Are Raw Sweeteners Really Raw And Healthy?
I find it quite ridiculous interesting that so many raw foodists are completely fruit-phobic and yet they have no qualms about eating tablespoon after tablespoon of refined sweeteners like agave and honey.
You would think that someone who severely limits their consumption of sweet fruit because the simple sugars “cause Candidiasis” would be even MORE careful about his or her use of concentrated sweeteners.
And now that we’re on the topic, what about raw sweeteners? Are they really raw? Are they good for us? Are they even that tasty?
Agave Not Really Raw?!
There’s been some controversy recently about raw agave nectar. Apparently, some manufacturers were not being completely honest about the “rawness” of their product.
For those who don’t know, agave nectar comes from the agave plant (usually the Blue Agave) growing in Southern Mexico. It is a succulent (adept at storing water) similar to Aloe Vera and looks like this:
The plants are harvested, crushed and the resulting sap removed. The sap is then heated to create the concentrated liquid known as agave nectar or syrup.
Fun little fact: Agave is actually the plant from which tequila is made!
Anyway, wanna know my first reaction to the whole agave scandal?
Agave nectar (even if it is not heated over 115 116 118 oh hell, whatever the temperature is!) is a refined product and, therefore, is NOT a raw food!
But Is It Good For You?
There are many ways one can define “good for you” or “healthy.” Some people view those foods that make them feel good as healthy, while others simply follow the current health trend (one day eggs are full of cholesterol and bad fats, the next they’re rich in vitamin k and low in calories).
I classify healthy foods as those that are health promoting. These are foods that are easy to digest, absorb, assimilate, eliminate and most importantly…delicious!
There is nothing present in agave nectar that cannot be found in fresh fruits and vegetables. You can live your entire life without touching the stuff and be perfectly healthy.
In fact, since agave is a refined food, there is very much missing from the product. Just as I brought up with regard to Fruit2Day a while back, processed foods have had much of the water removed and many vital nutrients along with that water.
You may hear raw agave nectar being touted as a low glycemic food, but as long-term raw foodist John Kohler mentions in this article, agave nectar has an…
…unusually high concentration of fructose (90%) compared to the small amount of glucose (10%). Nowhere in nature does this ratio of fructose to glucose occur naturally. One of the next closest foods that contain almost this concentration of glucose to fructose is high fructose corn syrup used in making soda(HFCS 55), which only contains 55% fructose. Even though fructose is low on the glycemic index, there are numerous problems associated with the consumption of fructose in such high concentrations as found in concentrated sweeteners:
Kohler then goes on to list some of the various problems with consuming high concentrations of fructose, such as an increase in uric acid, blood lactic acid, and mineral loss in the body.
So is really raw agave really a health food?
No, not really.
What About Raw Honey, Sucanat, Yacon Syrup, etc…
Same deal. None of these ingredients are truly raw and some of them, like evaporated cane juice, yacon syrup, and maple syrup, are heated above the 118 degree threshold.
And if remaining vegan for ethical reasons is your issue, then honey isn’t a viable option anyway!
So Raw Sweeteners Are Evil?!
Okay, time to cut the not-really-raw sweeteners some slack.
While I continue to stand firmly behind fresh fruit as the best sweetener of all, I see no problem with including small amounts of agave, honey, what have you in some raw recipes. They can be a great way to add sweetness and help balance out a savory meal without changing the overall taste and texture of the dish.
The key, of course, is “small amounts.” Think 2-3 spoonfuls at the max.
Personally, I rarely ever use these raw sweeteners. I can’t remember the last time I used agave and I don’t eat honey.
Why? Because I think they’re yucky! They just taste overly sweet and fake to me.
Plus, they can be pretty expensive. Why pay for a refined product out of a bottle to sweeten your food when you have much tastier, healthier, AND cheaper ingredients on hand all the time…
Go raw and be fit,