agave nectar

Is Agave Good or Bad?

Recently there has been a storm of controversy surrounding agave nectar, an ingredient that I use frequently in my dessert recipes.  This controversy seems to have been kicked up by Dr. Mercola, who is generally ahead of the curve when it comes to medical and dietary information.  I didn’t say he is always right, I did say “ahead of the curve.”

People such as Dr. Mercola often promote things I heartily believe in such as the consumption of fish oils, large doses of vitamin D, sleep, aerobic and non-aerobic exercise, etc.  If you are a proponent of the alternative lifestyle, this stuff is about as controversial as baseball and apple pie.

Alas, I digress.  Back to agave.  I was somewhat surprised by the vehemence of Dr. Mercola’s article that came out against agave.  Both my husband and I read his article, several times over, in order to digest all of the information in it.  He does have some good points that I very much agree with.  However, we were both curious as to why he went on a rampage against agave. While his article also calls out honey as being worse than HFCS…

Use raw, organic honey in moderation or avoid it completely as it is 70 percent fructose

…he stops at one sentence and does not have a full polemic ranting against honey.  Kinda odd.  His article was so vicious (and full of generalizations) that we were actually a little bit suspicious (and this is a guy whose advice I generally enjoy) of his motives.

Let’s start at the beginning.

  1. Agave is a sweetener made from the agave plant
  2. Agave can be higher in fructose than other sweeteners
  3. Mangoes are higher in fructose than other fruits
  4. Mercola states that human beings should consume no more than 15 grams of fructose per day
  5. Therefore, Mercola states that it is best not to eat anything sweeter than one large apple per day
  6. If you’re following Mercola’s advice, don’t eat mangoes, they’re too high in fructose
  7. Mercola cautions against consuming desserts made with sweeteners other than stevia; he also advises against consuming anything more than one apple per day –so forget mangoes

So there you have it.  Agave is just another form of sugar and sugar causes inflammation.  Back in the day, the old days, that would be, we humans didn’t have access to sugar, let alone fruit, all year long like we do now.  We had some apples in the fall, and maybe some tart blueberries in the summer (unless we lived in the tropics).

We are not designed to eat sweets all year round day in and day out.

Then there is dessert.  I like my dessert.  If you want to follow Mercola’s advice, don’t eat dessert.  Or have an apple for your dessert –and goodness gracious, don’t dare to have anything more or sweeter than one large apple the entire day.

Now don’t get me wrong.  When I am feeling weaker and need to heal, I give up agave, along with every other sweetener there is and I also give up fruit.  Entirely.  This is not easy in our sugar shocked culture.  This type of eating plan –lean protein and green vegetables has helped me through just about every healing crisis I’ve ever had.  I’ve gone without agave for months, at certain points, and fruit too.  This plan works well for me and I drink a lot of green juices when I do it.  It’s kind of my own Paleo plan.

My family however, is surrounded by a world of sugar.  Sugary cakes and cookies served to the boys at school.  Teachers who give them candy for answering a question correctly (yes, I wanted to start a protest at the school over this one).

I find that making treats sweetened with agave that use high protein almond flour (I have an entire book of those called The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook) is a fabulous compromise when it comes to the wide world of desserts.  However, Dr. Mercola does not want you to compromise.  He wants you to eat no more than one apple a day for your total fructose consumption and calls for the use of stevia “in moderation.”

That’s a little extreme for me.  So I’m choosing balance.  And no, I don’t think that agave can be compared to anti-freeze (as Mercola states).  I frankly think he’s a little over the top when it comes to most of that article.  Then again, in all movements, political, healthy food, etc. we need all the points of view and they all have a place within the movement.  So, thanks Dr. Mercola for your perspective.  I’m going to try different sweeteners out on my own body and see which ones suit me best.

Yes, agave does sometimes have a higher percentage of fructose than other sweeteners.  However, those mangoes also have more fructose than an apple.

No, I’m not going to go into how fructose is metabolized by the liver and how it can raise your triglycerides to unhealthy levels –by the way, I have my triglycerides tested twice per year and they are off the charts low.

If you don’t like agave, don’t use it.  We are all bio-chemical individuals and different things work differently for all of us.

If you don’t like seeing agave in my recipes, then find something that works for you.  And leave a comment or start a topic in the forums and let us know what, and how much you used in its place.

So now you know.  Buy good agave from a source you know.  I try to know the source of all of my food.  Maybe do a little research and find an agave company you like.  Or not.

Have a good day, and please, let’s drop the agave focus before it becomes a fetish.  There’s plenty of good stuff to eat out there, let’s focus on that.


  1. jess says

    Hi Elana, I stopped using agave at the recommendation of my nutritionist whose research-based opionions i really respect. Now i use coconut nectar in a 1-1proportion. Here’s what Andrea has to say about the down side of fructose vs. glucose (she also used to be a fan of agave)
    Just how was my sweetie sabotaging me?

    All foods have a chemical structure. What happens in our bodies is therefore a bit of chemistry.

    Our sweet foods are made up of monosaccharides in varying compositions. The monosaccharides include glucose, fructose and galactose. Simply, these molecules are the building blocks for all our sweets and carbohydrates.

    The difference between those three monosaccharides is surprisingly subtle. But a subtle difference in a chemical structure can make a formidable difference in a chemical reaction. When glucose is eaten, it’s absorbed into the blood stream. It then makes its way to the liver where it is stored or broken down to supply the body’s energy. That break down and delivery process requires enzymes and insulin.

    Glucose can actually move both into and out of the cells. Its movement depends on the concentrations of glucose both inside and outside of the liver. We need glucose for energy and we need insulin production to help us regulate our blood sugar.

    We want the rate with which our blood sugar rises and falls to be slow and steady to simultaneously support our body’s need for energy and protect us from the detriments of high blood sugar, which include heart disease, diabetes, inflammation and their related imbalances, and high insulin levels, which can make us store more fat in places that don’t suit us.

    This is why foods low in glucose (ie. low glycemic) got a good rap.

    When fructose is eaten, that slight difference in its chemical structure takes it on an alternate digestive journey. Fructose is not a direct source of energy for the muscles and the brain as glucose is. Fructose does not go into the blood stream and effect our blood sugar.

    And while this might be seen as a good thing with regards to the regulation of blood sugar, fructose is instead taken up more readily by the liver. There it prompts the liver cells to produce triglycerides, a type of blood fat associated with risk of heart disease, weight gain, liver inflammation and diabetes. For this reason, fructose is sometimes referred to as “the sugar that acts like a fat”.

    Glucose converts to sugar in the blood. Fructose converts to fat in the blood and puts some extra stress on the liver and even, for many of us, the colon.
    Here’s the full link:

  2. Jennifer says

    Just have to say you are my “GO TO” girl for all things bread and dessert related! You are my hero!

    I recently got BLASTED for using agave in my Irish Cream recipe. I didn’t have Maple on hand, but had Agave (thought Honey would be too thick). I ended up making two different batches later in the week for a friend and tasted both. The agave was so much better! But a friend went crazy about the High Fructose level and couldn’t believe I would even think of using it.

    Considering I haven’t had Bailey in over a year and a half because I didn’t want to stray from a strict GF diet and Irish Whiskey, no matter how distilled will still have trace amounts of gluten; I thought I was doing pretty good. I used Brandy and Agave in my Baileys. It is about moderation; right? :)

    Thank you for your review of Agave! I can now continue with my minimal use of Agave and still be able to sleep at night. LOL

  3. Vivian Ruth says

    My body doesn’t lie to me and all I know is since ditching the agave from my diet two years now, I no longer crave sweets and use a lot less sweetener in my foods, even honey seems too sweet for me now unlike when I used agave which was much sweeter! I feel a lot better and have lost weight in my middle since I no longer put all that high fructose agave into my body. I do believe it does harm to the liver and raises blood triglycerides and anyone who says to use it in moderation doesn’t understand addiction… this stuff is so sweet it’s highly addictive! Who could eat just a little tidbit of it daily? I was becoming an addict to it, pouring it on and into anything and everything I could imagine needing sweetener! I once put it in my already sweet banana smoothies! Since giving it up I have not had any such cravings for sweet, so I’ll go with what I originally read about this nasty stuff written by Dr. Mercola and a few others because I personally and physically experienced it to be true! I believe money is an issue and most food manufacturers don’t want to part with this easy and cheap way to sweeten food for those who have blood sugar issues! People need to get use to eating things naturally sweet like fruit and they would find that they don’t need such sweet stuff like agave!

  4. Maria B says

    Hi Elana,

    Thanks for your candid information on Agave…

    Some friends introduced us to agave and seemed to feel it was healthier than plain white sugar…

    We tried it and liked the flavor and now I use it in over 90% of my recipes requiring sugar.

    Now we have a concern about agave because my husband has discovered he is borderline diabetic…

    Your information did help me a lot.


  5. Ginny Brown says

    I have just started to research going on a grain free diet and my husband is a diabetic so I have to think about his needs too. I have enjoyed reading your website and the grain free recipes but I noticed you use a lot of agave.

    I just read in Mary Janes Farm April/May 2013 magazine that HFCS is 55% fructose and agave nectar can be nearly twice that at 70 -90%. It goes on to say fructose can cause insulin resistance, raise triglycerides, and even result in liver disease. It says it is as potentially dangerous as HFCS, that it is highly processed and is neither raw or a nectar. We already believe the worst invention to man’s health was HFCS so now, having read your opinion on it and this Dr.’s rant you speak of, I am very confused. I realize it’s up to me to figure out who to believe but I thought I’d throw it out there.

    Onto more research I guess.

    Thanks for all the great recipes though!

  6. no agave says

    Agave is not JUST another form of sugar, and all sugars are not equal. Fructose is processed differently and more slowly. By the time your liver gets around to processing the fructose, it has already dealt with the other sugars you consumed. Your body has already absorbed those other sugars. So now your liver finishes processing the fructose and your body has no more need for sugars, so it gets stored as fat in your liver.

    Portraying agave as a healthy sweetener is dangerous.

  7. Anastatia says

    I get that you want to go forward from the agave debate. This article on agave is what made my eyebrows rise.
    We are so incredibly lucky to have such a huge selection of options. With that said, we also have the ability to do research on things that cause us to ponder. This topic of agave makes me crazy! I would be curious what your thoughts are on this article.

    Thank you,

  8. says

    Thanks so much for this post! I agree with you completely; moderation and awareness are more important than unquestioningly cutting some foods out of our diets entirely. I appreciate the extra information on agave syrup too– I was curious!

  9. Lia says

    I am impressed with the dessert selections using almond flour; I’m trying to develop some of my own dessert recipes that are low carb and sugar free for diabetics, such as my husband. What would I need to do to sweeten using xylitol for instance rather than agave? More oil or some liquid since one is granular and the other is a liquid.

    Thanks for any help you can provide.

    • no agave says

      If you use xylitol as a sweetener, make sure you put a warning on your recipes that people shouldn’t share even a small bite with a dog. It hardly takes any xylitol to kill a dog.

  10. Segue says

    Not everything you read on the internet is true. Surprise! Here’s an intelligent critique of Dr. Mercola’s article criticizing agave:

    Any refined sugar is not great, but agave is better than many. Agave doesn’t deserve this demonization. Always use the least-refined form of any sweetener that you can for better health. Best of all, learn to love the natural sweetness found in many foods by kicking the sweet tooth forever. In the meantime, love agave as a bridge from the highly refined HFCS and white sugar towards better health and awareness.

    • no agave says

      The amount of processing and the glycemic effect are not the only factors to consider. Enjoy your agave-fattened liver.

  11. Rosemarie says

    Dear Elana,

    I have been cooking gluten free for decades. I also have to avoid sugar cane, yeast and cow’s milk protein. I recently found your website and I am very impressed! I have tried several recipes and all of yours were much better than similar GF recipes I have tried. I would like to recommend erythritol as a sweetener for some cooking. It is very low calorie and has a taste very close to sugar. I notice no blood sugar bumps when I use it as I due when I use agave and even more so with honey. Erythritol does not act like sugar and is difficult to dissolve so it has limitations. Sometimes I dissolve it in boiling water first. For salad dressings I let it dissolve for an hour in vinegar/lemon juice before adding oil. For a Paleo diet it is a great ingredient. Sprinkles or dusts like sugar and is very good in some baked goods.

    I gave up on Dr. Mercola after he listed his favorite new cell phone apps while he has much information about the dangers from wireless tech on his site.

    Thank you for your amazing recipes and advice!
    Thank you for your amazing recipes and advice.

  12. says

    Great article on agave Elana! We eat sweets in moderation and I prefer to cook with honey, stevia, coconut sugar or maple syrup but agave is better than sugar. I sometimes buy little organic treats and I much prefer something that is sweetened with agave than cane juice. My body does not feel a sugar rush with agave. It is very important to know how your body reacts to certain sweeteners to know which are best for you and your body.
    Also, I have 2 young children and we go to a lot of birthday parties. My youngest has a gluten allergy and I bring along homemade naturally sweetened cupcakes for our family. We live in a society where sugar is everywhere and it is best to show our children a much healthier alternative. Things can still taste great a healthier way. If you have children and are social, sweets are everywhere, its best to replace the junk food with a better, tastier, healthier alternative.
    Also, when someone is sick, we follow a very low glycemic diet too.

  13. May Soas says

    Elana, I love your website and your cookbooks are a dream! so easy to follow…THANK YOU.

    what is your opinion on xylitol?

  14. Kim says

    I think the article you read is too much anti-agave, BUT with that said, agave does have more fructose and is not as good for people as it was originally thought to be. I think a lot of people have a poor judgement of agave because it is from a plant then it most be better for you- this is not true. Sugar is sugar, end of story. You need it in moderation. The only sugar that has been shown to be “better for you” is stevia. Which is an acquired taste anyhow.

  15. jeanne says

    Now I don’t know anything about the biochemical makeup of agave syrup, but I do know that, after years of staying away from all fruits and sugars due to hypoglycemia and instant migraines caused by these foods, I was thrilled to find Agave. My uber sensitive body didn’t get a headache after a bite of some agave-sweetened drink or dessert. This was a revelation. Although I do still need to moderate my intake of the sweetener, it sure beats the lightning-speed effect that fructose and sugar have on me. I think I’ll just keep listening to my body, it knows.

  16. says

    I was glad to read your thoughts about agave and Mercola’s vicious rant. I was actually less concerned about the fructose content- as I believe we all must be conscious of the quantity and quality of sweet we use and moderation is the key. My concern was his accusations about the process of creating the syrup- after careful research, which you can read about in my blog: I was convinced that there are very honorable agave manufacturers out there with great integrity and that Mercola was as you say, on a rant, period.

    Thanks for your delicious recipes and contributions,


  17. says

    I was wondering what you think about Truvia? I am new to this sort of thing and I have a hard time finding out what is “good” and what could be destructive over time. My husband and I are both students living on a substitute teacher’s salary. What are some economical/healthy alternatives I might not have encountered here in Alaska? THANK YOU!

  18. Elizabeth says

    Hi Elana, first I want to say THANK YOU! I bought your almond flour cookbook about a month or so ago and I’m just getting started! EVERYTHING I’ve made so far has been a big hit and it motivates me to keep trying new recipes. Pertaining to agave, what are your thoughts on consuming it during pregnancy? There seems to be some conflicting information out there on the subject.

    Your response is appreciated!

    P.S., are you planning on coming out with any new books?!? :)

    Thanks, Elizabeth

  19. Kara says

    I really appreciate your opinion, Elana and it was refreshing and almost relieving to hear your thoughts on this as I know about the controversy surrounding agave and also am familiar with Dr. Mercola as I follow him and read his daily emails. It is sometimes difficult to know what side to err on but you said it best: balance. I think at times I take what someone like Dr. Mercola says as law but reading what you said made me realize that not everything is evil, or going to cause cancer. Everything in moderation and doing what’s best for YOU is ultimately what it comes down to. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. It was really encouraging for me tonight. I’m new to your blog but I really enjoy it and am so thankful for the information you are providing and the research and recipes you lend :)

  20. CMM says

    I think your views on this subject are reasonable. I have always subscribed to the ‘all things in moderation’ plan and it works for most. I don’t eat a lot of sweets but have not written them off completely – but, rather, save them for special occasions. I have just now found your site/blog and enjoy it and have subscribed. Hopefully, this will inspire me to be a ‘good little girl’ and a healthy one.

  21. says

    Thanks, Elana’s for your recipes and I am on the Doug Kaufman Phase 1 and sometimes Phase 2 diet, but looking for recipes that I can alternative. You have been so kind and I appreciate all these recipes that you have share. I am looking forward to using some of these recipes. I believe in Doug Kaufman’s Phase 1 but I wish he had more recipes on his show. I use Stevia and Xylitol,since it is allowed on the Phase 1 diet. Thanks again for your help. Doug Kaufman has really help me eating more healthy.

  22. Ellen says

    Thank you for your balanced overview. I knew Dr. Mercola felt strongly about Agave and you’ve given me the Cliff Notes on his perspective. Besides Agave, Stevia and Xylitol, am planning to check out Coconut Sugar as as well as Yacon and Lucuma. Thanks for all your hard work and offerings.

  23. Marsha Speed says

    I am writing to thank you for doing what you do and doing it with integrity. I am new to your blog and am subscribing to your way of preparing and eating food-
    Your explanation of the agave issue was so helpful to me as I am just beginning to use your recipes.
    Also my cholesterol and triglycerides were very high and I am working to lower that.It is a great comfort to me to hear you share the results with the ingredients you use.

    Thank you so very much. Please continue in the battle-for what promotes health!!

  24. Cathy says

    I have fructose malabsorbtion and if I eat fruit or sweeteners my gut is not happy. I have found I can a one kiwi a day and I use maple syrup for all my sweetening. I love sweets, cookies, cakes, etc., but I know if I consume to much my tummy is not happy. When I bake I usually sub maple syrup for agave, honey, etc. and this has worked out well. Not everyone needs to do this, my husband can eat whatever he wants, but for me low sugar and fruit is the only way to go.

  25. says

    I’ve also read this about agave, but I like it as an alternative to sugar, I don’t really like the taste of honey.

    I really think I would have a hard time going without fruit like you do at times. It sounds like your diet is excellent–very clean!

  26. says

    Your response to the Mercola article on agave was spot on. Like you, I give up all forms of sugar (including fruit) when I am healing. I actually don’t think my body is equipped to deal with it well, even on a good day. But the extremes of rethinking the food paradigm should be looked at cautiously. The important thing to understand is that we are all different, and listening to ones body is the best tool we have. Thank you for such a well balanced commentary.

  27. Adrienne says

    I love agave nectar and I’m sticking to it!! :) Curious to try coconut nectar. I just bought some raw local honey.

  28. Laura C says

    I just discovered Raw Coconut Nectar by a company called Coconut Secret. They have a website that gives all kinds of great nutritional info. It is stunningly 0.5% glucose, 1.5% fructose and 16% sucrose. The nectar is lighter than Yukon and seems closer to Agave. I tried it this morning on the coffee cake recipe in the cookbook and it was great.

    BTW, I use the cookbook so often that I brought it in to Staples and had it spiral bound. Makes it super easy to lie flat on the counter while cooking. Off to have the spinach pie for lunch…

  29. Dani says

    I have no issues with Agave Nectar. I’ve heard a lot of the debate and have dove into fairly deeply. I use the Raw Unprocessed kind.. and yes there is a difference even though many cry otherwise. Everything is ‘technically processed’… if you put an apple in a juicer it is ‘processed’. The key is whether there is harmful adulteration during that ‘process’. And there are different types of Agave and ways in which they are processed depending on the manufacturer. It’s key to know and trust those who make the products you take into your body.

    A few reasons why I use it.. 1- I don’t have to use as much. So to your point comparing if you eat a pound of each… THATS the key. With Agave I use WAY less to achieve the same sweetness. 2- Fructose is what you find in NATURAL fruits like apples, etc. Fructose is absorbed into the body slower than sucrose(therefore the much lower glycemic index) so there’s no Spike then Crash of your blood sugar which causes one to lose energy and BURN LESS CALORIES. Regardless of whether you’re Diabetic OF COURSE it matters! It might not kill you, but there is an adverse effect. And finally.. 3- Sugar is processed using Animal products such as BONE CHARCOAL! ICK!

    So to sum it up… Agave allows me to moderate my sugar intake a great deal!

  30. says

    Thank you, Elana, for your perspective.

    Ever since we read about agave through Mercola’s site, my husband has been vehemently against it. I am for moderation.

    When I get sick, I cut out everything sweet, and it makes a huge difference in how quickly I get well. In my seasonal cleanse classes, I also recommend that people cut out all but a couple of fruits (lemon, berries and maybe some apples, depending on the season), because so many people are addicted to sweets and have no idea that they’re riding an energy roller coaster every day. Everyone who follows it marvels at how much more energy they have.

    That said, an occasional sweet will not kill you. Obviously, otherwise we’d all be dead by now.

  31. Maureen says

    Elana, I love your cookbook and website, but I am going to add to the controversy. I have just discovered Mercola’s website. Very interesting stuff. Here is my story in a nutshell. I have struggled with poor energy for years and am overweight, thyroid all over the place, reflux/gerd. No diet has ever worked and my weight stays about the same what ever I do. A few months ago reading about celiac disease my immediate family began going gluten free. Huge improvement quickly with all of us. Sister and niece began following the specific carb diet. Sister feels great with this approach. Niece lands in emergency with IBS symtoms. Sister hits the blogs and finds FRUCTOSE MALABSORPTION. Tells me to look it up, because it describes my problems with food. I hit the internet and find not too much information on the subject, but fellow Fruct Mals are blogging away. Some info from a dietian named Sue Shepperd from Australia and she is the guru of this condition. So in the lists of foods to avoid is fructose and of course this included honey especially and also agave. For Fruct Mals cannot digest fructose unless it is in balance with glucose in their small bowel and the fructose goes directly to their large in intestine. Major problems with the absorption of trytophan, zinc and folate. The sweetners that Fruct Mals can tolerate are – cane sugar, brown rice syrup, and barley malt syrup. Since following the guidelines for Fruct Mals my energy is abundant, my nails are growing in strong, my dry feet have cleared up and my thyroid is now perfect. My niece has no more problems since following Fruct Mal guidelines and is back on the SCD albeit modified. Best of all I am so happy to finally have an explanation as to why I felt so bad for so many years. Please consider this problem too as we need your expertise as Fruct Mals also have problems with wheat – it has fructans.

  32. Carlin says

    I think that many people believe what they want to believe, and then find their own “evidence” or arguments to support it.

    What I mean by that, is that people want to eat sweets, baked goods, and “treats” on an almost daily basis, but they are looking for the magic sweetener that is “healthy” and makes it OK to eat like this. I believe this is not the way our bodies are designed to eat. Bottom line. Humans did not evolve eating like this, and historically fruit was the main source of sweetness.

    I’m a naturopathic doctor, and have a masters in medical research. I would assume the average reader on this site does not have a science background. The science behind why agave nectar may not be the magic ingredient everyone thinks it is, is actually quite solid. I won’t bother going into it here, but if you read scientific journals then you will have come across a lot of it. It is much more complex than just a GI debate.

    Agave nectar as a sweetener is very new, and I believe over time it will go the way aspartame has. Yes obviously they are different. However, the point being at first there was a lot of hype when artificial sweeteners like that came out, that they were the carte blanche to start eating lots of sweets again. Over time mainstream thinking realized they were actually quite harmful. I believe this will happen with agave as well, as it’s already starting to.

    I understand that living in the society we do, with the kinds of foods that are mainstays of the diet, it is hard and unrealistic to give up sweets and baked goods all together. But I think using them as an occasional treat is the best way to go. The sweeteners I use are whole leaf powdered green stevia (avoid the white stevia!), grade B maple syrup (has more nutrients than grade A), or fruit such as pureed apples or chopped dates or currants (yes dates are higher GI, but at least they are a naturally occurring unprocessed food with lots of minerals and I use them only occasionally). Baking with honey is a horrible idea, as honey is totally transformed by heat, destroying it’s health-giving enzymes and nutrients, and affecting the way its metabolized by the body.

    Dr. Mercola’s wording and approach may be dramatic, but he has a lot more ability to objectively discern the research and understand the science than a lot of other people do. I applaud him for at least getting information out there, though I do wish his approach didn’t put a certain amount of people off, because I think that a lot of the information he has is quite useful.

  33. says

    Hi Elana,
    I love your simple, delicious recipes and fresh, clean blog. I had been using agave everyday in my morning drink for at least a year and finally got a bit tired of it and wanted to make a change for a while. I decided upon coconut nectar. I also use coconut oil and coconut water on a daily basis. I plan on trying some of your recipes using the coconut nectar in place of the agave. I really want to make your vanilla ice cream with it, but I don’t have an ice cream maker yet. Keep up the great work. You are truly making a difference in some many people’s lives regarding their health. I admire you.

  34. says


    Not sure if you’ll even read this comment, as I know you are busy and have loads of incoming messages, but I really wanted to throw this article your way regarding Agave Nectar. I know you don’t currently agree that it’s unhealthy, but being fully educated on the matter may change your mind. Please consider reading this:

  35. Cathi says

    I really appreciate your “Cookbook”, it is one of the few cookbooks that I use all the time, because it takes into consideration not just being “Gluten Free”, but it is also Lower in Carbohydrates.

    For someone who has the Celiac DNA Gene they also have the possibility of other autoimmune diseases such as Diabetes.

    I myself also have Celiac and Hashimotos Thryoid Disease along with Moderate Adrenal Fatigue. So, I apprieciate that fact that most of your recipes are lower in carbs, and that you use FLours that are not high in carbs and full of starch, which can cause a blood sugar rise like so many of the Gluten free Recipes that are out there.

    I had a sister who died from diabetes, which is just the other side of all these other Autoimmune diseses, so I am not taking any chances. So, thank you for your healthy recipes.

    Please continues to do the work you are doing.

    I personally do not use Agave Necter, but I replace all your recipes with “Nature’s Hallow Sugar Free Honey Subsititute”, which helps to keep the carbs even lower for me. Because of my sister, I choose to stay on a low carb style of eating, and your recipes have been wonderful for that using Almond Flour, and Coconut Flour. Oh by the way the ingrediants in Nature’s Hallow Sugar Free Honey Substitute are:
    Xylitol, Spring Water, Xanthan Gum, Natural Honey Flavor, Citric Acid, Sorbic Acid. So, the Ingrediants is pretty clean of bad things.

    Anyway, have you thought about using Macadamia nut flour or Cashew Flour, which are also low in carb?

    Lately, I just found out that I also have Dairy/Casein Sensitivities along with Soy, Corn and MSG. So, I have been trying to use Natural Yeast (unactive yeast) to try to make substitute cheeses. Two interesting books that I found by two Vegetarians are “The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook” by Jo Stepaniak and “Go Dairy Free” by Alisa Marie Fleming.

    I have also been using “Daiya” Dairy Free cheese that I bought from the Health food store in the area. It really is pretty amazing stuff, and actually tastes like a mild cheeder chesse.

    Just a little hint: Someone gave my a receipe for making my own syrups from any sugar that I wanted to use. What you do is take what amount of sugar the recipe calls for and you add the same amount of water to that sugar allowing it to disolve completely into the water. I imagaine you could had a little xanthan gum for thickness. Then add it to your recipe. So, it would be like this. Say your recipe asks for 1/4 cup Agave Necter, but you want to use Coconut Palm Sugar. So, Take 1/4 Cup Coconut Palm Sugar and add 1/4 Water to the 1/4 Coconut Palm Sugar and let it completely disolve together. If it’s not thick enouch just add a little Xanthan gum, and I mean a little, probably less than and 1/4 tsp maybe even 1/8 of tsp. I am not sure on this, so you have to experiment a little.

    Another way to make a sugar syrup is mix 1/8 cup of Coconut Palm sugar and 1/8 cup of Eryitol Sugar and disolve in 1/4 cup of water. Or use any type of sugar you like. It’s suppose to work with any sugar. I have mixed in Lo Han guo which is another favorite of mine.

    Anyway, just some other ideas if Agave Necter does not work for you.

    But THANK YOUA GAIN Elana for all your GREAT RECIPES they have meant alot to me and my family.


  36. Tom says

    Hi Elana never was a big fan of artificial sweeteners especially ones that leave aftertaste or health issues but wanted an alternative safe sweetener without all the calories. I was curious as to your personal feedback on sweeteners? After reading all the negative issues about sweeteners today including Agave, Equal & Splenda it kinda makes you wonder what is safe to use anymore? The only one I’ve not heard much about yet is stevia (green package-all-natural sweetener) so I’ve decided to give Sun Crystals a try in moderation for awhile until I hear otherwise as it’s an all-natural sweetener (stevia mixed with pure cane sugar) without all the unnecessary calories. They offer a free sample if anyone is interested their site is

  37. Claire says

    Hi – I’m coming in very late on this fascinating thread and debate, I used to use agave too.

    There is a brand called SweetFreedom in the Uk which is a fruit syrup made 100% from fruit and the website tells me it is low glycaemic, no additives, preservatives colours and no enzymes or chemicals used in the processing, only water. Only 24g per 100g of fructose which is apparently lower than most honey as well. I have used it for over a year now as we have a diabetic in the family and all try to eat a bit healthier than we used to, avoid the wheat / sugar / processed foods etc etc etc. Works very well, and the diabetic’s regular blood tests are good.

    In an ideal world we’d all snack on an apple when we want something sweet, but it doesnt work like that does it ;o)

    And a VERY good point made earlier up this thread that we are all unique and wonderful and what works for one does not necessarily work for another!

    Moderation in (pretty much) all things and lots of laughter we reckon! x Claire

    website is if interested – though I dont know if you can get it in US? Whats great for me is I can use Elana’s wonderful recipes with this instead of agave and not have to think about it – life is good!

  38. Sarah says

    Thanks for brining this up, I have been meaning to do some research on this topic and your post convinced me to finally do it.

    I am a biologist and while this particular biology is not my specialty, I am familiar with reading the scientific literature and have access to journals where it is published. I did a search for studies of avage and found a couple that I thought you might be interested to read. They both appeared in peer-review journals that are well regarded.

    A trial that tested the impact of a range of sweeteners in the lab and looked at their impact on cholesterol, triglycerides, liver function, inflammation and body weight.
    It’s worth reading the article (I can send it to you if you can’t download it)
    Abstract is available here:

    The short summary is that for most of the measures Agave was no different from the controls, except blood serum triglycerides, which were higher than controls (comparable to HFCS). They also found that Agave was more likely to be eaten in excess than some other sweeteners.

    Another study focused instead on the antioxidant properties of different sweeteners. They found that dark and blackstrap molasses had the most antioxidant activity, second were honey, maple syrup and brown sugar and then finally with minimal activity were agave, refined sugar and corn syrup.

    Abstract here:

    My feeling from reading these articles is that moderate intake of agave is certainly not a problem, but that you might get some extra health benefits by switching to one of the sweeteners that has higher antioxidant activity.

    I understand people like Dr Mercola are trying to summarize science down into manageable pieces. However, it’s worrying to read his article which was published after the studies I mention above and yet fails to cite them. There is a lot of hype in his article that is likely to scare people without really laying out the science carefully.

    As I mentioned, get in touch if you would like the full articles and can’t download them.


  39. says

    Thank You for this article. I do read several of Dr. Mercola’s things and I think he went overboard on this one. We need to take what some people say with a grain of salt, and even though a lot of his things are good doesn’t mean all of them are and doesn’t he he will always give accurate information. I’m of the mindset that something from a natural source is always better than something that is not so, I would much rather use agave or honey that a refined or processed sweetener. Anyway, I appreciate your opinion and I personally like that you use agave in your desserts. :)

  40. says

    We don’t work in the fields anymore. We drive everywhere we want to go. We are not as active as our ancestors used to be. So, yes, if you eat too many sweets with a sedentary life-style, no matter what the sweetener, you are making unhealthy choices. People forget to use common sense with their diet. I use stevia every morning in my tea. I enjoy baking with all types of sweeteners. I prefer to use agave nectar and/or honey for many recipes because they taste better. Find out what works for your body and stick with it.

    Thank you, Elana for your wonderful post. I really enjoyed reading what you had to say, as well as all of the comments of your readers!

  41. says

    My mouth is watering just looking at the photo and ingredients in your Jelly Doughnut recipe! YUM! Your site is so useful, and a fantastic resource for those with or without Celiac Disease. I’ve included your link on my website too. (For the avocado spread you did awhile ago) Thank You!

  42. says

    you go girl. thanks for the info. i LOVE dr. Mercola and do follow a lot of his advise. i think he is off the mark here though. i have your cookbook and have tried several of the recipes (the classic carrot cake is a personal favorite). do i eat it every night? certainly not. but, it is nice to have options out there. i love your blog and your passion for good food. moderation in all things is my motto (unless you’ve made the classic carrot cake….then it’s first come, first serve)!!

  43. says

    Thanks so much for this post! I’ve been struggling with agave ever since I read that article. Your perspective has really cleared it up. I try to use it less, but I’m glad to know that others are using it in moderation without any .

    ~Aubree Cherie

  44. Laura says

    Hi Elana,

    I love your blogging! However, I have to disagree with your review of Dr. Mercola’s article. While I agree he can get a bit, umm, worked up in his writings, many of the points you took issue are a misunderstanding.

    You didn’t copy his full statement about honey. He said:

    Use raw, organic honey in moderation or avoid it completely as it is 70 percent fructose which is higher than HFCS. **However the fructose is not in its free from so that moderates the damage.**

    I have a PhD in pharmacology, and though I am by no means an expert, I understand that in carbohydrate (sugar) metabolism, the issue is often in what form the sugar comes into the body. Carbohydrates are often polymer (long chains) of simple sugars, like glucose and fructose. Something like honey contains the building block of fructose, but in a polymer (long chain) with other simple sugars.

    In agave nectar and HFCS, the fructose is free as a simple sugar, which changes the way the body responds to it. In many people, but not all, free forms of fructose are damaging.

    While Dr. Mercola does cite several fruit sources that have high amounts of sugar, be aware that very few of us eat mangoes everyday. In moderation, a mango once a month is perfectly fine. However, put HFCS or agave nectar into something that you eat every day, or many products that you eat several times a day, and this is no longer moderation.

    The other thing you took issue with was Dr. Mercola’s comparison of agave nectar to antifreeze. He said:

    While agave syrup does have a low-glycemic index, so does antifreeze — that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

    He is not saying that agave nectar is poison. He is taking issue with the glycemic index. He is saying that the “gold standard”, glycemic index, is *not* a helpful marker of what makes a “good sugar”. This is absolutely, completely correct. The glycemic index measures how insulin rises in response to a particular food source. Fructose does not cause your insulin levels to rise as much as glucose, the primary cause of insulin release, but it changes the way the body metabolizes sugar! In this case, it promotes a condition called insulin resistance. Type II diabetics do not respond to insulin as well as healthy individuals to lower their blood glucose levels. This is NOT because they don’t make insulin–they make plenty–but because their body no longer responds to the insulin that they make. This condition, known as insulin resistance, is one of the major heath threats that our nation is facing.

    In the end, sugars high in free forms of fructose really are harmful for you, particularly when consumed every day. If you want to use a teaspoonful of agave nectar here or there, or make a dessert with corn syrup, that’s perfectly fine. It’s a treat, and we all know that treats are fine every once in awhile.

    But spiking a baked good, granola bar, or other food product with agave nectar and labeling it as “healthy” is misguided and wrong.

    Agave nectar is not natural, nor is it “healthier” than any other sweetener. Use it with discretion, and live a long and healthy life!

  45. amber says

    > “Teachers who give them candy for answering a question correctly (yes, I wanted to start a protest at the school over this one).” I go through this every year with my daughters teachers, too.

    They insist on giving her candy, which she loves, but causes terrible reactions. She’s O.D.D. and A.D.H.D. and sugar has the opposite effect on her than it does other children. Instead of making her hyper and go up, it causes her to go down, get depressed and crash. Then they send notes home saying that she had a bad day.

    Agave has been a great alternative for her. It may have high fructose, but she doesn’t have the same reaction to it as she does to processed sugar. It provides the sweetness that she craves without the crash. I use it in moderation anyway, but over all, I’m very happy with the results of Agave nectar.

    Also, since there seems to be a crisis in the number of bees, I really would rather not contribute to that when I can get Agave just as easily.

    • Frantically Frugal Francesca says

      Very interesting observation about the candy for ADHD. My son has learning and speech issues, we have found the culprit to be not only sugar, but mainly artificial colors and flavors in foods, toiletries, detergents, and cleaning supplies. We are on month 3 of ridding our home of these ingredients, switching to more whole and organic foods. Amazingly, his mood flare-ups have decreased SIGNIFICANTLY, his speech has become much clearer, his thoughts and ideas are much more complete and cohesive (I am able to understand more what he is trying to convey), and he seems to comprehend more of what we try to teach him (we homeschool). Try it out, it just might help. As for the school teacher, maybe she will listen if you address it from an allergy-type perspective. Or if you do not wish to generate hostility, maybe even “donate” to the class more acceptable forms of rewards – I am sure you and other mom’s feel the same anyway.

  46. says

    Hey Elana!

    I use both agave and honey (and on rare occasion maple syrup) in moderation. I know what you mean about Dr. Mercola. I used to subscribe to his emails and oh maybe a year or so ago I unsubscribed because I noticed a pattern of drama. In my opinion he’s an alarmist. It’s funny, because I’m taking an online marketing class right now and one way of “selling” is to trigger people’s fears. I personally don’t think I would feel comfortable using this tactic, but I realize now that I was sensing this tactic from Mercola. I’m pretty sure it is his sales technique to get you to buy his particular products that are “the answer”. I’m not questioning his motives…he may do it all with a sincere desire to lead people to products he believes in, but I got tired of the drama. I would rather be allowed to weigh the facts and make a decision myself rather than someone trying to manipulate an emotional decision from me.
    Anyhoo….good for you and the hubs for being able to take a step back from the conflicting reports and make a decision based on what is best for you according to your personal experiences.

  47. oyvey says

    It’s funny that this is causing such a dustup, because the remarks you make about Mercola’s writing style are (to my mind) consistent across what he says (inflammatory, not really evidence based), which is why I don’t read what he writes, regardless if I agree with it.

    I’m not an agave fan, but I usually swap out the sweetener and am no worse for wear.

    And, as always, you’re respectful and clear about your beliefs.

    Use whatever sweetener you want, and I’ll certainly still read this site, and be overjoyed that I can find high protein, simple, gluten free treats for me and mine.

  48. Helen says

    I read the article and it didnt change my mind at all. I use agave in things such as bread or yogurt and many other things as its low g.i/low g.l. I eat a very healthy diet and try not to eat anything processed so this is my treat and if it is processed well sometimes you just have to allow for thing. Id rather eat agave anyday then put raw sugar cane into my diet as im a keen low gi/gl fan

  49. says

    Elana, I love your site and recipes. While I don’t agree with all your ingredients, I love your creativity and posts.

    I never recommend agave for all the reasons that have been expressed here. But it is quite easy to substitute grade B maple syrup. At other times I will use date sugar or maple sugar and adjust the liquid in the recipe.
    I also don’t recommend grape seed oil – as an omega 6 fatty acid, we all get too much of those already. But again, it’s easy to substitute butter.
    Thanks for all you do!

    Anne Fischer Silva,
    Clinical Nutritionist

  50. Rebecca says

    Thank you, Elana, for bringing another voice to the discussion about sweeteners. I can relate to your desire to achieve balance when feeding your family…trying to provide alternatives to the candy, cookies, and junk that we are inundated with on every grocery store aisle, in our schools and workplaces.

    I appreciate how you reach out to people who might have otherwise never tried natural sweeteners or alternative baking ingredients and gluten free grains. People like my father, husband and my husband’s family who are now enjoying your gluten free desserts with agave and enjoying better health because of it. For years I tried using Mercola’s approach when talking to my husband about nutrition–but I have found that this approach doesn’t work with too many people. They are turned off by being so extreme and people need help transitioning to a healthier way of life. So thank you for helping my family!

  51. Hope says

    You know, it is interesting this debate on agave. Apparently, the agave industry does not have the funds to provide extensive marketing the way the corn industry does. It’s fascinating. So much heated debate. The problem for me is all we see in our search for answers is food. Is that the only place our health problems lie? Unfortunately, no. Diabetes, cancer, heart disease, inflammation are all problems of the spirit – dis-eases. A lack of connection to our bodies and how to truly take care of them. We have become a society that is trying to figure out all our problems in food and yet, we are gaining in sickness all because we constantly try to find the answers to what we need outside of the very machine that knows what it needs. Our bodies are miraculous. They know how to self-heal and truly take care of themselves – this is built into our systems – and yet, we don’t pay attention to what they ask for. My mother told me she heard a doctor telling a group of people that spinach wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The iron wasn’t as available as other foods. And let’s not forget about the great egg debate. First it was in, then it was out, then it was in again. Our bodies are unique and individual and have to be seen as that. Stop listening to what other people tell you is right for you and start listening to your body. It is the only way you will ever know if a food is “good” or “bad” for you. Is it helping you or is it harming you? You’ll know if you just take the time to listen. There are signs all of your body, everywhere. They are trying to communicate with us. Start by paying attention when you eat – how does it feel? How about after you’re done and a few hours have passed? How do you feel when you wake up the next day? So many people live day to day to day with things like chronic diarrhea, bloating, excessive gas, pain, joint aches, acne, inflammation, etc, etc. because they are so disconnected from their bodies they can no longer hear what is trying to be said. Let’s mend the soul-body connection and you might just see what’s right for you. It’s not about agave, people. Agave might not be good for that doctor or that person sitting next to you, but is it good for you? There cannot be a blanket statement that agave is good for everyone or bad for everyone. Our bodies are too unique for that.

    And good heavens, stop believing everything you read on the internet. Wikipedia is not a reliable source of any information. Anyone can post on there. Anyone. And just because it was found in a study does not mean it is true. What did they base their study on? How many test subjects? Was it double-blind? Did they account for every little thing that could change the results one way or another? Who funded the research? You can prove or disprove anything depending on how you go about it. There are so many people out there trying to tell others how to live based on what works for them. But it works for THEM. Not you. Or maybe it does. You need to really ask yourself this question and base it upon your body’s responses, not what might be good for you or not. Truth is, we don’t really know how food is processed in an individual body. There is no way to tell how many nutrients were absorbed out of a certain food or what foods are causing inflammation in every single body unless there is some huge group of people who are eating nothing but agave and frankly, that would make you sick. We can only make our best assumptions. And any doctor worth his salt will tell you that there is so much about the body we have yet to understand, including what our bodies do with our food. But you know what? You have something that will tell you. You’re living in it. Pay attention. Reconnect. You might be surprised what happens if you give the vessel that allows you to have a life some attention. Stop listening to what everyone else tells you is right for you; listen to what your body says.

  52. says

    Very refreshing response Elana.

    As a nutritionist whom specializes in womens internal health issues focusing on aging gracefully and healthfully- sometimes people can get on a soapbox and nitpick regarding certain “foods” (I have been guilty of this myself in the past).

    Thank you for bringing perspective to what has become a very volatile controversy as of late; the great agave debate.

    Your suggestion to encourage people to find their own “truth” around what sweeteners feel right to use for them is a lovely reminder for us all-

  53. says

    Thanks for the balanced perspective. I thought Dr. M was a bit over the top on this too. I don’t use it often, but like to have the option to use agave

  54. Helen Blain says

    Is agave syrup lower on the glycemic index than other sweeteners? (To me, that would be a reason to use it!) Do you use rice syrup in any of your recipes? I’ve made so many dietary changes already to accommodate my gluten free diet – I’m not ready to give up sweets too! Thanks for continuing to inspire me in my gf cooking endeavors!

  55. Tom says

    Interesting topic Elana..I think I would not worry so much about what one person says as much as what the whole majority uses as everybody has their own opinions & favorites. If everyone uses agave or splenda than it must work but that does not indicate it is the perfect sweeter for everyone. I found certain sweeteners taste weird to me in certain recipes. Thus you have to experiment to find what works best for you. Realize everybody’s body chemistry and taste is different and reacts different to certain sweeteners so no one sweetener is perfect for everybody. Which is why we have so many sweeteners on the market today? Although this list is outdated I started looking at alternative sweeteners with the lowest cal/g & GI and sugar alcohols (found in most natural fruits) processes better in our bodies naturally and started doing my own experimenting with sugar alcohols. Seems everybody is an expert but few offer perfect advise when it comes to your health other than to eat in moderation. I personally prefer natural sugars from fruits used before all these artificial sweeteners hit the market as long as your GI does no go into high orbit when you eat using it. Whenever it is processed you have to ask if it is healthy so do some research & find out what works for you and use it in moderation and you will do fine.

    Comparison of Sugar and Sugar Alcohols
    Ingredient Sweetness GI Cal/g
    Sucrose(sugar) 100% 60 4
    Maltitol Syrup 75% 52 3
    Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate 33% 39 2.8
    Maltitol 75% 36 2.7
    Xylitol 100% 13 2.5
    Isomalt 55% 9 2.1
    Sorbitol 60% 9 2.5
    Lactitol 35% 6 2
    Mannitol 60% 0 1.5
    Erythritol 70% 0 0.2

  56. says

    I was so glad to discover this topic on your blog!! I was just saying to someone this week that I needed to find out the real scoop on agave and your post and the comments have made that much easier! Thank you so much!

    We reviewed your cookbook on our blog this week — I am really impressed with all your recipes and can’t wait to make more of them.

  57. Charlotte says

    Elana, I love your recipes! I’ve never been a fan of agave so I use the same substitutions in all your recipes. I substitute an equal amount of brown rice syrup for the agave and then I spike it with a little stevia (not a blend). This works beautifully. The moistness is there b/c I don’t cut back on liquid, and the stevia makes up for the sweetness that the BR syrup lacks. I never use only stevia for two reasons: it messes up the consistency of the finished product, and it has a bitter aftertaste if used alone. I add stevia by pinches until I get the desired sweetness. No one ever suspects that the stevia is there. I don’t cook with honey b/c it loses the health benefits of it’s naturally occurring enzymes.

  58. Lively says

    Hey Elana! You are brave for bringing this up- it sure is a hot topic! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your recipes and your cookbook! Here is a great video that goes into detail about the dangers of fructose:
    It is interesting to note that this medical researcher feels that the damage is done when we consume fructose without the natural fiber. Highly processed foods that make up a large percent of the American Diet are high in fructose (high fructose corn syrup) and low in fiber. When we eat a whole food like an apple or mango, the fiber comes along with it so apparently it does not have the same effect on the body. Check it out if you have the time!

  59. Va Girl says

    I have to agree with many of the other comments…how can Agave be so bad if so many people can tolerate it when they cannot tolerate other forms of sugar (cane, honey, etc.) I too want to enjoy life and some of the yummy tastes that go with it! :) Don’t get me wrong, I love apples, but I love all kinds of fruit too. I don’t think I could give up fruit and if I want a “dessert” of some kind, I use the almond flour and agave, and know I am getting a fairly “healthy” dessert. As many commented already, listen to your body and everything in moderation.

  60. malinda says

    Right on Elana! I agree with your view of balance & moderation. This country especially seems to have the notion of having magic bullets that will do no harm in whatever amount. And we love our sugary treats. We all have to take responsibility for our own bodies & start making healthier choices–BUT we can’t become extremists. Thank you for your refreshing & thoughtful approach to this subject.

  61. Tam says

    Wonderful post, Elana.

    When I lived in New England, I used maple syrup. When I lived in the middle of the country, I used honey. Here, in the low desert, agave nectar is my local sweetener and has been used for ages by the indigenous people of my region. I use it in nearly everything and never once felt the crash or inflammatory response of other sugars.

    I grow my own stevia to use as a sweet herb in teas but find processed stevia too sweet to use in anything else, as I do rice syrup and xylitol. I find it fascinating that each person has a sweetener that works better for their body!

  62. Ann says

    I have read a book recently that makes the same claims: No sugar, but does suggest fruit in moderation. You might find it a good source of information.
    The RAVE Diet & Lifestyle by Mike Anderson.
    I have to say, once I gave up the sugar, my inflammation is totally gone.

  63. says

    I appreciate your review of Dr. Mercola’s comments on Agave. I, too, generally find his information and perspectives helpful and agree with many of them. I do take issue when he gets on a rant about some things–whole grains and agave being two of them. My take on fructose is that when accompanied by the fiber in fruit, it is neutralized and does no harm. It is only when it is consumed alone–not as nature intended–that it is toxic. Therefore, eat your fruit and veggies and small amounts of agave, especially with fiber, should be o.k.

  64. Pamela says

    I think it’s great to read your post, that you are so up front about having sweets, and alternative desserts are surely better than any of the junk in the stores.
    Hurray for YOU for all you DO.. and well I love mangoes, and I am not about to give up eating a decent piece of fruit instead of a crummy bag of M & M’s

  65. Rebekah says

    Regarding agave, or any other type of sweetener, we’ve found it best to do a food trial. In our home several of us have been diagnosed with Celiac and food sensitivities. We research to learn, buy the best quality we can afford, and then experiment. No matter how “healthy” the food, how we feel after consuming it tells us if it is truly right for us. We prefer honey, followed by stevia, and then sucanat/Rapadura. In many of your recipes we’ve successfully substituted honey and the results are still excellent.

  66. Leah says

    Xylitol is a good alternative sweetner with many healthful qualities. It is great for your teeth, and a whole list of bonuses. It also does not raise your blood sugar levels like many of the other natural sweetners. In this day and age of out of control obesity and diabetes which even some of the low glycemic sugars will spike some people. I was very in love with agave and then found xylitol which tastes exactly like sugar and will not give me any sugar spikes. The only stevia I will use is the liquid vanilla stevia by Nunaturals. It is fabulous! I have been eating a low imact diet for 5 months and have lost 25 lbs, have tons of energy and in my late 40s. Getting off sugars and caffiene was a big part of it all. If you are not familiar with Kat James she has a wonderful book called The Truth About Beauty. It is about eating so that you are not spiking your blood sugar which is the cause of inflammation and alot of disease. We have messed up metabolisms (most of us) and the majority of people are causing inflammation in their body by eating blood spiking foods. Kat also does monthly 5 day retreats and her book is a wealth of knowledge about what we put in and on our bodies with great product reference guides. Highly reccommended if you suffer from diabetes or any other disease. It has transformed my life.

  67. Abigail says

    Stevia is great if you can handle it… But it doesn’t retain sweetness when cooked. I personally use honey or maple syrup (about half as much as the recipe calls for agave), but it’s in great moderation. Since I have very severe blood sugar issues, it’s a pretty big compromise to use any form of sugar.

    Then again, I also don’t eat mangoes LOL.

    Or a full apple a day, when it comes to that.

    Fructose definitely leads to severe health issues… but if you eat little of it, or go on completely sugar-free vacations to let the body heal from it, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy your desserts.

    The all or nothing approach pretty much guarantees you’ll fall off the sugar-wagon.

  68. Jenniffer says

    I happened to go to the Dr. yesterday I told him about the agave thing. He told me that since I am a diabetic agave is the best. If I wasn’t then he’d recommend honey. I have ruled out Stevia, because I just realized that everytime I cook with it/drink it I get nauseaus. The Doctor also told me that that is a side effect for some people (to stevia) as well as dizziness.

    • Sue says

      fructose for diabetics because it doesn’t raise blood sugar like glucose that goes straight into the bloodstream. Fructose has to go through the liver.

  69. Angel Kelly says

    Thanks for your perspective, And faith that we can all find out what is right for each of us, there is no one true way. I love your recipes.
    My baking friend & i routinely halve the amount of sugar called for inrecipes, even yours, if it is then “not sweet enough” we add some back in and hardly ever make it to the full amount called for in recipes.

  70. Robyn Baldwin says

    I just want to give you big AMEN! We all have the right to chose what works best for us. Enough said.

  71. barb says

    Elana, I enjoy your writing, your recipes and your concern for others. I also enjoy
    a little sugar, a little honey, a little maple syrup and a lot of fruit and vegetables. I learned to cook with the 60’s back- to- the- land idea and I remain healthy.

  72. says

    I think the best goal to focus on is to get processed foods out of your life and stick to whole foods. We use honey because we’re on the SCD in our home, but I will be adding agave and rapadura to our baked goodies when we are healed. I will not be going back to white sugar and it will probably never be in our home again, and that’s coming from and ex-sugar addict who’s autoimmune issues have almost been cured on a whole foods grain-free diet.

  73. colormepink says


    Thanks so much for giving us this blog. I’m with you on almost every opinion you post, including this one. I’ve been gluten free for 4 years, am constantly trying to learn more about nutrition to keep my health at its best. Agave has worked for me- more than 3 years of routine bloodwork with excellent lipid profiles and just plain feeling better can attest to that. Of course, my overall sugar/ carbohydrate intake is very low, perhaps if I ate a more traditional diet the results would be different, but then how do you differentiate between the rest of the crap in your diet from the effects of the agave? So, I like you will continue to use it. I can’t have almonds so every almond flour recipe has to be adapted for my needs with an alternative nut flour. That’s just a given for me and I move on. I don’t understand why the agave issue shouldn’t be the same way. You’ve stated your position and will continue to use agave, any objectors to agave can easily swap it out for another sweetener. There are a LOT of posts in the forums detailing many substitutions that work for others just as well. Again, thank you for giving us so many great recipes, I always look forward to receiving my emails with a new recipe post, you’ve really been an inspiration to me in the kitchen and have helped me share some new things with lots of friends and family. I hope you will continue for a long time.

  74. Phred says

    He fails to mention that one should never substitute agave 1:1 for sugar!

    I usually do 0.25 : 1 agave to sugar substitution and that is more than enough!

    If you’re worried about too much sugar absorption, try taking gymena sylvester prior to eating sweets.

  75. Jacquie says

    Thanks for this article. I have taken a recent interest in agave and have been consuming in place of regular sugar (sugar junkie in rehab here). I understand that agave has a low glycemic index and do notice there isn’t the usual spike and crash in blood sugar typical of other sweeteners when consumed. But how can agave be low glycemic, yet high in fructose? I am assuming fructose has a very high glycemic index. I’ve completed some preliminary reading on agave at this point. Perhaps someone could shed some light on this?

    Many thanks.

    • Sue says

      It can be low glycaemic because it doesn’t raise blood sugar like glucose. When you eat glucose it goes straight into the bloodstream raising blood sugar and causing insulin to spike. When you eat fructose it has to be dealt with the liver so it doesn’t go straight to the blood stream hence it doesn’t raise blood sugar and can be called low glycaemic. In the liver it needs to be dealt with. This is the potential problem with fructose it requires metabolising by the liver and in excess can potential lead to problems like non-alcoholic fatty liver, inflammation. Fructose in excess is also converted to uric acid which can cause gout symptoms in those that are prone to this.

  76. says

    Thanks for taking the road of moderation. We are so quick to hop on and off the bandwagon of the current nutritional trend. I completely agree that sugar in all forms is hard on the body, especially when one is sick, has cancer, etc. So reducing sugar is always a worthy goal, and being willing to eliminate it when the body is in crisis is very important. However, I find that agave works well for people who are addicted to sugar. It is sort of the “sugar patch” that is a stepping stone for them to get off sugar and artificial sweeteners, which are just as problematic. If I can encourage people off of 6 cans of soda per day and they are replacing that with a few teaspoons of agave, then that is great progress.

    Moderation in all things. Find the balance.

  77. Tracy Bunnell says

    I bake for other families and I love to use your recipes. One of the ladies I bake for recently brought up the great agave debate. I did a ton of seaching to find some answers to give her peace of mind. I so much appreciate what you do and how thorough you are. Based on my own research, I could not agree with you more. I think this life style can send us to extremes. However, my goal is healthful, researched, and thought out moderation. I love to nourish people. Again, thank you for all that you share.

  78. Kristin says

    I have decided to ease back on the amount of agave we use. I started by cutting the agave of Elana’s recipes in half and found that we still loved them. Then I cut out the agave entirely and replaced it with applesauce. This has worked beautifully in all of Elana’s recipes that I have tried from the cookbook and the website. Granted, they would probably not be sweet enough for someone just beginning to adjust to a lower sugar diet, but it has worked for my family.

  79. Jaci Trupiano says

    I also receive emails from Dr. Mercola’s site. In one recent video promoting a breakfst beverage, he promoted a whey protien shake he has developed in various flavors. Since I only watched a portion of the video and have not researched his whey protien shake ingredients, I do not know what, if any, sweetener he has in his shake. However, I did view enough of the video to hear how he prepared the shake. He adds fruit, a variety of fruits and more in quantity than I would consider appropriate if he is promoting a limited fructose intake. I am not completeley knowledeable in the amounts of frutose in each fruit, but the quantity of fruit he added to his shake was certainly more than one apple. I’ll have to investigate this further….

  80. Beth says

    Personally we like & use honey and can get it from local sources. I have eaten some prepared / processed foods with agave in them, but not in large amounts or even frequently – maybe twice in the last 2 years.

  81. Sandra says

    My two boys and I are fructose intolerant and need to eat a high percentage of our calories as carbohydrates. We eat a lot of homemade baked goods that are made with highly processed dextrose (and we can’t eat whole grains either). It stills feels a bit wrong to me to be eating this way, but we are all so much healthier now.

    Great post, Elana. Read the articles, gain insight, but listen to your body.

  82. says

    It is always up to the person. I don’t necessarily use agave, because I’d rather see what happens later down the road with those who do choose to use it. The excess fructose consumption in this country, which has grown over the past 40 years, is, what I believe causing so many diet related disease.

    Agave nectar, however, might be a bit more “healthier” than high fructose corn syrup, due to the fact that HFCS is just empty calories, providing no nutrition. Agave nectar, even though heavily processed, still contain some nutrients bind the fructose. Also, high fructose corn syrup will cause an insulin spike, whereas agave will not.

    In my opinion, it is best to avoid agave, at least until we can see some definite and long term studies. It is better to be safe than to be sorry, and if that means having to wait until the next generation can use it, then I’m all for that. Right now I am using stevia, xylitol, small amounts of sucanant, and very rarely, raw honey.

  83. julie Griewank says

    Elana- Love the balance and open -mindedness of your article on agave. Your attitude is one of exploration, “here’s what works for me”, and respect for someone proposing a divergent view. Elegant. thank you. PS-your recipes are scrumptious!

  84. Helen says


    When I substitute 1/2 the recipe with stevia, I dissolve stevia with the same quantity of water eg 1/2 cup of agave – will have 1/4 cup water with stevia and 1/4 cup agave.

  85. Emilia says

    I almost feel sorry for you when I think about some of your readers comments about agave nectar. It’s if as almost some people think that you yourself are the producer, founder and spokes person for this sweetener and they are your faithful followers.

    Anyway, I think your article is down to the point and in the end of the day it is up to all and everyone to get to know their own body and act and feed accordingly.

    I just started to eat Manuka Honey +15 for its anti-inflammatory activities and found it working very well for my eczema breakouts. Honey is afterall an ancient healer provided by nature and apparently by body agree for it to be used for that purpose.

    So, keep up the good work and keep inspire us with your recipes.


  86. says

    Thank you for your article and its humor. I find that if you learn to truly listen to your body, you’ll be able to tell when any form of sweetener does not agree with your body. I am surprised (and I admit, also a bit suspicious) of Dr. Mercola’s reasoning for such an article. With sooooooo many other things to come out against, agave seems quite harmless in comparison. However, if it gets some good conversations going about sweeteners than I guess, it’s all good. I am sure that I will certainly be eating more than just an apple on some occasions as I enjoy the fruit that is on its way in late spring and summer! I agree…balance is the key!

  87. says

    I’m sorry for not having the time right now to look through all the comments – – so I may be repeating something someone else mentioned. For a less ranting zealot source on agave you can look at an article on the Weston A Price Foundation web site. Same perspective as Mercola on this but more professional, less personally charged.

  88. j says

    RE Mercola & agave. I am familiar with the info on agave but I do still use it occasionally and just use small amounts.

    I used to be a fan of Mercola’s site, but now I longer trust his site as a source of info.
    This time of year, Mercola will send out emails to his subscribers about the toxic ingredients found in sunscreens & insect repellents.
    He talks about the “Dirty Little Secrets of Sunscreen and Bug Spray.”
    He talks about how Deet & other ingredients being neuro-toxic.
    I believe much of what he says about sun exposure, these ingredients being toxic and so on.
    But what he does not talk about is Eucalyptus oil causing the same neurotoxic reactions as Deet & the other toxic chemicals he mentions I am sure he does not talk about this because he uses this ingredient in his own product.
    Since he is an MD, I am sure he is familiar with these reports.

  89. Chelsea says

    Thanks for the reality check! I think my preferences still sway towards honey just cause it’s less processed, but it’s nice to have Agave Syrup put into perspective.

  90. says

    Hi Elana,
    My name is Jamie and I am a holistic nutritionist. I want to thank you for writing this article.
    I too like to use a agave in moderation. It feels good to me. I dont get a blood sugar spike when I enjoy agave like I do with other sweeteners.
    When I read Dr Mercolas article I had to take some time to digest it. I also believe he is over the top. Most importantly, I believe that when we pay attention to our bodies we can be the best ones to determine wheather or not a food is good for us. I feel better with agave than any other sweetener so I am going to stay with that and listen to my body!
    I also agree that you should know the company who you are purchasing from.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your amazing recipes. I refer my clients to your website all the time ;-) The favorite recipe of your in my house is the coconut chicken soup! Delish!!
    Be well, Jamie

  91. Bernadette says

    Sometimes Dr. Mercola shoots himself in his own foot by being overly zealous.

    However, I’ve read a couple other sources and the reason I’ve stopped agave is because it is highly processed like high fructose corn syrup, but from my understanding, WORSE than high fructose corn syrup. If you’re interested, I’ll find the links to those articles.

  92. says

    When I came to your site and new about the harmful effects about agave I was a bit skeptical. I LOVED all your recipes to death but was always frowning on agave. I read Mercolas article like you did as well as several others.

    I am really glad you wrote this article and gave your perspective on it. You are right, anything is ok in moderation. But, with that being said, some agave products are up to 98% fructose (I think) which is very extreme. I use honey myself and simply use a smaller amount then whatever a recipe calls for.

    My mother and I made this pumpkin banana bread (used coconut flour) and it called for sugar. We simply did not add any sugar. I drizzle a little honey on it or some almond butter and love the stuff.

    I always look forward to your recipes and print just about all of them out. I have made a few – love the lemon kale chips A LOT and will continue to do so. If a recipe calls for agave, then I will use honey and will simply use a small amount since I enjoy things less sweet anyways.

    It is always up to the person. As long as you are not eating agave everyday and you are eating a very small amount then its fine. When I use honey I have 1 tsp or less at a time. That is a maximum of 5 grams of natural sugar. I don’t even do this eveyday. So, I will not worry.

    That is my 2 cents…

  93. Shannon says

    Fantastic article! I also enjoy Dr. Mercola. He is actually who led me to realize that I am gluten & dairy intolerant, with the possibility of being a celiac. I am glad that you addressed this. There is so much conflicting info out there and it is necessary and right for each of us to make an informed decision based on our bodies and families. I also have children and it is not possible to totally cut it all out. The best I can do is cut back and substitute with a healthier alternative. Thanks again for a great article!

  94. ANGELA says




    • Sue says

      Thanks Angela – why don’t you post recipe in comments if anyone is interested. Like the sound of a cheese-cake that is that easy to make and fast. P.S. Try and avoid using all capital letters. Its kind of hard to read and it denotes shouting over the internet.

  95. Meredith says

    As much as I like Mercola and respect his work, I have noticed that as a “protein type” he is uninterested in fruit personally and tends to disapprove of it for everyone, even “carb types”. These are the “types” from his book and website. So, since we all see the world through our own filters, and can do no other, I disregard his more extreme attitudes towards fruit, since my body definitely needs it. If I were writing his stuff, I would be somewhat anti protein, even unconciously. It DID seem pretty extreme, his rant against agave.

    • Shannon says

      I’m an equal parts protein/carb type and also need fruits! Even if he is a protein type it seems odd for him to discourage other types that he says are legit…oh well, no one is perfect I suppose!

  96. Andrea Pinkston says

    Thank you for addressing the Agave issue! I was going to ask you what you thought about the Mercola article but you beat me to it!
    I use the brand Volcanic Nectar. I am providing a link to an interesting info page (and particularly the graph on the page) from their website. Before I started using Agave I researched it on the Internet and that is how I found Volcanic’s products. It’s hard to know whether to believe all of what they say (and the negative against all of the other brands). I am not diabetic or sensitive to different sweeteners, so I can’t tell you if it really is different.
    Agave works nicely to sweeten a lot of things, especially my GF muffins. I found it changed the chemistry in some of my GF cookies, so I don’t use it there. I also recently figured out what was wrong with my GF cornbread that used to be perfect! I had switched to Agave to sweeten it and it always burnt at the 400 degree temperature and was not done in the middle. I switched back to honey and it is perfect again! It is all trial and error I guess!
    Here’s the link to the Volcanic page:

    Thank you for all of your innovative recipes! I am in the process of perfecting a coconut cake that started with the method from your Banana Cocoa Cake that is made in the blender. I will be starting my own GF recipe blog soon and look forward to sharing that recipe with you and linking my readers back to your original recipe!

    Thanks again,


  97. Kath says

    I also agree balance is the answer.I have been using agave in alot of my baked goods.I started when I was told I could not have any sugars. Some sugars would make my throat swell. I felt alot better when I started using Blue Agave. My blood sugar level has been low. I use less than the recipe calls for. When I started hearing agave is bad for you. I tried using organic concentrated apple juice, with a little organic vanilla mixed in. I use it instead of agave at times. It works for me in my baked goods.I know it is still sugar but it feels a little healthier. Thankyou , Elana for all the wonderful recipes. I have alot of food allergies and am very gratefull. Kath

  98. Charmaine says

    Elana said: “However, we were both curious as to why he went on a rampage against agave. While his article also calls out honey as being worse than HFCS…

    Use raw, organic honey in moderation or avoid it completely as it is 70 percent fructose

    …he stops at one sentence and does not have a full polemic ranting against honey. Kinda odd.”

    Well, to be fair, Mercola didn’t say that honey was WORSE, rather that its fructose content was HIGHER than HFCS. And the full context of his statement includes the following sentence:

    “However the fructose is not in its free from so that moderates the damage.”

    Perhaps that explains why he didn’t feel that agave and honey were to be equally compared in this instance.

  99. Tressa Roberts says

    I generally agree with Dr. Mercola, but on the subject of agave we differ. That whole article was so tilted I couldn’t believe it came from Mercola. I have done a lot of research on agave and it’s affects on the body.

    Now, while this isn’t scientifically collected data, I do find it interesting: In my research I found a website where a woman and her husband tested their blood sugar levels before and after trying different brands and varieties of agave. The conclusion was this; the light (not raw) agave raised blood blood sugar levels anywhere from 20-30 points. The dark raw agave raised it only 4-6 points.

    There is also a difference between the glycemic index and the glycemic load. The glycemic index system is faulty because they measure it using 5 grams of carbohydrates. For example watermelon is considered a moderate/high glycemic index food. But did you know that to get 5 grams of carbohydrates from watermelon you have to eat about 2 watermelons? So yes, if you make it a habit of eating 2 watermelons in one sitting you may have a blood sugar spike.

    I don’t the numbers right now, but I figured out the glycemic load of agave and it is lower than an apple. Of course as Elana and others have mentioned, moderation in all things.

    So my personal conclusion to the great agave debate is; eat only organic, raw, dark agave….in moderation. :)

  100. James says

    One needs to remember that although we find Doctors who break away from the mainstream medical beliefs, there are still alterior motives behind many of their perspectives, i.e., kickbacks in a monetary manner. I personally think any doctor who states any natural food product is worse than HFCS, PLEASE!! or relate it to antifreeze, this makes me very suspicious..

  101. says

    I agree with everything you said, and moderation is always key. I generally like what Mercola says and appreciate that he is getting word out about certain things, but very often his articles are too full of rants and raves and WAY too sensational. I understand that he wants to get our attention, but he goes way over board in my book.

  102. Karen C. says

    I have substituted honey for agave in your recipes many times and the recipes still worked fine. Personally, I feel like garbage when I eat agave, way worse than table sugar. I have a lot of respect for you and your commitment to your website, but I am not surprised that you disregarded Mercola’s information when so many of your recipes rely on agave.

  103. Sue says

    I think the main thing is that Elana has fantastic recipes – use agave if you choose or find an alternative.

  104. Jane says

    Hi, thanks for the posting. I agree that Mercola goes overboard on things at times and doesn’t necessarily have good scientific evidence backing up what he says. Am I wrong here, or isn’t he a chiropractor? That’s far afield from being a nutritionist..

    I have however heard that agave can raise triglycerides, from an RD with a PhD :-D. But I don’t know enough about agave- isn’t there “raw” agave and other products just labeled “agave?” Is there a difference?

    Also- it is possible to get non high-fructose corn syrup, and even non gmo organic.. not that I use it much but there are certain (minimal) uses for it.

    I like the agave in some/ most of your recipes such as the scones, it seems to go beautifully with the almond flour. For recipes containing fruit (like the fabulous pear crisp) I’ve used honey instead- the honey seems to bring the fruit’s flavor out better. Either way it’s not a lot of sweetener.

  105. Cheryl Preston says


    I own your book, and I just want to say that posting your sources in the back was extremely helpful. When I read Mercola’s article I immediately fired off an email to Madhava. The important thing here is that all agave is not the same. I agree with you wholeheartedly – know your source. I will no longer purchase any agave syrup, just Madhava, since they have a very explicit description on their website about how their product is processed. Thanks for all of your very helpful information on the topic, and thanks for writing the wonderful gluten-free cookbook.


  106. says

    What a great post!! I do use agave as it has a low GI and that is important to me. I do not eat it with ever meal, and I use the raw kind, so I am not too worried about what everyone is saying and will continue to enjoy my baking as a treat :)

    Real sugar is a lot more toxic!

    Love your blog doll!


  107. says

    I will be honest with you, both my husband and I dislike agave – and this is from long before Dr. Mercola’s articles. We don’t like the taste and actually don’t feel great after eating it either. I purchased a couple of bottles over a year ago to trial out recipes such as yours and to test some vegan cookbooks. Once those bottles were gone, we didn’t repurchase.

    BUT, I still love your recipes and don’t understand why people must rant and can’t simply use what works for them. I can’t say why (be it placebo or not), but I feel good when I eat honey (no crash) and I like the taste. We use other sweeteners at times, but I use this most and find it works wonderfully in almost all of your recipes. For many other people, agave works best for them, which is why I often offer it as an alternative in my recipes.

    One man’s meat is another man’s poison – right?

  108. Elyse says

    Thanks Elana–your wisdom about food has really helped me learn to listen to my body and heal it. I know I’m not the only one. I stumbled upon your website a couple of years ago when I had a yeast problem and was looking for yeast free recipes. Your almond flour crackers were a crunchy godsend. But as I read your website and tried out your recipes, all the years of struggles with doctors to figure out why my hormones were wacko, why I was exhausted and depressed, why I stopped being able to lose weight even though I exercised and ate healthy, even after I finally was diagnosed and treated with hypothyroidism, I was still puffy and fatigued. I tried to attack the problem on so many fronts, but starting with food, something that I could control, is what finally gave me hope. I’ve been gluten free since November of 2009, and I’m down two clothing sizes, have dropped 20 plus pounds and feel…well the best way to describe it? Happy. Someone who’s known me since high school told me the other day “You are like your high school, Elyse again.” It’s the best compliment I’ve had in years–better than my students saying, “Hey, you look smaller.” I’m gluten free and mostly grain free with your delicious recipes that people (including my sugar-loving middle school students) beg me to make for them all the time. Go agave!

    I was told by my D.O., who has been helpful in many ways, when I asked about acceptable sweeteners (she only endorses stevia), that if I was asking about them, then it was a problem, and I had to go cold turkey. I know that my body has to go easy on sugar, but it was too hard for me to give up sweets in general long term. I felt deprived and was unable to stay sugar free for long, although, like you– I’ve had to heal up and avoid sugar and fruit for long stretches of time. Agave is easier on my body than any other sweetener and allows me to indulge and still feel great. I don’t eat dessert every day, but knowing that I can when I want to, helps me stay healthier in general. It’s easier to make good choices. I’ve been struggling for years, with fatigue, weight gain and inflammation, yet giving up sugar wasn’t enough. I gave up gluten, sugar and sweeteners. Then I gradually reintroduced agave, stevia and occasionally a spoon of honey or maple syrup, and it has changed my life. It’s hard enough socially as it is to be gluten free at times—it’s heaven to be able to share good food sweetened with agave. The bottom line is, you have to listen to your body and pay attention to how food makes you feel. Sometimes I cut down the agave amount in your recipes because they can be too sweet for me. I make the recipe fit my needs and tastes. For me, agave is great, but sure-—it’s not for everyone. It’s a food choice and it’s a health choice, and everyone’s body is different. If I had listened to what all the experts told me, I’d be sugar free and miserable and killing myself with gluten ‘babies’ and depression with an out of whack thyroid. Experts mean well, but we are not programmed the same and degrees of healthy eating depend on individual needs. I’m not a fan of one size fits all eating philosophies. I’m grateful for agave and I’m even more grateful for the good recipes that made going gluten free possible without any real ‘medical’ evidence other than my gut (no pun intended) instincts to guide me. And hey–I have my life back. And it’s so much sweeter with agave!

  109. Sue says

    From Steven at Whole Health Source: Fructose vs Glucose Showdown

    “As you’ve probably noticed, I believe sugar is one of the primary players in the diseases of civilization. It’s one of the “big three” that I focus on: sugar, industrial vegetable oil and white flour. It’s becoming increasingly clear that fructose, which constitutes half of table sugar and typically 55% of high-fructose corn syrup, is the problem. A reader pointed me to a brand new study (free full text!), published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, comparing the effect of ingesting glucose vs. fructose.

    The investigators divided 32 overweight men and women into two groups, and instructed each group to drink a sweetened beverage three times per day. They were told not to eat any other sugar. The drinks were designed to provide 25% of the participants’ caloric intake. That might sound like a lot, but the average American actually gets about 25% of her calories from sugar! That’s the average, so there are people who get a third or more of their calories from sugar. In one group, the drinks were sweetened with glucose, while in the other group they were sweetened with fructose.

    After ten weeks, both groups had gained about three pounds. But they didn’t gain it in the same place. The fructose group gained a disproportionate amount of visceral fat, which increased by 14%! Visceral fat is the most dangerous type; it’s associated with and contributes to chronic disease, particularly metabolic syndrome, the quintessential modern metabolic disorder (see the end of the post for more information and references). You can bet their livers were fattening up too.

    The good news doesn’t end there. The fructose group saw a worsening of blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity. They also saw an increase in small, dense LDL particles and oxidized LDL, both factors that associate strongly with the risk of heart attack and may in fact contribute to it. Liver synthesis of fat after meals increased by 75%. If you look at table 4, it’s clear that the fructose group experienced a major metabolic shift, and the glucose group didn’t. Practically every parameter they measured in the fructose group changed significantly over the course of the 9 weeks. It’s incredible.

    25% of calories from fructose is a lot. The average American gets about 13%. But plenty of people exceed that, perhaps going up to 20% or more. Furthermore, the intervention was only 10 weeks. What would a lower intake of fructose, say 10% of calories, do to a person over a lifetime? Nothing good, in my opinion. Avoiding refined sugar is one of the best things you can do for your health.”

  110. Susie says

    As always everything in moderation…I too use agave nectar now and then but I found that xylitol works much better and from the literature I’ve been reading there is no controversy surrounding it. It leaves no aftertaste and is just as sweet if not sweeter than sugar. I bake with it all the time for my low-carb desserts.

  111. Lise says

    Wow! I didn’t even know agave was now “under attack”! We switched from using refined sugars and HFCS to using only pure local honey and agave syrup. Since the switch, my boyfriend’s blood sugar levels have stabilized to a safe level (he’s diabetic) and my stomach ulcer & Crohn’s have started to go into remission. Granted we changed other dietary factors as well, but the ‘sugar switch’ definitely helped!

    We also drink agave juice every day! Since I started drinking agave juice and cabbage juice, I’ve actually started to feel better, after years of being sick! So, regardless what the good Dr Mercola may tout, I’m gonna have to stick with the regiment that is working for me (and my Dr can back up those positive results with my medical records!).

  112. says

    Thank you! You know, you’re totally right. I have about a tablespoon of agave on my oats in the morning….and no more. I use it when I bake something sweet, which isn’t that often. So I think that’s probably ok. And yes, I did have a blog post about this whole “which sweetener is better” thing…including agave. Sigh….I should leave it alone.

  113. CC says

    @David–agave syrup is not produced like maple syrup, at all; it’s highly processed, not tapped or squeezed whole from the source. There’s a lot of info about agave syrup and its production available from a number of different sources, and there has been for a while. None of the info sources that I’ve seen have described agave as a “natural” product unless they were selling agave. A number of unbiased sources have cited the health risks of high-fructose agave syrup, especially for individuals with certain health issues–some of which are the very issues that might cause an individual to search for an alternative sweetening product. The following is one example, from Wikipedia:

    “However, the extremely high percentage of fructose can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome[9], hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation.[10][11][12]”

    (All of the citations given are clickable at the site and lead to abstracts or articles through PubMed or other publishers of journal articles.) Research on the deleterious effects of high-fructose sweeteners, in general, is also easy to find.

    • SeasonOfRaw says

      CC – do you think most maple syrup drips from the tree and is then bottled? No. Maple syrup is extracted from the tree, heated and condensed through evaporation. This is how agave nectar is produced. The agave juice is extracted from the agave pina, heated, filtered and condensed through evaporation. So yes, they are similar in their “processing”.

      From Wikipedia on Maple Syrup:
      It takes approximately 40 liters (10 gal) of sap to be boiled down to 1 litre (1 quart) of syrup. A mature sugar maple produces about 40 litres of sap during the 4- to 6-week sugaring season under gravity, but can produce 80 or more litres under vacuum.[citation needed] Trees are not tapped until they have a diameter of 25 cm (10 in) at chest-height and the tree is at least 40 years old. If the tree is more than 45 centimetres (18 in) it can be tapped twice on opposite sides. It is recommended that the drilled tap hole have a width of 8 mm (? in) and a depth of 25 to 40 mm (1.0 to 1.6 in). During cooking, the sap is fed automatically by pipe from a storage tank to a long and narrow ridged pan called the evaporator. The evaporator is usually divided into two sections, the front pan and the back pan. As the sap boils, the water evaporates; it becomes denser and sweeter. As the density of the sap increases, it works its way from the rear of the back evaporator pan to the front evaporator pan. The syrup is boiled until it reaches the correct density of maple syrup, 1333 kg/m3.[citation needed] The proper density of at least 66% sugar is reached when the boiling sap reached a temperature of 219 °F (104 °C). The density is tested with a hydrometer. If the density is too low the syrup will not be sweet enough and the syrup will spoil. If the density is too high the syrup will crystallize in bottles. When the syrup has reached the proper density, it is drawn off, filtered and bottled while hot.

  114. Diane says

    Oh my. Oh my!!

    I read Dr. Mercola’s articles about agave and i’m shocked.
    First of all, i never used it, but i used honey.

    It’s ridiculous to think that even if the honey we buy that’s natural, is bad to eat. I get mine from a farmer who assures me he makes “all natural” honey! How can an all natural sweetener be bad? If i’m correct, honey has been around for thousands of years!

    Anyway, I honestly thought agave and honey were similar. Maybe not the taste, but the nutritional facts. Sadly, until further research is done people have to careful and remember, “in moderation.”

    And no matter what, I think you’re doing a great job by showing people how to transition to healthier foods and ingredients.

  115. SeasonOfRaw says

    What are you talking about? A punch in the face in moderation…? Lots of things are good in moderation, but not good when overused. Like red wine or a fine tequila.

  116. David says

    SassaFrass, you sound a bit condescending as though Dr. Mercola has all the facts, and the rest of us don’t want to know. That is ridiculous. Regarding your statement that agave is the most processed “natural” sugar, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Agave Nectar is produced quite similarly to maple syrup. Stevia (particularly PurVia and Truvia) is heavily processed to get it to look white. By the way, Dr. Mercola sells whey protein sweetened with stevia… There are so many post-ers like you who believe they know it all because of what they read from others who profit from their advise. Hopefully you will realize that you don’t know it all, and you will begin to question your “trusted” sources. Did you know that some honey has higher amounts of fructose than some agave nectars? What’s missing in the discussion is caloric intake. Agave is 1.4x sweeter than sugar, so you use, like 30% less of sugar calories. Try cutting 30% of your sugars throughout the day, and you’ll see a difference. Also, there are many studies that have proven moderate amounts of fructose is not bad. It becomes a problem when people eat too many calories of processed foods, big gulp-sized sugary drinks, etc. that health problems ensue.

    • says

      Excellent comment David – I agree. And I also agree with Elena that we need to find what works for our own bodies. Some say agave makes them feel bad, some say they don’t get into the craving cycle with it like they do with sugar. Sugar is not sugar is not sugar. They do affect us differently. Too much sugar in any form is never good, but small amounts of what works for our bodies, balanced with lots of healthy foods should be fine. America as a whole does have way way too much sugar and processed junk in our diets and that is affecting our health in a big, bad way. Of course we should have moderation in things, what is the beef with saying that?

  117. erin says

    Please continue with your dessert recipes. I have no shortage of allergen-free recipes for lean protein and green veggies (which I love too, don’t get me wrong!) but dessert recipes that don’t send my GI system spiraling out of control are few and far between. Keep up the good work, elena (with or without agave…..)

  118. says

    If the goal is to maintain your bodyweight or all natural weightloss easily through a whole foods approach & have a shapely body, agave should be used sparingly as it’s high caloric. When we take a whole foods nutrition 100% approach, yes calories matter less — but we can’t entirely through them out the window.

    As a nutrition coach I tell my clients they shouldn’t be using agave like a free for all on things just b/c it’s natural – that would be misleading, when there are other safe & effective natural sweetener alternatives that are low to no caloric.

    Let’s be honest, most people want to learn how to eat healthy, but also want a weightloss plan to lose weight quickly & easily so they don’t have to put endless hours in at the gym needlessly – they want to know how to maintain their body to be it’s best & how to do that in the quickest, most effective manner. Agave in more than minimal amounts doesn’t fit into that picture b/c too much will be stored as fat.

    We recommend to our clients that they use agave on occasion, and daily chose low to no caloric natural sweeteners. Added calories even when they come from stored whole foods can still pack on the LB’s.

    One also needs to consider that too much fructose, even as a natural sweetener, weakens the immune system & all that comes with that statement like lowered metabolism, more open to illness, etc.

    Cheers in health!

    Heather B. Dube’ | Weightloss for Women Coach
    Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner; Nutrition Coach; Figure Competitor; Private Trainer


    You & Improved Coaching
    Shape Your Body, Shape Your Life.TM

  119. says

    A punch in the face is OK, in moderation, but I still don’t recommend it (sorry, I couldn’t resist. It’s just that the ‘ok in moderation’ argument is not a very ‘bright’ statement in regards to our overall physical health).

    Anywhooooozle, I do agree that sugar is sugar, is sugar, is sugar.

    My only point to top this all off, is that agave is the most highly processed ‘natural’ sugar and contains more fructose than even honey.

    These Doctors (Mercola) are not citing further scientific articles on honey because he’s already touched on it numerous times (dead horse here).

    Plain and simple, the science on Fructose is damaging. It’s just that in HFCS and agave, there’s way more of it in higher concentrations. Again, I could point you to several scientific facts (not just articles) on the stuff, but I suspect you really don’t want to know, or care to delve into it, as a lot of people are still going to consume it, regardless.

    By all means, keep using it, I still enjoy your recipes regardless!

  120. says

    Thanks for this info Elana! I agree, since reading that article there has been SO much talk about Agave. (I actually stopped using it) But I miss it. In moderation.

    Just picked up your book at the library today and CANNOT wait to try the recipes and blog about it!

  121. says

    Hi Elana,

    And thanks for accommodating comments. While we’re not sure about Dr Mercola’s information sources, Wholesome Sweeteners appreciates the opportunity to set the record straight about Wholesome’s Organic Blue Agaves and how they’re made:

    You might also be interested in this from NutritionData:


  122. Andrea says

    Have you read the Weston A. Price Foundation’s article on agave nectar? They say that agave is best avoided because it is “a manmade sweetener which has been through a complicated chemical refining process of enzymatic digestion that converts the starch and fiber into the unbound, manmade chemical fructose. While high fructose agave syrup won’t spike your blood glucose levels, the fructose in it may cause mineral depletion, liver inflammation, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity.”
    I avoid agave nectar because I think it is alot different than fruit fructose, and I’d rather be safe than sorry!

    Check out the WAPF’s article here:

    • David says

      Sorry, but you have fallen into believing the anti-agave hype. Weston A. Price, and Dr. Mercola were using the same bad information about agave that’s spread like wildfire. Do a little research yourself and you will find out agave contains NO STARCH. Also, you should know that the chemical processing they site is from a patent only – it is not how most agave nectar is made. Most agave nectar is made using heat, filtration, and evaporation. Some, like Madhava, use natural enzymes – no harsh chemicals at all! Next time you read a negative article on agave, ask the author if they have ever witnessed the harvesting and production of agave nectar themselves? I seriously doubt that they could have, since they are so wrong about how it it made, and yet they are so sure of their negative claims… Agave is amazingly good tasting, and you should use in moderation. I use it every day in my coffee and on my yogurt, and my weight, my triglycerides and my uric acid levels are normal.

      • Jim T says

        I read both articles and agreed that the drama was a bit much in Dr. M’s article. I did some more research from the science world which seems to often times be avoided and found an interesting article on HFCS which also talks about Agave from a really scientific point of view. Don’t read it unless you enjoy the science. It convinced me to stay away from Agave. I trust the Journal of Nutrition over articles with no scientific background but everything in moderation is a rule to live by

    • says

      My husband and I have been doing research on many of the things listed here in your quote. It is in fact that the insulin itself that causes many of these conditions. A good book to read is Good Calorie, Bad Calorie. It takes a look at many of the diet fads that are out there and discusses the studies that have been done.
      I did my own test of my blood sugar when I eat the Agave. It did not spike my blood sugar. I went from 83 to 99 when I ate the Agave in my yogurt and my blood sugar went from 73 to 99 when I ate nuts and cheese. So the Agave did not spike my blood sugar any more than protein.
      Also it is the insulin that is released when you eat many types of sugar that causes the inflammation in your body. Insulin is also the only hormone in your body that will not allow your body to burn stored fat.
      It is true that your body will continue to release insulin even when the sweetener you use in non-caloric because it has been trained to do so when the tongue tastes something sweet. Because of this it might be necessary to take a break from all sweet things until you get your insulin levels under control.
      I have 3 children with Autism. They can not have any fruit or honey. They react terribly. They do not have any reaction to the Agave.
      I think that with all the information out there each of us need to do our own research and verify each bit of information that comes our way. We will continue to use the Agave for out sweet treats, but in all things it must be done in moderation.

      • Dr. Debra says

        Hi Laura,

        While I am still a bit on the fence about Agave I just wanted to comment on your blood sugar stats after eating nuts and cheese. This is actually a high fat meal not a protein meal and there is much evidence that a high fat diet contributes to hyperglycemia and other blood sugar imbalances.

        I think Agave in moderation is okay for some folks and not for others who may be sensitive to it and that brands and how that brand is processed makes a difference as well.

        Also I agree that sweet treats are just that – treats. Not something to be consumed regularly or in large amounts.

        Dr. Debra
        Debra K Tibbitts, DVM

      • says

        Aubree, that is really good information… I don’t seem to have a reaction to agave myself, but I don’t test my blood sugar so I am not sure. I was wanting to do that experiment myself.

        Elana, I think you are right. It’s just a sweetener, but I believe it’s better than honey, for me anyway. I use it in moderation. I love your recipes! :)

  123. says

    I am a fan of agave nectar and will continue to use it. (And I did agree that the rant about it from Dr. Mercola was a bit overly dramatic and not that credible. Unfortunately some people believe everything they read on the internet.) I’ve found some information indicating that certain brands are better than others in the way they’re processed, and I’m sticking to the brand you have pictured above which is one that I trust.

  124. kristen says

    Thank you, Elana, for addressing agave. I think we all value your opinion and find your thoughts helpful!

  125. says

    I like your standpoint and I also agree with some of the scientific things Dr. Mercola mentioned. I am subscribed to his e-mails and agree with some things he says but I take it with a grain of salt. I live an alternative lifestyle- I’m an alternative nutritionist so I understand where he is coming from. Although, I do agree with you and saying he sometimes is ridiculous/extreme in his standpoints. I believe what he was trying to accomplish in that article was how high amounts of fructose can cause much more damage to the body, than just the liver and raised triglycerides. I have a big info sheet from my graduate program on “bad points of fructose”- I need to post that sometime. Overall though,I try to avoid agave, unless it is organic- just because of the high amount of processing it goes through (most of the time). I prefer the taste of raw honey over agave also. Great post- always like when people speak their mind :) — Jess

    • LaLa says

      Hey Jess,

      Can you expand on the differences between organic and non-organic Agave to the body?
      (I always buy organic; I didn’t even know you could get non-organic.)
      I use it in my coffee, and would hate to give it up.
      Though, I use Xylitol to bake, and have used it in my coffee too.

      I haven’t yet found a stevia that didn’t taste, well, gross.

      • Katie says

        I’ve found that stevia only tastes gross if you overdo it. Its amazing how little you really need of that stuff. I never use more that a drop of the liquid, or what fits on the end of a chopstick of the powdered it, say, a glass of iced tea. I’ve seen people use stevia for the first time, put a whole spoonfull in their coffee and then swear to never use it again, and that really is too bad.

      • says

        Hey LaLa- What I meant when I said I prefer organic, like most of the products I use is- non organic agave seems to have a higher temperature in processing, also there is a higher chance of the product containing more toxic chemicals. If it is organic, the chances of those are decreased and the result is a better product. Hope this answers your question. — Jess

      • Elizabeth Gail Wieda says

        Elena- Would very much appreciate more recipes using almond flour. Seems I am allergic to everything except buckwheat. I use only almond milk as dairy products are also not friendly to me. I never even knew about almond flour until the nutritionist in my endocrinologist’s office siggested I use it. So- please for me and people like me (I have Level II Diabetes), give us some bread/cracker recipes using almond flour. I tried it in bread (replacing wheat flour) and it turned out very poorly. I’m sure you or some of your friends have some secrets as to how to use this flour. Thanks for your identifications of foods and combinations of foods for such as I—- Gail Wieda

        PS: NUStevia has no aftertaste or whang. I use it exclusively when I need a sweetner. Comes in powdered form in bottles, individual packets, or liquid. Good stuff!
        Love all the comments. They are helpful, too. My nutritionist also put me on to your site.

  126. Rob says

    As I try to adhere to the SCD, I sweeten with honey. Like Mercola said, you should “listen to your body.” Well, my body tells me that sugar makes me feel horrible, agave makes me feel bad, and honey makes me feel fine. So I use honey, preferably local.

    When I did a month-long candida cleanse, I was amazed by the sugar withdrawals the first week. Terrible. After a month with no sugar, fruit, honey, etc., just a touch of sweet was like eating a whole pint of Haagen Daaz. Although now I just use honey, I sometimes feel the effects of fructose on the body. There’s no doubt that we consume too much, even of the good stuff.

  127. says

    I appreciate your balanced perspective, Elana. It can get so confusing when there is almost too much information out there, coming from all directions. I cook for clients who hear the latest buzz on topics like agave and they freak out!

  128. Jenniffer says

    Thanks Alana for this this post. I am a diabetic with a hell of a problem letting go of sugar. So making some of your recipes with agave nectar seems like a heck of an improvement for me, as opposed to going out and eating a regular chocolate cupcake, chocolate chip cookie, etc. I know that the equivalent of one apple (in sugar) per day is not sufficient for me most days…at least not now. I will continue to try your recipes with agave, and if I can I will use Stevia. I actually made your chocolate cupcakes last night with 1/4 cup agave and stevia (eyeballed the stevia). They came out pretty good, just a little less moist that I’d like. My husband loved them and ate two in one sitting. That shocked me because he does not like sweets. However he said that these were chocolatey and had just the right amount of sweetness! So keep it up!

    • Jenniffer says

      Oh I forgot to say that I think that my cupcakes were not as moist because I omitted that 1/4 cup agave. Maybe I should add a couple more eggs next time or 1/4 cup almond milk?

      • Dawn says

        You can substitute it with applesauce…it makes sweetbreads, cupcakes and cakes really moist without added sugar. I use it in my cakes I decorate. Everyone loves it. I buy all natural or organic no sugar added applesauce too.

  129. says

    Brilliant post, I mean it. I’ve been trying for some time to do some research in the net about agave syrup and it’s been very discouraging. I didn’t know what or who to believe. I thought that if I was diabetic I would be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I started having agave when I decided to ban sugar from my diet for weight and health reasons. And I not only did that, I almost banned all gluten and I did lose quite some weight. I only have sugar-sweetened desserts once or twice a week, in the weekends with special meals. The rest of the week I use stevia in my coffee and that’s it. And I’m learning to use agave in recipes traditionally prepared with sugar, thanks to you in part. Thank you for all the valuable info!

  130. says

    Hmmm, I wonder if Dr. Mercola follows his own advice and never eats anything more than an apple a day. I’m like you, Elana, when I feel like I might be coming down with something, I stop eating all sweets. Balance is key and every body is different as to what it considers balance. For my treats I stick with your almond flour recipes, although I sometimes substitute manuka honey or maple syrup for agave with no problems like I have with sugar (even cane sugar).

    • Jaci Trupiano says

      read my post below on Dr. Mercola and his protien shake recipe with the amount of fruit he adds to make his shake. The info was from his site on a healthy breakfast beverage. He adds alot of fruit to his shake mix.

  131. Chris says

    Why don’t you at least try Brown Rice Syrup or Yacon Syrup? Those are just almost completely polysaccharides? They’re not quite as sweet as fructose based sweeteners such as agave, but definitely worth trying.

    • Sophia Morris says

      According to Elaine Gottalschall in “Breaking the Vicious Cycle,” a book that focuses on healing the digestive problems of people with Crohn’s disease, IBS, and the like, fructose is superior to other sweeteners because it is a simple sugar and is easily digested. She teaches about a program called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which forbids starches and grains, until the gut is healed. This may be of interest to other readers.

      • Alison says

        It was high levels of arsenic found in brown rice and brown rice syrup that was all over the news recently. Note that the arsenic occurs naturally in the ground and the rice paddys soak it up. Therefore, it is best to eat a diet not consisting of too much rice or foods with rice flour or brown rice syrup. Moderation and diversity are the key to everything!

  132. says

    Antifreeze? Really? I agree with you that balance is best. Anything is bad in excess, but I feel much better when I eat small amounts of agave than when I eat sugar (and agave doesn’t start the ridiculous cycle of cravings). Maybe it’s better to not eat any agave, honey, or fruit, but I would rather enjoy my life than be paranoid about every drop of sweetener.

  133. Georgia says

    I read an article in a leading weight loss magazine that stated agave is processed much the same as hfcs. No science was cited to back that up, though. All I know is that agave does not act in my body the way sugar, corn syrup, or even honey does. I feel I can use it safely along with Stevia. By switching, I find I’m less likely to eat highly processed foods, therefore keeping my cholesterol in check (I’ve ALWAYS had high cholesterol, no more!)
    I agree Elana, we need to find what works for us. Meanwhile, continue to enjoy the other foods out there!

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