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Joe Mercola and GreenSmoothieGirl on agave

Robyn Openshaw, MSW - Apr 26, 2010 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

In the natural health space, Joe Mercola is very much a Goliath, and I’m very much a David. Today’s topic: my affinities and differences with his philosophies.

Dr. Mercola responded to my blog posting and newsletter of a week ago, about agave.

I stand firm that drawing fear-based parallels between raw, organic agave from a reputable company and tequila or HFCS is “ridiculous” as I said before.

A raw agave plant is to agave is to HFCS—as an orange is to orange juice is to Tang.

I disagree with Joe Mercola on a variety of issues, including his promoting and selling whey protein, beef, tanning beds, and his metabolic typing theory with no real basis in science.

This whole agave controversy reminds me of something I remember from when my kids were little. There was a group of parents who were furious with the Barney show. The parents decided to form a coalition to fight the producers because they’d decided Barney was really the devil in a big purple suit, teaching kids about séances and witchcraft. The lawsuit, as I recall, referred to Barney the Dinosaur as promoting Satanism.

As a young mother, I remember reading about it in the paper and laughing out loud.

There are so many true evils in the world hurting children. Sweat shots, kiddie porn. Too-heavy backpacks full of textbooks. Let’s not forget McDonald’s products and marketing program. Just to name a few.

Why spend precious energy creating fear about a harmless TV show that has the dinosaur imagining things and disappearing?

That’s how I feel about the agave controversy. Again, I disagree with People Magazine calling it a “superfood” as much as I disagree that it’s going to hurt us when used in moderation.

I have interviewed experts as well. I feel confident that predicting nutritional catastrophe because someone adds a bit of agave to her green smoothie takes away from the real, more meaningful debate.

Let’s attack the true villains gaining traction in the food world: Monsanto; modern practices in raising beef/poultry; corn/soy products taking over the food supply; processed foods; fast foods; GMO foods; pasteurized and irradiated foods.

There’s plenty of evil without attacking the little bit of maple syrup, honey, agave, or stevia we whole-foods advocates use. (Each of those has pluses and minuses. Agave’s pluses are lower blood sugar impact as well as availability in raw/organic form.)

The whole debate takes away from the basic premise I reiterate here over and over:

Plant foods are good preventive medicine. We alter them to our detriment. We have to get back to our roots. Less processed is better, less concentrated sweeteners is better, more natural is better. Whole is good; fractionated and refined is bad.

And I want to say this about Joe Mercola. Some of the things he promotes seem oversold or a bit paranoid to me, and others are counter to what I teach on this site, like an incredibly expensive tanning bed being a good way to get Vita D. However, I respect him tremendously for being one of the first on the internet to start educating people about natural healing. He is smart and educated, and I believe he has good motives.

He and I have the same goal of educating people, empowering them, to eat natural foods and live a lifestyle that avoids reliance on medical solutions such as drugs and surgery.

I agree with Mercola about far more things than I disagree with him about. I appreciate his commenting here on my blog.

Posted in: Nutrition

51 thoughts on “Joe Mercola and GreenSmoothieGirl on agave”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I really don’t know anything about Dr. Mercola but do know the only thing you will get from a tanning booth is cancer.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Three years ago I took a class at our local community college called “Sweeteners” and was shocked to learn how agave is processed by the body. It does not go into the cells, which keeps it low glycemic, but goes directly through the liver which then stores it in FAT. If this is how you want your body to deal with the sweetener you choose, whether it is organic and raw or not, then keep eating agave.

    I’m glad David Wolfe has come out calling it like it is now, “agave not a wise choice”. He said this played a part in why he left

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’ve always been uncomfortable with agave, and as I’ve learned more, I also think is should be avoided. The reason it’s low glycemic is because of it’s high fructose level. Fructose doesn’t raise insulin because it’s processed directly by the liver (not good), which raises triglycerides. In the form used, it’s not a traditional food, and I’m much more comfortable with something like raw honey, which IS a traditional food and has known health benefits. All sweeteners, however, are best in small quantities.

  4. I started out imy health food journey with doc mercola. since then I have read alot more articles, obtained much more info that seemed not so high glitz. also, there are alot of educatores for the green movement that are not trying to sell something everytime you turn around. I feel like dr. mercola over reacts to everythin. you still got to live and I am going to do good most of the time with my diet/lifestyle but, I’m not going to be a purist.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have followed Dr. Mercola’s work for years now, even before he offered tanning beds.

    I have to agree with him on the point about Agave, because I used the least refined type, and found that it did bother my well being. I’m not saying that it is unhealthy for all, just for me.

    As far as the Tanning Beds go, I remember a couple of articles by him about them, and in them he blasted them as being unhealthy, because they did not offer full-spectrum light, and therefore did not support better health .

    Then, after some time he came out with his version, which he explained very carefully as something he only recommended for those who had problems getting enough Sunlight to produce the required Vitamin D.

    I don’t think he has varied from that viewpoint.

    Personally I love the vegan/vegetarian diet, but my wife has problems with it, even though she is realizing that ph is more of a problem than we have ever imagined, and it can best be controlled with a vegan/vegetarian diet.

    Personally, I like the Dr. Mercola newsletter, and I read what appeals to me and let the rest go. I do the same with “The Health Ranger” Mike Adams.

    they both get a little into conspiracy theories, but who’d to say that they aren’t right?

  6. Anonymous says:

    The sun is by far the leading cause of skin cancer. Is the sun bad now?

    Ask someone who has psoriasis. They go to tanning beds to help alleviate their skin lesions. Tanning beds used in moderation is a good thing. They are no different than sun exposure except. You don’t get as much of the other damaging rays.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm… A tanning bed with the proper bulbs gives a well measured and controlled amount of the same spectrum of light as the sun. Humans have been exposed to the sun for millions of years. What could be more “natural”? We were made to receive sunlight and sun exposure is the purest, most natural and only efficient way our bodies produce the essential vitamin “d” that is so necessary to our health. Those of us in the more Northern hemisphere lack sunlight in the winter months and vitamin “d” deficiencies are a documented fact. The benefit of tanning beds are that the exposure is well dosed and if you use one properly the possibility of burning is eliminated. The chance of getting skin cancer from properly using a tanning bed is much lower than that of receiving cancer from less than well monitored sun exposure. And, keeping a base tan with a tanning bed actually protects your skin from sun damage. The best type are those that allow you to stand (lying in a tanning “bed” is like lying in a frying pan). Anne, what you will get from a tanning device is an abundance of vitamin “d” production which will help build strong bones and strengthen your immunity. I’m not one who favors tanning to a dark bronze, but I do keep a light base tan throughout the year, and limit my sun exposure. But then most of you who oppose tanning are well versed in these opinions and claims that myself and Dr. Mercola believe in. We’ll just agree to disagree.

  8. Rawsome debate!

    Myself, as a single, homeschooling vegan, raw mommy of a a rawk’n 14 year young teen; I would heavily lean on the lightest side of un-processed light-filled beings, such as natural un-processed dates and/or unpastuerized honey.

    The more real – the more rawstruck!

    And, it is not even due to this information of mis .. that I am basing my divine decision.

    Simply due to how I feel and respond when eating dates or honey, compared to unatural sources of sweetener that cause my blood sugar and that of my sacred so to indiscriminately soar.

    Common sense will always win out.


    Katherine Marion


    Conscious congratulations on your sure-unfired raw treat that is sure to be a naturally created sugar-free treat!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Okay for all the honey lovers out there – hello?? it is still very high about 75% fructose- very hard on the liver – not that great either, – and it is very high glycemic. not a great alternative, imo.

    About the tanning, there is not one case in our history that a person has gotten malignant melanoma cancer from moderate use of a tanning bed. (there is opinion – and then there are facts). If you understand how the skin tans, a tanning bed cannot ‘fry’ you (lol). It only penetrates the upper horny layers of the skin, unlike the full spectrum sun, and what makes it ideal is that you have a controlled environment that filters out harsher rays that are emitted from natural sunlight. So if you are going to a professional salon with educated staff, you get a controlled dosage of regulated light that allows your body to produce vitamin d. I am betting a lot of the opinion based naysers do not know that tanning machines are actually medical devices that were first brought into hospital and dermatological offices before being deregulated into private owned tanning salons. In fact the devices at the hospitals are so extremely hard on the skin (v high levels of UVB) that a person can only be submitted to it for a few minutes – unlike tanning beds which are heavily filtered to allow only a fraction of the UVB – but enough for the body to be able to produce the vit d). It was actually a doctor in a hospital that recommended i keep my fair skin in a tanning salon in future instead of outside all the time as i would get severe burns outside to the point i would land in a hospital. It has been 15yrs since then and i have not burned once since that time.

    Response to the person saying ‘only tanning beds in alaska maybe’. The body cannot produce vit d in many parts of the world during the months of sept to may because the sun is too far from one’s position on the earth (ex. new york, toronto for sept to may). Most of the population is vit d deficient, but because a few disease profitting foundations and a disgruntled medical profession (from being deregulated with operating the tanning machines exclusively and loss of millions of $$) are upset, doesn’t mean light is the enemy. Also, the FTC lost a huge court case against a popular tanning chain in Canada and U.S. because they made several health claims regarding ‘moderate use of a tanning machine’ and they WON. The court was overwhelmed with the evidence supporting the tanning chain’s claims – while the opposition had nothing to stand on. Do your own research. Look it up yourself if you don’t believe me.

    Instead of me giving information here – why don’t some of you put their ‘knowledge’ to the test. There is a man offering a reward of $10,000 to anyone that can produce or find a legitimate study that shows that moderate us of a tanning bed causes cancer. No joke. Contact Steve through

  10. Anonymous says:

    charmaine, you sound like a crazy lady! why are you so offended by what Robyn is doing? take a chill pill

  11. Anonymous says:

    I study nutrition extensively and discovered something that may burst some bubbles here. There is a term “Cephalic Response” Your brain does not know that something is low calorie or “0” calories. Most sugar substitutes are sweeter than sugar and your brain senses that a huge amount of sweetness is coming and creates boatload of insulin to prepare for it. click on the bottom right hand corner on “Hour 1” etc and listen to the evidence…

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hi M, Sarah Aamot,

    If not Agave Nectar or honey – what then?

    Help please.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I spent some time researching Agave. Agave has numerous names (mescal, century plant, agave) and there are about 208 species. It is a succulent from Mexico and the Southwest. The crowns, flowers,leaves and stems where eaten by Native Americans and Mexicans. The Mescalero Apache (from whence Geronimo came) were named by the Spanish for the mescal cactus (the agave). The Western Apache diet was 35-40% wild meat and 60-65% plant foods, with agave being the most important plant. The agave plant provided food, drink, and fiber. The early peoples harvested agave crowns and sundried or baked them. Next they were formed into rectangular cakes and throughly dried. The sap of the agave was called ‘honey water’ or aguamiel. The sap of the agave was used in Mexico and Mesoamerica to produce a beverage called pulque. The agave was used for food, drink, and fiber. Agave is a multipurpose plant that has been used to sustain a variety of peoples over centuries. I for one will also continue to use it in my diet. I use agave syrup sparingly, it’s not a huge part of my diet-but I do use it. I am of the opinion that anything can be overdone. Too much good, clean, healthy water can drown a person. That doesn’t mean I should stop drinking water. While agave is low glycemic- people with diabetes should avoid it-as well as avoiding the medium and high glycemic fruits such as melons, mangos, and bananas.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Comparing HFCS and agave? I don’t know if I agree with that considering corn is a grain and agave is a plant. The process and creation of HFCS is way, way more than what it takes to make agave.

    Again, are we saying (“we”, as in those who agree with Robyn) that agave nectar is good, or healthy, or saying ‘eat it all you want in abundance!’ No, obviously not. If you are, say someone who wanted to clean up your lifestyle a little (like finding a way to dodge all the CRAZY stuff in the supermarkets, gas stations, fast food & regular restaurants) and you still might need something to keep you on track, I think its fine!

    My whole life I observed family members put brown sugar (or honey -which is fine) on their whole grain cereal. I just think agave nectar is not as bad.

    And how much are people eating if they are having ill effects from it? I agree with both sides. Nothing is good eaten in too high of quantities, and agave nectar is not meant to be eaten in high, frequent quantities.

    Hey, if it gets people to eat a TON of raw veggies that they normally wouldn’t eat, (and by no means is a 1/2 tbls of agave going to offset the health benefits), than great!

    It is not even close to HFCS, but that doesn’t mean you should start dumping it on everything in sight. Its good to train your body to go without sweeteners, while its also good to eat a lot of raw vegetables as well.

  15. Anonymous says:

    And yes, just because it doesn’t spike a non-diabetic person’s insulin levels doesn’t mean it won’t spike someone with diabetes. So saying a diabetic doesn’t “approve” of agave doesn’t really count ;).

  16. I guess the main issue for Mercola is that new research is showing that fructose is killing people. Agave is fructose. That’s what his big issue is, I presume. His tanning bed theory has been shown by doctors to be great for vit d supply instead of taking supplements. Vit D experts also say the lamp is okay.

    But yes, I totally hear you on they Barney/fear issues. UGH! 100% true.

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