Agave Nectar - Good or Bad? By Jim Harris
When agave nectar came to the forefront of the health food market around 2000, many healthcare professionals, including myself, switched to agave nectar as a nat- ural sweetener for those times when a sweetener is needed. It seemed to be a good alternative as it is low on the glycemic scale. I also recommended this switch to my clients as an alternative to sucrose or table sugar. It is important to point out at this early juncture that no sugar-based sweetener is actually good for us nutritionally and therefore they must be used sparingly or not at all.
What is agave nectar? Agave nectar comes from several species of the agave plant, native to the Americas. Agave nec- tar is produced by expressing the juice from the agave plant core. My under- standing is that if left standing at ambient room or field temperatures, with no addi- tional heating, natural enzymes in the liq- uid act on it, producing the clear agave nectar. For the best quality sweetener, it is important the agave plant be grown in an organic fashion with no pesticides or her- bicides.
Agave nectar produced this way has a very pleasing sweet taste. It does not have many of the negative characteristics of amber agave nectars. The agave nectar I use is about 48 percent fructose and about 6 percent glucose. Approximately 46 percent of this agave nectar is inulin, a clear benefit of this agave nectar because inulin does not increase blood sugar lev- els. Additionally, inulin is not digested in the stomach. As it moves through the digestive tract it promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, so inulin is considered a prebiotic substance.
The agave nectar I use differs from other agave nectars. This product is organic, with no herbicides or pesticides used in growing the agave plant. It’s raw, mean- ing the liquid expressed from the agave pulp has not been heated. This agave nec- tar is clear, not amber in color. It is my understanding the amber color comes from either heating the agave extract or from additives in the nectar.
Let’s review some of the statements circu- lating in the media about agave nectar. They accurately state that the sugar in agave nectar is fructose, and say that although fructose is low on the glycemic index, there can be negative conse- quences from ingesting large amounts of sweeteners with high concentrations of fructose. The points to note here are “large amounts of fructose” and “high concentrations of fructose.”
1. Fructose appears to interfere with cop- per metabolism.
2. Animals fed large quantities of fructose develop fatty liver deposits and cirrhosis of the liver.
3. Fructose contains no enzymes, vitamins or minerals and must rob nutrients from the body to assimilate itself for physiolog- ical use.
4. Fructose appears to increase the insulin resistance of cells. As a result the body needs to produce more insulin to handle the same amount of glucose, the fuel for cells.
5. Fructose can cause an increase in uric acid levels. Elevated uric acid can be an indicator of heart disease.
6. Fructose can make you fat; it’s metabo- lized by the liver and converts to fat more readily than other sugars.
The research facts listed above were gen- erally associated with very large amounts of fructose being ingested and they quote fructose concentrations of 80 to 90 per- cent, not the 46 percent level in the agave nectar I use. However, as with any sugar, not using it at all is the best for your health.
Remember that fruit also contains fruc- tose, but fruit is not nutrient deficient. Whole raw fruit contains a smaller amount of fructose and also contains vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber and other nutrients. We are designed to eat the whole food, not the nutrient-stripped product like agave or fruit juice.
It is important to minimize any negative effects from your agave nectar by pur- chasing a high quality product from a rep- utable source.
One nutrition experts talking about the negative aspects of agave nectar says you should look for the following when buy- ing it:
· Is the raw agave material organic, grown with no pesticides?
· Is the product processed at low temper- atures to preserve the natural enzymes?
· Does the nectar have a fructose content of 70 percent or less?
· Is the nectar’s fructose processed to be combined with other sugars, rather than “free” fructose – for example, as in high fructose corn syrup?
When it comes to any foods, you should choose your foods wisely and know the facts before you decide which foods to consume.
Jim Harris is a naturopath and nutritional consultant at the Art of Wellness Center in Palm Springs, at 1900 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite C-4. Call 760-778-5600 or see www.TheArtofWellnessCenter.com
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800-931-2260 DETOX: Why You Should
and How to Do It By Shannon Sinsheimer, ND
“Detox” is a word used to describe many health programs and certain body processes. But what does it really mean, and how do you detox? Detoxification is the process by which the body eliminates harmful environ- mental waste from cells. It is the act of improving the cells’ ability to push out waste that is bogging down the body, causing free- radical damage, or causing the body to age faster. We collect waste in our cells from harmful chemicals and pollutants in the air, food and water as well as from damage created by stress. Without properly aiding the body in a detox process, we can’t always thoroughly eliminate this harmful cellular waste. Detoxing uses various methods to enhance the body’s natural mechanisms.
Methods of detox include sweating and saunas, herbal and nutritional supplementa- tion, certain food eliminations, juicing, fast- ing and exercise such as yoga. Typically com- binations of these methods are used during a specific time period for maximum detox ben- efits. There are many programs that cater to detoxing. The detox method is chosen based on the needs of the individual and the time they have available to dedicate to the process. A thorough detox will include altering the diet
A detox can be done as often as every three months or as a yearly “spring cleaning.”
with specific food eliminations, adding in nutrients to aid the cells in waste elimination, some type of prescribed body movements and either saunas or induced sweating for circulation and elimination. A detox can last from three to 30 days or more depending on the program.
During and after a detox there are specific noticeable benefits. Initially you may feel lethargic, have a headache or feel flu-like in general. This happens during a period when your body is adjusting to the change in diet and blood sugar and dealing with a release of toxins from your cells. As you move past this phase, typically there will be a surge in energy, feeling of wellness, weight loss, decrease in abdominal bloating, improved sleep and a positive change in bowel health.
Supplements used during a detox will serve to aid in cellular waste elimina- tion. A combination of antioxidants, a liver/lymph herbal component, amino acid support and fiber are the basics for any program. Antioxidants can include vitamins A, C, E, resveratrol and glutathione. Good choices for supporting liver function are milk thistle, burdock and NAC (N-acetyl-cys- teine). Lymph can be supported with a category of herbs called lympha- gogues, which help move fluid through the lymph glands. For fiber during a detox, add psyllium seed powder; it helps waste move through the colon.
Saunas and practices such as yoga promote sweating and body movement, which both help the body detoxify. Yoga stretches muscles to improve circu- lation and move waste. Sweating in a sauna, cooling off in a quick shower, then repeating the sauna will increase circulation, flush fluid through the lymph glands and release toxins in the sweat. Massages, Epsom salt baths and abdominal castor oil packs are also great adjuncts to any detox regimen.
Detox programs are useful for almost anyone, though there are certain indi- viduals, such as diabetics, who need to be cautious and alter certain pro- grams. But we all hold toxins in our cells that can be flushed out for better health. A detox can be done as often as every three months or as a yearly “spring cleaning.” Detox programs are chosen based on individual needs and health goals. To asses the best detox program for you, make sure to do your research and look around for your best option.
Shannon Sinsheimer, ND is a licensed naturopathic doctor in Ranch Mirage. She is offering a 30 day “Revive & Regenerate” detoxification program in August. To reserve your space or for more information visit www.drsinsheimer.com
or call 760.568.2598
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