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Agave Nectar Is Mostly Fructose, So Use It Sparingly

Q. I have high blood sugar. Is agave nectar a good choice for sweetening my five cups of tea a day? (It says it is low glycemic index.) If not, what would you recommend? I love my hot, sweet, milky tea.

A. Agave nectar has been promoted as a healthy sweetener, but it contains more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. Although fructose does not raise blood sugar, it can raise triglycerides and put a strain on the liver. A recent meta-analysis shows that consuming 100 grams or more of fructose daily can raise total and LDL cholesterol (Journal of Nutrition, Sept. 2013). One tablespoon of agave nectar is 21 grams, so your five cups a day would take you right to the limit if you put a tablespoon in each cup.

We suggest cutting back on agave or using it judiciously. If you must sweeten your tea, you might consider a non-caloric sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.

Herbal teas made with licorice root or cinnamon bark taste sweet naturally, along with the other flavors the herbs impart. But we would not suggest drinking five cups a day of either one, as you might face other side effects in that case.

To learn more about the downsides of fructose, you may want to listen to our show (#802) on Sugar Hazards, with Dr. Robert Lustig and Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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