Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

Agave Syrup and Coconut Palm Sugar…

Ok, I am back in New York City and somehow adjusting to being woken up at 4:30am by Harlem garbage trucks instead of Cahuita howler monkeys…and today I woke up thinking about sweeteners.

While in Costa Rica I used a lot of honey and the less-processed, crude version of cane sugar they call “tapa de dulce” which was fine because everyone I was cooking for was relatively healthy and I had no-one who was seriously watching their blood sugar levels. I often found myself wishing I had access to agave syrup, (especially for dessert making) but right when I was talking to my boyfriend Hannes about schlepping down a gallon in his luggage, I was sent a link to a simple but convincing article called Agave Nectar: Good or Bad?. It’s worth a read, particularly because it explains why fructose is bad for you in a very simple but scientifically grounded way:

Because fructose is digested in your liver, it is immediately turned into triglycerides or stored body fat. Since it doesn’t get converted to blood glucose like other sugars, it doesn’t raise or crash your blood sugar levels. Hence the claim that it is safe for diabetics.

But it isn’t.

That’s because fructose inhibits leptin levels — the hormone your body uses to tell you that you’re full. In other words, fructose makes you want to eat more. Besides contributing to weight gain, it also makes you gain the most dangerous kind of fat.

That would put anyone off agave syrup, right? But it’s also becoming increasingly clear that not all agave syrups are equal and some seem to have a MUCH higher fructose level than others. I just recently discovered Volcanic Nectar, who sells a raw, organic, low fructose agave nectar, apparently containing only 47.6% fructose and with a very low Glycemic Index of 27.  I have just ordered samples from this company and can’t wait to try it out…

For the last couple of years I have been following the whole controversy around agave syrup with a grain of salt, mostly because most of the noise seemed to be coming from Dr. Mercola, whom I think of as a bit extreme. And when I pursued the investigation with a couple of the doctors I know, we all seemed to net out that agave syrup wasn’t SO bad, so long as it was used in moderation by people where were already in relatively good health. I still believe this and now I am especially excited about the prospect of finding a high quality, low fructose brand that we can all depend on. But, I have to say that while I was still in Costa Rica, reading that article tilted the scale – Hannes left the agave syrup (a brand I was not sure about) at home.

Which brings me to another interesting and sweet new development, Coconut Palm Sugar. I love the taste- it’s a bit like a light brown sugar and a little bit goes a very long way if you are talking about sprinkling on top of your morning porridge…it also great for baking as it can be used cup for cup like sugar.

Coconut palm sugar apparently has a glycemic index of around 35, which is also considered very low – much lower than cane sugar, honey or most agave syrups, and the sweet comes from sucrose, not fructose. That being said, I am not really sure how it can be as sweet as it is with that low an index, and there have been some new reports showing inconsistencies in the GI testing. So, at the moment, I am trusting only one producer – Coconut Secret – a Philippines-based small company who seems to have its heart in the right place.  As to be expected with any new “healthy sweetener” there is a lot of mixed-up and conflicting information out there, but I am cautiously optimistic…and also having a great time incorporating coconut sugar into my new recipes. It’s very nice to have another alternative sweetener to play with.

Finally, I have to say it’s nice to be back in the states, in NYC, where Spring is just starting to break. It’s nice to be home, and I have a new appreciation for living in a place where pretty much everything is available, even in Harlem.

March 19, 2011 - Posted by | Food Consciousness, Raw Food Sources | , , ,


  1. Hi There Consciousfoodchoices,
    Neat Post, Baking with agave nectar (instead of granulated sugar) is as easy as pie, if you adjust to a few simple facts.

    Agave is 1.4 times sweeter than sugar
    It adds additional liquid to the recipe
    It browns quicker than a recipe with sugar
    It also makes the batter a bit stickierLet’s look at a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe and see what we need to change if we want to bake it with our natural sweetener.

    Comment by Elevar Conciencia | December 12, 2011 | Reply

  2. Sucrose does contain fructose: it is actually made of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule bound together.

    Comment by Geraldine | June 14, 2012 | Reply

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