Breakfast Salad with a Side of Controversy

Post by Christine Frazier.

I love agave nectar.  Its sweetness isn’t bitter like stevia, overwhelming like honey, or immediately identifiable like maple syrup.  Its thin consistency makes it easier to use and measure than my other fav, brown rice syrup.

xagave photo 200x300But mainly, I feel better using just a touch of agave nectar in my baked goods for the low glycemic index, instead of loading up with white sugar.

So when Xagave sent us a bottle of their agave nectar to try, I should have been psyched right?  Actually, I was pretty nervous that finally researching the subject would burst the “feel good” bubble around my sweetener of choice.

The controversy around agave is no secret; after all, it’s what Brendan Brazier gets questioned about most often these days, right after “Where do you get your protein?”

The Xagave brand breaks the agave mold a little bit because it is a blend of both blue and white agave—it benefits from the extra inulin in blue and extra calcium in white.

Inulin is a dietary fiber that promotes good bacteria in your intestines to improve bowel function, and getting 8 grams a day (the amount in 3 tablespoons of Xagave) can increase calcium retention and bone density.  Inulin also helps lower triglycerides.

Interestingly enough, one of the criticisms of agave syrup in general is that it actually creates more triglycerides.  That’s the other side of that attractively low glycemic index; instead of turning into blood sugar, the fructose is processed into the bad kind of fats.

As for calcium, a WebMD.com article called “The Truth about Agave Nectar” claims that “Nutritionally and functionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose (Karo) syrup. It does contain small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, but not enough to matter nutritionally.”

However, one tablespoon of the Xagave brand has 17% of your daily calcium—more than half a glass of milk!  Good for me to know since the dairy section of my food pyramid was lacking.

Is Agave Nectar Any Better Than High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Well, check out the sweetener comparison chart up on another post titled “The Truth About Agave Nectar.”  (What’d I tell ya?  There’s controversy!)  Xagave has less fructose and less total sugars than HFCS, not to mention the lowest glycemic index.

But, it’s still sugar.  The bottom line is moderation, which was the only consistent opinion or fact I could find about the darn stuff.  I believe it still makes an excellent staple food in the vegetarian diet for athletes as a workout fuel, but not as an all-purpose sweetener. And I pity the man who tries to stop me from shaking up this pineapple mojito from Vital Juice, made with agave.

As Brendan Brazier said,  “If you’re a sedentary person sitting around, I wouldn’t be using it as a sweetener.  I think stevia is a great sweetener for tea and things like that, but as a fuel, I think agave is excellent.”

So, while agave nectar will stay in my “treat” diet by means of the occasional dessert, I think it’s time to remove it from my daily smoothie.  Agave’s real home is in the pre-workout meals where its sustained-release (but not starchy!) carbs contribute the most.

Salad…for Breakfast?

I’ve been dying to try a salad for breakfast after reading about the one recommended by Dr. Ruth Heindrich in Born to Run. She’s one hot 75-year-old-cancer-surviving-Ironman-running-vegan-raw-eating mama, so anything she eats for breakfast is fine with me.  And why not start the day with leafy greens?

Xagave was nice enough to include a cookbook full of agave recipes in the package they sent us, so I decided to use their Strawberry Vinaigrette recipe in my very own breakfast salad to eat before workouts.  Like other agave nectars, Xagave has a light and versatile flavor that works across the board.

My salad still has its foot in the breakfast world with cantaloupe and blueberries, but the chickpeas, celery, and spinach are all business.breakfast salad photo 1024x768

Xagave Strawberry Vinaigrette

Reproduced with permission.


Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Xagave
  • 1/3 cup white rice vinegar (unsweetened)
  • 6-10 medium strawberries

Blend dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Pour dressing over salad and toss.

NMA Pre-Workout Breakfast Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (1 can) cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup (about 4 stalks) celery, diced
  • 1 cup Xagave Strawberry Vinaigrette
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra strawberries for garnish

Combine the chickpeas, cantaloupe, blueberries, and celery in a large bowl.  Gently toss with Strawberry dressing.  Place one cup of spinach on each of four plates, then divide salad mixture onto each bed of spinach.  Sprinkle with almonds, salt, and pepper.  Garnish with sliced strawberries.  Serves 4.

This salad is a remarkably refreshing and clean way to start your morning workout.  It’s so delicious, why not sneak it into your barbeques this summer instead of that same ol’ 7 layer taco dip?

I’d love to hear your opinion on the conflicting information out there about agave nectar.  Has clever marketing duped the natural foods community?  What’s your all-purpose sweetener of choice?

22 Comments

 


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Comments

  1. I love the idea of a salad for breakfast. As citizens of the USA, I think many of us have a very limited idea of what breakfast can be, but internationally vegetables and other seemingly nonbreakfast food items are par for the course. This takes a little bit of a mind shift, but it looks amazing!!

    As for the agave, I haven’t really had any of the stuff yet, although I do have a bottle of it in my cupboard. The way I see it is that too much of anything is bad. Here and there? It will be fine. That wasn’t too scientific though was it?

  2. I think you nailed it on the head when you said sugar is just sugar in the end. I like agave because I can use less but it’s still not a “healthy food” no matter if it’s low GI or not. It does’t offer nutrients. But at least it’s a healthier option

  3. The dressing and salad are right up my alley. I’ve added both to my recipe list. As for Agave, I keep it on hand because I barely use sugar these days anyway, but when I do, a quick squirt of agave in the blender is easy and good. There are a lot worse things I could be doing to my body.

  4. Although usually I have for breakfast something that most of people would consider “normal” (like morning cereals, granola, oats or green smoothies), actually I can eat almost anything: beans, chickpeas, lentils, rice or any other kind of cooked cereal and of course, salad.

    And it annoys when people say that I’m strange because I can eat all that just after getting up. I think they are strange because they can “eat” nothing but a cup of milk until lunch ¬¬

    (I can’t add anything to the agave/corn syrup/stevia conversation because I have never tried any of them)

  5. I am still on the fence about Agave. I have used it in the past but after the recent triglyceride info, I am leaving it out of my diet until I hear more.

    I love the idea of salads for breakfast, or anything green. Steamed spinach and green juice are great too.

    Great post! Thanks for the recipes.

  6. I use 2 teaspoons of agave nectar in my morning Chia Fresca. I try to carefully watch my total sugar intake during the day. HFCS is a total no no in my diet. Its amazing just how many things use it when you start reading labels.

  7. I too am fascinated by the controversy surrounding agave. I haven’t stopped using it in my baking and cooking, but I’m keeping a keen eye out as the science continues to pile up. If it reaches fever pitch, then I’ll ditch it, but until then, moderation works for me.

  8. Your breakfast (anytime) salad hits all the taste notes and is a keeper. For me, it would need no dressing – good as it is. Remember the days when we shocked our parents by eating cold pizza in the morning? So why not grains or salad or whatever is healthy for our bodies.

    As for the agave debate — I agree with you that a sugar is a sugar is a sugar; just as (in my humble opinion) oil, is an oil, is an oil. (I am one of those who limits oil in my diet.)

    great blog — so glad I found it.

  9. When reading Braziers words on using food functionally it just opened up a whole world to me in respect to how I was eating. As it is I eat too much, and too much sweet in comparison to how much I work out (too little). I am working to change that though.
    I have a friend whos blood sugar spikes pretty easy if the sugar is “wrong” she says she sometimes react to agave and sometimes not, it depends on which brand. Which leads me to think there is something to the rumour that some agave syrups contain corn syrup as well.

    Julie Morris also wrote a balanced defence towards Agave here: http://www.juliemorris.net/2010/06/04/is-agave-syrup-good-bad-or-just-kinda-tasty/

  10. My issue with agave is less about the fact that it is a sugar and more about the fact that it’s marketed and pitched as “natural” when it’s really processed and refined. They call it “nectar” which gives the marketing impression that it’s just squeezed from a plant into a bottle…not even close. I’m not advocating against ever using it, just make sure you know what you’re getting when you do.

  11. I actually haven’t cooked with agave, yet. I want to give it a try though. I completely understand the controversy, but like with all sweeteners they all have their good and bad aspects as well as needing to be consumed moderately or sparingly. Anyway, right now I currently have been using a lot of the splenda/sugar blends splenda has for my baking. Of course this brings up the whole other controversy of artificial sweeteners!

  12. I LOVE the idea of a salad for breakfast. Thank you for this! Have you ever tried putting oatmeal/grains in the breakfast salad?!

  13. Stephen says:

    Another interesting take on it is over here: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/03/can-this-popular-alternative-sweetener-spike-uric-acid-into-the-danger-zone.aspx

    His conclusion: “You need to keep your daily dose of ALL fructose down to below 25 grams per day.”

  14. As an Israeli, I didn’t even get that there was anything unusual here until I read the comments. Salad is probably the most central element in the traditional Israeli breakfast. A big hearty salad, with cukes, tomatoes, and sometimes lettuce and onions, seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil. The rest is the extras. Most people have it with eggs or cheese, but being vegan, we just add some whole-wheat toast and focus on the salad ;)

    I actually posted about the basics of Israeli nutrition not long ago – if you visit my blog and scroll down a little you can see the post there, it’s still on the main page.

    • Monica carten says:

      Hi anne what is your blog website address? Would love to check it out.my husband and I visited egyprt a few years back where breakfast was our favorite meal after morning run on beach in Dubai or through cairo city streets trying to find souk! Yes people wondered who was chasing me!

  15. I understand why someone would want to use agave since it is literally flavorlessly sweet but to me I just sort of feel like it’s an over processed sweetener. Though it’s better than HFCS (I mean, really, what is worse than it?) but I personally don’t use it simply because I like to choose low processed foods.

    I try to pair the sweetener with what I’m sweetening since they’re all flavorful. So what goes with Maple syrup I’ll use that with or what goes with honey, or whatever it is I’m going for. Usually though, fruit is sweet enough for me.

    I think agave is better than many options though.

  16. I start my day with a green smoothie (roughly 70% greens and 30% fruit). I do not use nut butters, yogurt or dairy of any kind, or even those “raw vegan green powders”. Just fresh plants! So I figure it’s pretty much the same difference as a salad in the morning. I’m all for green in the AM :)

    • Oh whoops and forgot to say I definitely don’t add agave syrup or honey or ANY added sugar no matter what the source.

  17. I have opted to not use agave. I just figure why do I need something that is questionable when there is brown rice syrup, maple syrup, soaked blended dates, and honey. Those four items seem to be enough sweetness in my life for my treats. Seriously, soaking and blending a few dates are so sweet and good, now that is real “nectar”-no bones about it!

  18. Monica carten says:

    I really like breakfast salad od kale with berries, seeds , almodnds, cucumbers and tomatoes with Amys rapberry vinaigrette. So refreshing after morning when I’m not really hungry but just want water.

  19. Insulin dependent Diabetic since ’89, must watch everything I eat/drink as to sugar content, primary care dr introduced me to agave but aftertaste as well as price were main reasons I didn’t fully accepted it. On 12/1/11 while placing an online order @
    Shar’s Bosch Kitchen from Gilbert, Az. I noticed Xagave, I wanted to find out more so I called a human for details, surely if it’s made from 2 different Agave syrups then it must be very good, I ordered a 32 oz bottle, arrived today via UPS, made limeade & used Xagave to sweeten it, what a special treat, delicious, no funny taste and best of all, my glucose didn’t go sky high. Xagave will become a staple in our pantry replacing sugars/honey. Kudos to Mr Richards for finding such a great product.
    Sincerely,
    Carmen

  20. I like the idea of a breakfast salad. I have used this morning fueling opportunity for a little now and here is what I have come up with: In a big bowl I combine Fresh spinach leaves, one sliced apple, a handful of blueberries, a handful of raspberries (i think the make everything better), northern beans, and some broccoli. Sounds a little bit of an odd mixture but tastes really great. I am not much of a dressing guy so I let the fruits and veggies have their own taste, but I could see a nice vinegarette being a nice touch. Thanks for everyone else sharing their ideas, it has helped inspire me to keep finding ways to eat healthier.

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