The Great Agave Debate

“Why do you use agave? I’ve heard that it’s very unhealthy”  I’m asked this question about my “go to” sweetener on at least a daily basis.

First off, there really is no perfect sweetener, so I recommend everything in moderation.

We often take sugar and other sweeteners for granted, forgetting that they were not widely available to humans until the modern era (excluding of course, those living in the tropical regions feasting on mangoes and pineapple). Processed sugar was invented between the Medieval Period and the Enlightenment (more than 500 years ago), it became more widely available during the 1400 and 1500’s. By 1750 (with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the invention of sugar mills) sugar became wildly popular.

So if we really think about it, up until a couple of hundred years ago, the majority of the human race (at least those living in colder climes) only experienced the taste of sweetness by eating fruit when it was in season (or when nursing, of course). The fruit that was eaten was not the overly ripe, super sweet fruit that is bred today. Think of wild blueberries –they are tiny and tart. The fruit we eat today has been cultivated for its juicy, sweet flavor.

I think the spike in diabetes and other diseases we have seen during the past decades may partially be due to the fact that humans are not accustomed to eating large quantities of sugar and are not able to efficiently metabolize this substance.

Sugar is sugar. Agave is sugar. An apple is sugar with some good vitamins, minerals and fiber. Basically, many of us (especially those with celiac) would be prudent to monitor our intake of sugar in any form (celiac and diabetes ride on the same HLA gene, so the presence of one increases the likelihood of the other).

While I do use agave in my dessert recipes, I am very cautious about my overall intake of this (and all other sweet substances) because I find that unfortunately, I am one of those whose body rebels against too much sugar. Of course, my husband and children can eat a lot more of this substance than I do and still feel great. That’s what keeps me baking like a fiend. They want their treats and they do just fine with them.

For those of you that are now on the anti-agave bandwagon, I have come up with this date sweetened recipe.  Of course, I will still be using agave because I feel ok when I consume it in very small amounts.

gluten free banana walnut muffins recipe

Banana Walnut Muffins

Print Pin Recipe
Servings 6 muffins

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place eggs, oil, bananas, dates and stevia in a vitamix; blend on medium speed until combined
  • Add in coconut flour, salt and baking soda and blend until smooth
  • Fold in walnuts
  • Scoop ¼ cup batter into a paper lined muffin pan
  • Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes (my batch took exactly 23 minutes; all ovens are slightly different)
  • Cool and serve
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Tried this recipe?Mention @elanaspantry or tag #elanaspantry!

These tasty gluten-free, Paleo (I think) muffins do not contain agave for all of the agave-phobes out there.  I will be creating some desserts with alternative sweeteners just to spice things up (plus, I like a good challenge every now and then).  However, I will still be using agave for some recipes.

In terms of the great agave debate, I want you all to know that I use Madhava Agave Nectar. While I’ve noticed a lot of your comments with links to articles about the evils of agave syrup I want to also point out this link posted by one of my readers, Shari, from Madhava’s President Craig Gerbore.

On a much lighter note, here’s a cool coincidence in regards to agave nectar. The winner of last weeks Freebie Friday is Karen from wrighttherapies.com. She left an interesting comment regarding the controversy over agave nectar on my Asian Salad Dressing post.

Agave or not, have a great weekend!

UPDATE: please visit Madhava’s Agave MythBuster website for more information on the agave debate.

Comments

99 responses to “The Great Agave Debate”

  1. I pretty much will eat all sugar and well aware it’s no the healthiest choice, so I won’t judge… However, it’s tough to digest your comment that “sugar is sugar” since that is not accurate.

    Food contains a variety of sugars: monosaccharides (single sugar units like fructose and glucose) and disaccharides (two monosaccharides linked together). Science has proven they are metabolized and used by the body in different ways. For example, glucose requires insulin to effectively work in our body -not really a big deal for many of us but a diabetic would need to pay attention to the important distinction (i.e. differences in sugars).

    I never jumped on the Agave bandwagon so I have no passion to defend it or interest in trying it but I certainly have my vices (using tale sugar even splenda). Since you have a great following & people often believe everything they read on the internet (noted by some of the posts quoting you saying “sugar is sugar”, would be nice if you could edit the blog for a little more accurate information in regards to the “sugar is sugar” comment.

  2. yum! just made these with a few tweeks:
    I used almond flour instead of coconut, and I added in pineapple and cinnamon and left out the stevia altogether. They are very good, a little on the gooey side but very good!

    Thanks!

  3. Thanks for all of the great recipes, Elana!

    I’ve enjoyed the comments here on the different sweeteners.
    I agree with those who suggest moderation. I also think moderation can be hard. I have such a sweet tooth!

    Anyway, this is what I have to offer:

    If you want to know which sweetener spikes your blood sugar, it’s actually quite simple. Anyone can buy a blood glucose monitor for about $20. You don’t have to be diabetic or have a prescription to buy one. Take a fasting blood sugar test. Then experiment. Test your blood sugar after agave. Test after honey. Test after high fructose corn syrup. You can speculate and guess all you want. But if you want facts, collect the data. (Yes, I am a scientist.) It’s not very expensive or very hard.

  4. Hi everyone- the verdict still out with me- if you would like some information view Sugar: the bitter truth on youtube. It’s a lecture by a endocrinogist/pediatrician. I have 2 jugs of agave sitting unopened in my pantry because now I’m a little worried. It didn’t seem to have any effect but I want to see what happens when I avoid it, for several months, and all sugars.

  5. I made these with my 7 year old son tonight after he loved your lemon poppy seed muffins. We didn’t have walnuts so we used some almonds and added in a few dark chocolate chips… YUM! Thanks for another great recipe.

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