Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just Say No to Agave

I remember last year when I really kicked my healthy eating up three thousand notches, and I wanted healthier alternatives to sweeteners. Through friends, and just seeing it on shelves, I decided to try blue agave syrup/nectar.  It is touted as a wonderful low glycemic sweetener with health benefits by some "health gurus".

Everyone nowadays has heard about the health issues associated with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). About 30 years ago marketers and food producers discovered that the sweetener HFCS was way cheaper to sweeten foods than regular table sugar.  The power of the almighty dollar wreaks havoc once more.

The problem with HFCS is what happens are our levels of insulin are elevated, and then they stay elevated. Elevated insulin levels can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, aging, arthritis, and osteoporosis.  Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the level of glucose, a simple sugar that provides energy, in the blood. We need insulin, but not too much.

If we did not have insulin our bodies wouldn't be able to process (sugar) glucose, and then we wouldn't have energy. Insulin also helps to rid our blood of by-products that are not healthy for us.  Insulin stores sugar when we have eaten too much, and it stores it as a compound called glycogen. This is where those glycemic levels come from that we hear so often.

When we have too much sugar in our bodies, and our glycemic levels get too high, then the sugar gets transformed into fat stores in our bodies. People get into trouble with diseases like diabetes because the bodies of people that have diabetes have stopped producing insulin. 
 Ever hear that saying that if something sounds to good to be true, that it probably is, well...this IS one of those cases. While agave does taste good, it is not good for you at all. As a matter of fact, the blue agave plant is what is used to make tequila, it is a sugar alcohol. 

Agave syrup or nectar (things always sound better with the word nectar attached) actually is toxic to our systems. When it enters our bodies, our systems treat it the same way it does HFCS. The problem is the fructose. Agave has higher levels of fructose than HFCS. It is the fructose that puts it over the top. Its true that it is a low glycemic sweetener, and that is actually the problem. 

I had someone tell me once that he didn't believe what I was saying because he didn't feel the same way after eating agave that he does after eating HFCS.  I can attest to the fact that we can't always trust how we feel.  I am a big advocate of getting regular blood tests.

Anyway, back to the insulin resistance, when consuming agave on a regular basis what it actually does to our bodies is tell our bodies that our insulin is no longer needed. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells of the body become resistant to the effects of insulin, that is, the normal response to a given amount of insulin is reduced. As a result, higher levels of insulin are needed in order for insulin to have its effects. That's where insulin shots come in for diabetes patients.

So my recommendation is to stick with what we know the Lord approves of being fruits and raw honey for natural sweeteners.

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