The other day while shopping, I saw someone put a bottle of organic agave juice in the shopping trolley. This reminds me of something that has long annoyed me: The misleading marketing of agave nectar as a “healthy” alternative to sugar. It’s the other way around: Agave nectar is even more toxic than sugar!
To understand this accurately, we need to get to the bottom of things: What’s in agave nectar? Why is this toxic to humans? Why does advertising claim the opposite? And what alternatives are really better than sugar?
Fructose – The evil uncle of grape sugar
Let’s start over, with sugar. In the meantime, everyone has noticed that sugar is not so great. What most don’t know: Sugar is really toxic. Here is a summary:
- A molecule of white household sugar (sucrose) consists chemically of a molecule glucose (“grape sugar”) and a molecule fructose (“fructose”). During digestion, sugar is split into these two molecules, so that it acts like a 50/50-mixture of glucose/fructose.
- Glucose is the basic building block for starch, that is, for most carbohydrates and therefore harmless in normal amounts.
- It is fructose that makes sugar toxic: It reacts significantly faster with proteins in its environment than glucose and can therefore damage blood vessels in the blood. Therefore, fructose is disposed of via the liver as soon as possible. The resulting waste products (including uric acid) are problematic for the body and can lead to deteriorated blood lipid levels, obesity (See also “Metabolic Syndrome”), joint pain (including gout), liver damage (cirrhosis of the liver) and Other damages. By the way, fructose prepares the body that it starves and therefore enhances the appetite. Fructose is about as toxic to the liver as alcohol, the long-term effects of fructose on the human body are largely the same as with alcohol (from: Public health: The toxic truth about sugar.).
- You can find more in this video by Prof. Lustig from the University of California, including explanations and comments in German. If you want to read it carefully: In the paper Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia. The links between fructose, insulin resistance, obesity and fat metabolism disorder are scientifically illustrated.
Fructose is fies!
Back to the agave nectar: It is often marketed as a “healthy” alternative to sugar. Why?
Why agave thick juice should be healthy – and the opposite is true
- Argument # 1 of agave nectar producers: Agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, so you need less of it, ergo is supposed to be agave nectar better than sugar, with the same sweetening.
- Argument # 2: Agave nectar has a lower glycemic index (GI) than sugar and therefore provokes a less potent release of the hormone insulin, and we know that less insulin in the blood is a good thing. Therefore, agave nectar is often recommended for diabetics as well.
Both arguments are not wrong, but they are misleading. To understand this, we need to look closely at what agave nectar actually consists of.
Agave nectar is a mixture of glucose and fructose (that is, similar to sugar), with the glucose and fructose molecules not linked together but swimming freely around in the syrup. Depending on the provider, source and quality, the ratio of fructose to glucose in the agave nectar is between 7:1 and 9:1. This means that agave nectar per unit contains up to 80% more fructose than household sugar.
Since the proportion of fructose matters when it comes to the toxicity of sugar, agave juice is, ironically, even more toxic than sugar. From because of “healthy alternative”!
And what about the agave syrup industry’s arguments? They can also be easily explained on the basis of the higher fructose content:
- Fructose is in fact 1.73 times sweeter than glucose, but it also suppresses the effect of the satiety hormone leptin in the brain:
- Fructose is a real appetite stimulant! This is precisely why fructose is so popular in industry as an addition to almost every food. Paul Jaminet, author of Perfect Health Diet, has found a beautiful paper comparing the epidemic spread of sugar with that of obesity: Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the disease of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney, disease, and cardiovascular disease .. Fructose only leads to more fructose!
- And what about the glycaemic index? In fact, fructose does not stimulate insulin emissions. Why, too? Fructose is not intended for metabolic processes controlled by insulin. Fructose is, so to speak, the unloved relative of glucose. It must not play with the other body cells at all, but is thrown out straight through the liver — at high cost. For this reason, the German Federal Office for Risk Assessment has explicitly warned against recommending fructose as an alternative for diabetics Unknown title
- So much for the “healthy” alternative. Now you may understand why this annoys me so much when I see people in the store reaching for the agave juice pack, or find “paleo” recipes with agave thick juice on the net. In drugstores, even pure fructose is sold as powder. You should stick a poison warning on it!
Five better alternatives to sugar and agave nectar
Here are five tips to get rid of fructose madness:
- Train your taste sensation: Your receptors for “sweet” on the tongue work just like other sensors in the body: If overused, they simply blunt off. The oversupply of sweets in our society means, through habituation, that we no longer notice how much sugar is actually in the food.
Conversely, you can also use this effect for yourself the other way around: If you sweeten sparingly, the taste receptors become more sensitive! At the same time, other tastes come out stronger again, which used to be papered over by the sugar: You then develop a finer sense of flavours.
So the motto is: Reduce the amount of sugar step by step! Start ‘ best right now, and use only half of Zucker/Honig/sweetener for coffee, dessert and other sweetening activities. Bitter chocolate has proven its worth instead of milk chocolate. Look at the pack and calculate what percentage of sugar is in it, depending on the variety, that’s pretty much 100% minus cocoa content. Next week you can cut the sugar quantity in half again, or choose a higher percentage bitter chocolate.
Pay attention to how your taste sensation changes and what new flavours are added now when the sugar no longer gets in the way. After a few weeks you will be able to drink coffee/tea completely without sugar, and it will taste you better than before!
My favourite chocolate has 85% cocoa content. If I accidentally catch one with 70%, the chocolate already seems too sweet to me. There is twice as much sugar in it as there is for the 85% (30% instead of 15%).
- Be honest with yourself: Another effect of “healthy” sugar alternatives is that they soothe the conscience and therefore distract from the problem. “Sugar? No problem for me, because I use the good organic agave juice! ” With a pure conscience, it is even more unobsolubed to enjoy, and so the fructose field of ash takes its course.
Instead of buying absolution, it’s better to be honest with yourself: Does the coffee really have to be sweet? Or is it just a habit? Are you really an incorrigible “sweet cat” (or a “whole sweet”)? Do you even want that? What is your enjoyment really?
It is much better to become aware of why you want something sweet, and then be honest with yourself. Just stand up to a sweet exceptional pleasure for you and consciously celebrate it as a small special feature.
On weekends, for example, I treat myself to a few pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast, without remorse and as a conscious pleasure.
2. Set sweet accents: My daughters, 6 and 3, are still too young to understand the manipulations of sugar and especially fructose on the body and brain. Here only rationing and dessert or sweets help to treat as something special (see above). That works quite well.
This is also helped by the following trick: When my daughters demand honey or syrup in their natural yoghurt, I just give a few small splashes on top of it without touching. This results in a stronger sense of sweet taste by the contrast between natural yoghurt and honig/syrup than if the sweetness simply went down (and would require larger amounts) by stirring. Well, they often stir everything again, but that’s their decision:).
3. For us adults the same applies: A few splashes of syrup or a few crystals on top of it give a distinct sweet accent, without having to drown the whole dessert in sweetness. My pancakes aren’t dipped in maple syrup, but I just give a few little splashes over it. That’s enough to really enjoy not only the sweetness, but also the other flavors that are stuck in the maple syrup.
4. Use the natural sweetness of fruit: And by that I mean the whole fruit. Fruits contain fructose (hence the name), but they also contain fiber and antioxidants. As a result, some of the fructose is broken down by bacteria in the gut (and even turned into useful keto bodies), so that not everything is absorbed by the body. The antioxidants then help the metabolism to get clear better with the fructose.
Whole fruits are therefore better than fruit juices, because there is a lack of fibre. I haven’t been drinking orange juice for breakfast for a long time, there’s about as much sugar in it (thanks to modern breeding) as there is in Coke. So: Fruit salad instead of pudding, some apple compote with cinnamon, or enjoy a berry cocktail as dessert!
5. Honey or maple syrup are the least of the evils: Both white table sugar, as well as honey or maple syrup contain roughly the same part glucose and fructose, so the “damage” is the same. In honey and maple syrup, however, the glucose and fructose molecules are separated from each other, allowing them to unfold their sweetness more freely. Here, therefore, the argument is correct that honey/maple syrup at the same quantity is sweeter, or that one can achieve the same sweetening effect with a lower amount.
In addition, honey and maple syrup also contain one or the other valuable vitamins and ingredients.
Honey or maple syrup are above all “honest” sweeteners: Of course, but without cheating, they also increase the enjoyment of their individual flavors, especially if you use them sparingly (see above).