Okay for Agave

April 11, 2010

It’s always helpful for me to rethink  pronouncements of the experts. Non credo and all that. So I’ve been in communication with some agave companies to speak with them about Mercola’s article which left such a sour taste in agave fan’s mouths.

In my personal experience, I don’t find agave to cause sugar highs. I like its light taste and that a little goes a long way. What is your experience? Are you gaining weight and can’t figure out why?

It is true that unlike rice syrup, for example, which consists of mostly maltose and glucose, agave syrup is a fructose. And yes, fructose goes very quickly through our system to the liver.

The big question for me is not about fructose itself, it’s about Mercola’s allegations that the process for creating the agave syrup is a harsh and terrible chemical process which leaves the quality of the fructose compromised, too.

Madhava quickly replied to my queries with many articles and other information about  Mercola’s addressing fructose and obviously defending the nutritional and health virtues.

From their new site, AgaveMythBuster.com:

Myth: Agave Nectar is produced the same way as High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

Truth: There are two methods of making the Agave Nectar from the juice of the plant. One uses a non-GMO enzyme and the second is via thermal hydrolysis. Both process achieve the same goal which is to separate the naturally occurring Fructans which are complex sugar molecules into their simple sugar components fructose and glucose.

Unlike the process of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which creates fructose out of the glucose from the starch found in milled Corn, Agave Nectar simply separates Fructans or Inulin, a complex naturally occurring sugar into Fructose and Glucose.

Our producers do not use any sort of chemicals in the process and no foreign material is being added such as HFCS. Filtration and evaporation of excess moisture are the rest of the process. The evaporation is done in a vacuum evaporator.

From the prehispanic times, the only sweet treat available to Indians in Mexico was the cooked leaves of the agave plant. They are still in markets all over Mexico. If there would be any kind of dangerous substance, this would be the absolute extreme case of exposure to it; not a single case of any problem has ever been reported, this goes back over 700 years.

Agave Nectar in its present form has been sold for over 12 years all over the world, including western Europe, Japan and the U.S.. The product has a proven record of safety and is deemed safe by the FDA and all regulatory bodies all over the world and there has never been a report of agave nectar linked to a miscarriage.

Myth: Agave Nectar is adulterated or mixed with HFCS.

Truth: Madhava’s Agave Nectar does not contain corn syrup, corn products, or any adulteration of any sort. Guaranteed. Our Agave Nectar is 100% pure from the agave plant with no additives whatsoever.

We package our agave nectar at our facility in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. Madhava’s Quality Control representatives routinely visit and inspect all our suppliers’ facilities in Mexico. The suppliers are Organically Certified and 3rd party audited or currently in the process. In addition our facility in Colorado is USDA Organic Certified and we are routinely audited.

In my corresponsdence with the Madhava company, I had the following detailed response from Maryann Schrobilgen:

Madhava uses both the Blue Agave and the Salmiana for our Nectars.

Salmiana – Agave Nectar is a pure and natural sweetener made from the natural juice (aguamiel) of the agave salmiana. It is harvested from live plants in the high desert region of Central Mexico, where a wealth of the plants grow wild. It is gathered by hand by Hnahnu Indian peoples native to this area, from plants on their land. Mature agave plants produce a flower stalk. By removing the flower, a bowl shaped cavity is formed- a container into which the aquamiel is secreted. The plant produces this liquid for 6-8 months, during which up to 8 quarts are removed twice daily. A hollowed out gourd is used to siphon the aguamiel from the plant and transfer it to a container. Once the aquamiel is collected, it is immediately taken to the production facility. First it is filtered to remove debris.  Then, it is hydrolyzed by heating the syrup to 113 degrees and an organic, vegan, grain-free non-GMO enzyme is added, transforming the naturally occurring sugar molecule chains into more simple sugars.  Excess water is evaporated, and it is filtered again to produce the final product of varying grades.

Blue Agave – Organic Blue Agaves are species-specific, made exclusively from Central Mexico’s renowned Blue Agave plant. After growing for 5 to 7 years, a mature blue agave stands several feet tall and its carbohydrates are concentrated in the plant’s core. The blue agaves treasure is held in the pina (so called because it resembles a pineapple after the leaves have been trimmed away). Farmers hand-cut the blue agave with a simple razor-sharp blade. (A skilled farmer can cut and trim a 100- pound blue agave pina in less than 5 minutes.) The field trimmings are left behind to restore the soil and reduce erosion.

The fibrous blue agave pina is taken to the mill where it is pressed and its inulin-rich juice is collected and filtered.  It is then heated to 138 degrees for hydrolysis.  It is then filtered again to produce the final product of varying grades.

I hope this helps.  If I can be of any further assistance please let me know.

Have a wonderful day!

Maryann Schrobilgen


4689 Ute Highway

Longmont, CO  8050

That sounds like sound ecological and manufacturing practices to me. Where did Mercola get his information, anyway?

Now for the fructose issue:

Studies by researchers at UC Davis and the University of Michigan have shown that consuming fructose, which is more readily converted to fat by the liver, increases the levels of fat in the bloodstream in the form of triglycerides.

Unlike other types of carbohydrates made up of glucose, fructose does not stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin. Peter Havel, a nutrition researcher at UC Davis who studies the metabolic effects of fructose, has also shown that fructose fails to increase the production of leptin, a hormone produced by the body’s fat cells. We need insulin and leptin to signal our brain to turn down our appetite and doesn’t activate the hormones that regulate body weight- so fructose can clearly can lead to weight gain.

This last truth is an important piece of the controversy. Moderate use of all sweeteners is always the best way to go. I don’t think there is anything to be afriad of in agave syrup. Diabetics need to be cautious around all sweeteners, particularly those that don’t signal the body in an obvious way. And so, in rethinking things, I think Mercola is over-doing it.

What I truly believe is this:

Finding the sweetness in our vegetables, discovering the inherent sweet taste of whole grains and enjoying the natural sweetness of our local fruits and berries is ultimately all the sweetener we need. Using local sweeteners is the next best step. For me that is, maple syrup, honey and fruit juices. Agave comes from a long way away. I am grateful that I have access to it, but the truth is, it is not local, not indigenous by any stretch.

So, as an experiment, I am going to stop using agave for a few months and see how I feel. I will use organic brown rice syrup and my neighbor’s honey (her bees spend time pollinating my fruit trees, flowers and herbs) and I’ll keep you posted. Love to hear from you, too. So, don’t be shy.


Clean Start

January 2, 2009



Mud bath anyone? Today I am reading a  compendium of easy recipes for healthy skin in the book, Organic Body Care Recipes: 175 Homemade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin and Vibrant Self , by Stephanie Tourles a prolific natural body care and wellness writer (7 books).  I’ve skimmed through 9 chapters covering an overview of our skin, hair, nails, a chapter on the ingredients, tools needed for prep and storage and application, then onto to face care, hair care, love potions and women only, and herbal comfort for stress, colds and sleep. There are scads of side bars with sometimes TMI…(like the fact that we have 650 sweat glands with one square inch of skin listed among a dozen other complex structures….), pages of resources and huge index cross-referencing natural ingredients and recipes …and 26 recipes for facial masks! This is THE book. She has covered it all. 

Here is my favorite and quick recipe for a moisturizing facial that I learned from Deb Soule, from Avena Botanicals (where you can buy many of the herbal ingredients used in Stephanie’s recipes). It is what I have done for years when traveling and Stephanie has a similar mask in her book. Simple, there is only one ingredient: HONEY. You can find honey at most restaurants, you know those little jars at breakfast? Or, you can carry little one-serving packets with you. Here’s what you do: wash your face and pat dry, gently spread a thin layer of honey over your face, don’t get it in your hair, it’s very messy, lie down for 10-15 minutes. Then before you rinse off, pat all over your face for a few minutes. It will be sticky, tacky and will feel great, too. Rinse, apply your organic skin care and off you go!

Bee Pollen-Friend or Foe?

October 5, 2008


I went over to the local farm-market today and was chatting with the bee-keeper from Berry Ledges, John Baker. We were looking at his autumn honey which has a deep red color from the Japanese Knotweed that was in bloom this August. It was first introduced as an ornamental and for erosion control but now is known as an invasive plant and it is growing along my road. In late August the bees flock to the fragrant white flowers. I had a taste of the honey- delish! Bought a jar.

I also tasted bee pollen for the first time. I have heard that people with allergies use bee pollen to build immunity – but I had a bad reaction- my throat swelled up first with blisters and then just one big welt, turned red, and my mouth tingled, my lips went numb- all within 15 minutes- I was very concerned that I might not be able to swallow. I took a claritin and waited as calmly as I could and the symptoms seemed to stabilize and slowly improve. Freaked me out, though. I have since read a great deal about bee pollen and there are mixed reviews. Some people consider it the perfect food. And some people warn us to use it carefully. There are no documented studies showing that bee pollen improves performance or helps relieve allergies. If you have seasonal allergies- try one or two pellets of bee pollen to see if you are sensitive to it before you try using it in any quantity. There have been cases of anaphylactic shock reported. 

I’ll stick to using honey in my tea and leave the pollen to the bees.