Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Buzz on Natural Sweeteners

Agave: Too Good to be True?

 Every day, we are flooded by different messages from the media regarding our diets. A hot topic is always: which sweetener is healthiest? Many foods today are full of refined sugars, which we’ve heard are not the best for us time and time again. Grocery store shelves are lined with a plethora of choices including white sugar, brown sugar, artificial sweeteners, honey, molasses, syrup and now “natural” sweeteners like agave.

As fears about white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup cross the country, natural sweeteners are gaining popularity. Agave is becoming the preferred sweetener among the health-conscious. It has 60 calories per tablespoon, compared to 40 calories for the same amount of table sugar, but because it is sweeter than sugar, you can use less of it to achieve the same sweetness for fewer calories.

We decided to do some research on this alternative. What we found out is that agave is processed just like other sugars, which can cause it to lose any nutritional benefits. In fact, agave even comes from the same plant used to make tequila!

Most agave sweeteners are produced from the blue agave plant. The core of the plant contains aguamiel, or "honey water," the substance used for syrup production (and, when fermented, tequila). Although agave starts out in its natural state, the form you buy in most stores has been processed to form a syrup or nectar.

Processing the aguamiel forms a product with either a dark amber or light color, and a consistency much like maple syrup or honey, making it a popular ingredient in energy drinks, teas, nutrition bars and more. While claiming to be all-natural, the label does not explain that the syrup has gone through an extensive process of chemical refining which changes the enzymatic structure of the syrup, converting it into the man-made chemical fructose. Depending on the processing, your agave syrup can be as high as 90% concentrated fructose or as low as 55%, similar to the structure of high-fructose corn syrup.

The bottom line is that refined agave sweeteners are no healthier than sugar, honey, high-fructose corn syrup or any other sweetener. It does contain small amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium, but not enough to matter nutritionally, especially when processed.

Healthier Alternative? Choose Honey!

Honey has been used by many cultures for centuries, and even longer by bees! Honey is a whole, unrefined food that contains minerals, amino acids and vitamins, not just fructose and glucose, which are pure sugar, like many sweeteners on the market.

BeeAlive’s naturally sweet domestic Pure & Natural Honey is minimally processed at a low temperature, resulting in pure and great-tasting honey with a mild, pleasant flavor -- and it makes a pretty sweet substitute for sugar. According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes about 23 teaspoons of sugar per day when the daily recommendations are six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men. Honey, like sugar, contains glucose and fructose, but also healthy vitamins and minerals including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin B6, which make it a healthier alternative to sugar. Honey is also sweeter than sugar, so you can use less of it to achieve the same sweetness without the extra calories.

At BeeAlive, we believe that diets rich in whole foods like honey are beneficial to our bodies. We challenge you to cut down on your sugar intake by eating less processed food and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and substituting minimally-processed honey or our BeeAlive Sweet Energy Formula (royal jelly blended with honey) any time you would normally use sugar.

Sources: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-agave
http://www.hellawella.com/the-impact-of-sugary-drinks-by-the-numbers-infographic/18245

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