, Miracle Whip just has that certain zing, ya know? I refrained from buying any, because almost all the brands had hfcs in them - and the name brand was a huge container. So i'll be trying a batch of mayo with agave nectar and paprika in it to try and recreate the miracle whip, stay tuned). But there are recent discussions on the healthfulness of agave nectar, and its close resemblance to hfcs:

Agave nectar is advertised as a "diabetic friendly," raw, and a "100% natural sweetener." Yet it is none of these. The purpose of this article is to show you that agave nectar is in reality not a natural sweetener but a highly refined form of fructose, more concentrated than the high fructose corn syrup used in sodas. Refined fructose is not a 'natural' sugar, and countless studies implicate it as a sweetener that will contribute to disease. Therefore, agave nectar is not a health building product, but rather a deceptively marketed form of a highly processed and refined sweetener.
see that whole article here,   it's a good one and offers up a lot of crazy claims with a nicely balanced introduction.

So, is agave nectar wholesome or not wholesome? I'd say it's a good alternative to honey, and should be used sparingly, as all sweeteners should be used. I'm about to go purchase some stevia plant seeds so that i can have some sweet herb to use in my tea instead of sweet & low, but this agave nectar is a yummy sweetener to use on my morning cereal before i slave at the gym. I feel energized throughout my workout, without the crash of other refined sugars. But i'll be sparing my teeth, bones, and metabolism by keeping my use of all sweeteners very light.

What's your favorite sweetener?

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