What's so bad about agave syrup?
Liz Bygrave is very familiar with sweeteners... In her Sweet Sensations workshops and in her utterly delicious chocolate truffles and ice creams she uses not only agave syrup but coconut palm sugar, yacon root syrup, xylitol, lucuma, maca, mesquite and half a dozen other sweeteners that the rest of us have never even heard of. (See here for the run down that she gave us when we attended one of her workshops.) And she gets quite upset about the bad press that has recently been handed out to agave syrup.
There is, for example, a lengthy article on the Dr Mercola site where it accused of being worse for health than high fructose corn syrup. While it is high in fructose (which is not necessarily as great in health terms as it is cracked up to be – see our article Fructose – the good, the bad – and the malabsorbed...) as Liz points out, it actually works very well for some people and has many supporters who are as vocal in its defence as Dr Mercola is in condemning it.
If you wish to follow the arguments, read the article on her site which gives links to the relevant articles.
2 days later....
Stevia appears to have a lot going for it. I haven't done much reading around the subject yet, but most opinion on it seems to be very positive. I forget if I mentioned that I have done some work with a kinesiologist around sweeteners and stevia comes third out of 12 sweeteners in terms of how well it suits the general population, with raw agave and processed organic agave in the first and second slots.
In fact, stevia doesn't test up that well for me personally and, in terms of taste, it isn't easy to use because of the pronounced bitter aftertaste. I tend to use it to lessen the amounts of other sweeteners in a recipe – I often combine it with agave and/or coconut sugar for example. The Sweetleaf range (from the US) is the most palatable I've come across; if you only use a couple of drops of one of their flavours, you don't get the bitter aftertaste.
However, I would be very careful about which stevia I used. Ever since it was made legal in the UK the major sweetener companies have been jumping on the bandwagon and producing their own versions. Whilst it is great news that stevia is going mainstream, I have to admit to some scepticism about the products that the big companies are coming out with. Truvia, for instance (a combination of an extract from stevia and a sugar alcohol called 'erythritol') is produced by Coca Cola and Cargill – need I say more?
You might want to read this post on the Vaughter Wellness site. They have been collecting data on possible negative side effects of Truvia and it does not make good reading...
First published July 2012