Monday, July 20, 2009

Agave or Yacon?

Agave seems to becoming a main stream sugar source as it is showing up on the shelves of most health food stores including Whole Foods. Now we are hearing more and more about Yacon Syrup. In my raw food prep classes I have been getting a lot of questions about what exactly is agave and yacon and which is better? So briefly I will define each, then give basic information regarding each sugar. Then as I always say, you deduct the information for yourself and make the best decision for you and your family as to what "sweetener" is works for you.

As a side note, I prefer to use stevia extract, raw honey, dates and yacon syrup for my personal use. However, if I am preparing foods for others I will use half yacon and stevia and may complete the recipe with raw honey or agave. Each have their unique taste. Yacon is generally the safe glycemic choice, raw honey is VERY healing, agave is simply a sweetener, stevia an innocent herb and a date...well perfectly terrific as is!

Before we move on with the "details" a reminder to choose RAW sources as in the heating of processed versions much of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients are destroyed. NOTE: Yacon and Agave are heated in processing so some raw foodist will argue they are truly not RAW and are "processed" unlike dates and raw honey!

I hope the following gathered research is helpful for you. We should always question processed and concentrated foods that are not found in nature, even if “raw”.

Here is your information.

YACON syrup is derived from the yacon plant, a tuber found in the Andean region of South America. The roots contain potassium and the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E.

Though packed with sweetness, the sugar in yacon is mainly in the form of fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which cannot be absorbed by the body. This means yacon is both naturally low-calorie and low in mono and disaccharides (less than 1 gram per serving of the sugars that rapidly elevate blood sugar levels). Yacon root syrup has little influence on the glucose tolerance curve and is dramatically less glycemic than honey, agave, or maple syrup.

Yacon syrup has the following properties and benefits:

Regulates friendly intestinal flora, especially improves the growth of bifidobacterium
Reduces constipation
Helps to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer
Improves calcium and magnesium absorption, helping to strengthen the bones
Improves vitamin absorption
Helps manage cholesterol, triglycerides, and fat metabolism in general
Boosts the immune system in a similar way to aloe vera
Contain glyconutrients
Ideal for low-calorie and weight-loss diets
Ideal for low-sugar diets
Ideal for cancer-fighting diets
Non-cariogenic (does not cause cavities)
Contains superfood-level antioxidants
Standardized to 30% FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides)
Rich in antioxidants
Helps reduce symptoms of blood sugar disorders (hypoglycemia, diabetes type 2, etc.)

AGAVE is best recognized as the plant from which tequila is made, it has also been used for thousands of years as an ingredient in food. Agave nectar (sometimes called agave syrup) is most often produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico. Agaves are large, spikey plants that resemble cactus or yuccas in both form and habitat, but they are actually succulents similar to the familiar Aloe Vera.

To make the agave nectar, sap is extracted from the pina, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars. Lighter and darker varieties of agave nectar are made from the same plants. Because of the low temperatures used in processing many varieties (under 118°F) raw foods enthusiasts generally regard agave nectar as a raw food. The lighter syrups undergo less heating and a more thorough filtration to produce a more mildly flavored product that is neutral enough to be used in many culinary applications. The darker syrups are filtered less, and the solids left in the syrup make for a stronger nectar with a flavor sometimes compared to maple syrup.

Here is the "question" people are raising about agave: Agave Syrup is advertised as “low glycemic” and marketed towards diabetics. It is true, that agave itself is low glycemic. We have to consider why agave syrup is “low glycemic.” It is due to the 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. Long-time raw foodist and Medical Doctor, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D. says that agave nectar raises blood sugar just like any other sugar. Dr. Cousens wrote a book, "There Is a Cure for Diabetes".

Other “concentrated sweeteners” that are often seen in raw food recipes include:

1) Maple Syrup which is not raw and heat processed. If it is not organic, it may also contain formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals.
2) Sucanat or evaporated cane juice is pure dried sugar cane juice. Unfortunately this is processed at a temperature above 118 degrees and therefore can’t be considered raw.
3) Yacon Syrup is once again, a concentrated sweetener processed at a temperature of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for this information. I found it very well explained and appreciate it very much.