is agave safe?

Recently GSG readers raised questions about agave nectar after some well publicized concerns surfaced on the internet.   Agave is my favorite sweetener because it’s largely unprocessed and is a very low glycemic index product with a neutral flavor.   Many of my recipes call for it, and I have found the human body reacts to it well (and entirely differently than it responds to chemical and refined sweeteners).


For my locals, I do group buys on cases of raw, organic agave for a great price.   (I am working on a way to open this group buy up in January to those of you who have begun organizing your own co-ops nationwide, so stand by for that!)


I wrote about the agave controversy briefly at the time the issue was raised and now want to summarize and call attention to the comments of Craig Gerbore, president of Madhava, one of the biggest importers of raw agave.   He, like my own supplier, relies on unprocessed agave harvested by hand through the supplier Nekutli.


The article that created such a stir was a response to a 90% fructose agave sometimes sold in the late 90’s that is NOT what I buy in local group buys, nor what is offered on the market by Madhava and others, which comes from the agave salmiana plant.   I don’t even know where that high-fructose product is available.


The author of the original article claims that starch is the primary ingredient in agave syrup, and Gerbore explains that no starch is added or found in the agave sold in this decade.   Plants store energy as starches or fructans, and agave stores its energy as fructans.   Comparing corn syrup to agave is like comparing apples to oranges, as those starches (like what is found in corn and rice) is not in agave nectar.


The only processing of agave is the enzymatic and low-temperature reduction of water from the product–no thermal or chemical cooking takes place, and no chemical agents are used.   Only a vegan enzyme is used to pull water from the plant, which is then removed by a vacuum process.


In summary, avoid overconsumption of any sweetener.   But if treats are important in your home as you transition away from the standard American diet, use raw, organic agave with confidence.

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