Is agave a superfood or a poison?

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: Dr. Mercola says agave is going to kill me! Is he right?

Answer: I have been inundated with emails about this. In every class I teach, someone brings it up.

First of all, Dr. Mercola didn’t exactly say that, although he allowed it on his web site. Mercola is a brand, a big company, employing lots of people, including staff writers who write stuff for the site and newsletters. The osteopath named Joe Mercola doesn’t do the research and writing. So when I say “Mercola” in this article, I mean “it” (the company/brand/staff), not “he” (the founder of the company).

What I write is all me, by the way–I have no staff writers.

Controversy, right or wrong, unfortunately, adds to Mercola’s 7-figure mailing list and profits. Mercola (and the doctor himself) may or may not be aware that it is wrong about agave. Comparing it to high-fructose corn syrup, or to tequila, is a tenuous, false, almost ridiculous exaggeration. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the organic chemistry differences.

It’s similar to the comment a pediatrician made to me 15 years ago, when I questioned his suggestion to feed my toddler Sprite for quick energy. I said, “Why not an apple?” And he said, “Whatever. Simple sugars are simple sugars. There’s no difference. They all end up as glucose.”

A similar reductionistic argument you’ve heard before is, “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie.” Really? Then why did the vegetarian group in Campbell’s massive China study eat 200 calories MORE than the heavy meat eaters, and they were lean while the meat eaters were overweight? (Exercise was a variable the researchers controlled for, so that doesn’t explain the difference.)

Apparently you CAN eat more calories when those calories are plant foods. Please comment here if you know well, from experience, that the impact on your body of eating an apple is entirely different than drinking a can of Sprite!

Apples have simple sugars, sure, but they also have tannins that remove insulin from the bloodstream and convert the sugars into energy. Apples have pectin and other fiber to decrease cholesterol and slow absorption of sugars on the bloodstream. Sprite has none of that, just a chemical version of fructose and lots more man-made chemicals. I could make this whole post about the egregious comparison the pediatrician made, but let’s move on to the similar agave controversy.

Mercola’s staff writer acts as if fructose is poison. Yes, fructose is the sugar in high-fructose corn syrup, too. One point Mercola and I agree on is the fact that the highly refined sweetener HFCS is deadly. But fructose is the sugar in fruit, too! Is it possible that fructose can be either good or bad?

Here’s a key point Mercola overlooks. Agave’s sugar is a long-chain polymer of fructose, which is not absorbed by the body and therefore passes through you. Thus there’s a much-reduced impact on your blood sugar of consuming agave (versus HFCS, cane sugars, and honey). It’s not hard to document that agave’s glycemic index is one-third that of sugar or honey.

I personally know a nutritionist who has stopped diabetes in a group of her patients with no changes other than switching from sugar to agave.

So is agave on par with excellent whole foods like apples, spinach, lentils, and barley? No way! An apple has fiber and many other elements that work synergistically to support your health.

But as sweeteners go, if you’re going to use them–and please use all concentrated sweeteners sparingly–raw, organic agave is a very good option. And another of my favorite sweeteners, stevia, contains a compound called steviasides, which shut down insulin production in the pancreas–an even better (calorie-free) option, especially for diabetics.

So, the answer to the question, is agave a superfood or a poison, the answer is, “Neither one.” Don’t fear it. Don’t overuse it either.

PCOS and protein

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: I have PCOS and I have battled weight for years.   I am currently 275 lbs and 5’10”.   I believe that what we eat does impact our health dramatically.   I was on a green smoothie a day for over a month and started to feel better.   Then I was told that it was too high in carbohydrates by my doctor and that I needed more protein to combat insulin resistance that accompanies my PCOS.   The recommendation: eggs, butter and meat.   I had been eating a green smoothie consisting of 1 c carrot juice, 1 c collard greens, 1 c. kale, 1/2 c. spinach, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 c. frozen strawberries, blueberries, raspberries.   I would sweeten with stevia if needed.     They want me to cut out the carrot juice, the banana and the berries.   I like greens but I need the fruit to cut the grassy taste.

 

I cannot believe that more and more dead animal and factory farmed animal product is better for me, but I am desperate to regain my health.   Do you have any experience with PCOS or insulin resistance and can you offer me any hope or education about what to do?

 

Answer:   I can’t advise you about specific health problems.   Doctors, however, mostly don’t know that higher-protein foods aren’t limited to animal products.   Higher amounts of legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts) and nuts will increase proteins and decrease any quick-to-the-bloodstream carbs.   And in your green smoothies, you’re already using stevia for sweetener, but you may want to use the mixed berries (lower in sugar) and use lemon and very little fruit (maybe a small apple).   As fruits go, bananas are very high in sugar.

how to buy yourself diabetes for only $0.50 a day

You know drinking soda is bad for you.   Perhaps you and I talking a bit about  WHY will be just the trigger you need to kick the habit—or get your kids to do so.   Have  a kid you care about  read this.   According to the Nutrition Research Center (Oct. 2007), here’s what you can expect in the first hour after drinking one can of Coke:

Within 10 minutes, 10 teaspoons of sugar, 100 percent of your recommended daily intake, shoots to your bloodstream.   (Keep in mind that nowhere is refined and acidic corn syrup or sugar actually “recommended.”   Good sugars don’t come from a can of Coke.)   Phosphoric acid cuts the flavor—otherwise, you’d throw up from the overwhelming sweetness.   That same phosphoric acid is draining calcium from your bones and teeth.

Within 20 minutes, your blood sugar goes through the roof, and your liver responds to the resulting insulin burst by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat.

Within 40 minutes, the enormous caffeine stimulation causes your pupils to dilate, your blood pressure to rise, and your liver to dump more sugar into your bloodstream. Dopamine stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain (just like street drugs do).

After 60 minutes, you start to crash.   You’ll feel shaky and desperately crave more sugar and caffeine.   Run to the machine for another can of Coke, and do it again daily until you develop diabetes.   Shouldn’t take too long.   Then you’ll have daily blood testing and insulin shots to look forward to, plus a shortened life expectancy and a host of very unpleasant  risks, like  limb amputation, for instance.