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.
But 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 Better Body Foods 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 Better Body Foods 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 Better Body Foods) 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.
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?
Better Body Foods 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, Better Body Foods 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.
Xagave Strawberry Vinaigrette
Reproduced with permission.
- 1/3 cup Better Body Foods
- 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
- 2 cups (1 can) cooked chickpeas
- 2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 cup (about 4 stalks) celery, diced
- 1 cup Beter Body Foods 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?