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Elana's Pantry Agave Questions

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I am interested in trying Elana's recipes - but I am hung up on the use of Agave sweetener.

This is the link to her suggested brand's rebuttal to the recent article about agave is evil like HFCS. http://stanford.wellsphere.com/healt...sy-here/584480

So what do you believe? Do you use Agave?

I don't plan to use a TON of it - it is not like we are going to drink it with a straw. But I don't want to order and pay for it, only to decide that it is going to kill us.

Also, if you don't use Agave, have you tried subbing other sweeteners in Elana's recipes? If so, were you successful?
post #2 of 22
We don't use agave because of the way it is processed and because it isn't a traditional food.

I've never tried Elana's recipes, but if a recipe calls for agave I will just substitute raw honey.
post #3 of 22
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evie's Mama View Post
We don't use agave because of the way it is processed
What about the processing do you object to? I am NOT trying to be snarky, I am just trying to understand.

Here is part of the response:
Quote:
Briefly though, the native people supplying the juice collect it from the live plant, by hand, twice daily. There is no heat involved in the removal. The juice is immediately brought to the facility to remove the excess water as it will ferment rapidly if left standing. It is during the removal of the moisture that the only heat is applied. The juice is evaporated and moisture removed in a vacuum evaporator. The vacuum enables the moisture to be withdrawn at low temperatures. The temp is closely controlled. Subsequently, our agave is handled and packaged at room temperatures. No other heat is applied. And, rather than convert the complex sugars of the juice thermally, we use gentle enzymatic action. Just as a bee introduces an enzyme to flower nectar to make honey, we introduce an natural organic vegan enzyme for the same purpose.
Quote:
It is in no way chemically refined, there are no chemicals involved in any part of the production or packaging process. Our agave nectar is refined only in as much as the excess moisture is removed from the juice of the plant.
post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evie's Mama View Post
but if a recipe calls for agave I will just substitute raw honey.
Is it a direct substitution? Do you add water to the honey?
post #6 of 22
just use honey 1:1
post #7 of 22
I sub honey 1:1 as well.

The agave issue is a tough one--I personally don't use it any more (but used to) b/c I worry about the stuff saying it could harm the liver (due to the high fructose content). There is a thread in the allergies forum about it w/ lots of links...don't have time to find it, but maybe search there for more info?

I've also thought about subbing date syrup (boiled, pureed dates) for the agave in the recipes, and maybe adding a little stevia. Haven't done it yet, but I want to try!
post #8 of 22
But doesn't honey have a high fructose content as well? Sorry if that's a dumb question - I'm just learning about all this sweetener stuff and have read this in a few places.
post #9 of 22
Honey is approximately half glucose, half fructose. Agave varies by manufacturer, from 55% to 90% fructose. So depending on the manufacturer, it could be quite similar in composition to honey, or it could more closely resemble high fructose corn syrup. Edited to add: doh! My DH just reminded me that HFCS is also only 1:1 glucose to fructose, making it no worse in composition than honey or table sugar. But if some agave is 90% fructose...whoa! That's truly bad stuff.

Concentrated fructose is bad stuff for your liver. Seriously, it is pretty much the worst thing you can feed yourself. If you want to learn more, watch Robert Lustig's talk Sugar: The Bitter Truth. There's some biochemistry in the middle, but feel free to let your eyes glaze over during that part. He will summarize the important points, and you'll still get the message.
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by jplain View Post
Agave varies by manufacturer, from 55% to 90% fructose. So depending on the manufacturer, it could be quite similar in composition to honey, or it could more closely resemble high fructose corn syrup.
I was totally not aware of this! Thanks for this info!
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by FairyRae View Post
I sub honey 1:1 as well.

The agave issue is a tough one--I personally don't use it any more (but used to) b/c I worry about the stuff saying it could harm the liver (due to the high fructose content). There is a thread in the allergies forum about it w/ lots of links...don't have time to find it, but maybe search there for more info?

I've also thought about subbing date syrup (boiled, pureed dates) for the agave in the recipes, and maybe adding a little stevia. Haven't done it yet, but I want to try!
I have successfully subbed raisin syrup, pureed pineapple, pureed apple and maple syrup into her recipes. I used to use maple syrup or honey for everything, now I'm leaning more toward raisin syrup or fruit purees! Double the vanilla and let your tastebuds adjust. Things baked without a ton of sugar will not taste like twinkies!
post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lil_earthmomma View Post
Double the vanilla and let your tastebuds adjust. Things baked without a ton of sugar will not taste like twinkies!
I'm not worried about them being not sweet enough - I am worried about messing with the texture, or the ratio of wet to dry ingredients.

What is the story with raisin syrup?
post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lil_earthmomma View Post
I have successfully subbed raisin syrup, pureed pineapple, pureed apple and maple syrup into her recipes. I used to use maple syrup or honey for everything, now I'm leaning more toward raisin syrup or fruit purees! Double the vanilla and let your tastebuds adjust. Things baked without a ton of sugar will not taste like twinkies!
Yay!! Her recipes are really SOOOOO versatile. I feel like I'm subbing half of the ingredients out, and they still are always tasty. (I still need to try your carrot cake LEM!! I'll lyk how it goes over here when I do!)
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by jplain View Post
Honey is approximately half glucose, half fructose. Agave varies by manufacturer, from 55% to 90% fructose. So depending on the manufacturer, it could be quite similar in composition to honey, or it could more closely resemble high fructose corn syrup.

And concentrated fructose is bad stuff for your liver. Seriously, it is pretty much the worst thing you can feed yourself. If you want to learn more, watch Robert Lustig's talk Sugar: The Bitter Truth. There's some biochemistry in the middle, but feel free to let your eyes glaze over during that part. He will summarize the important points, and you'll still get the message.
whoa... just finishing watching the link - the biochem stuff is waaaay over my head but he makes a very convincing point. I'm convinced that fructose is a toxin.

So... maybe if I watched the video more and studied up a bit I'd get it... but if fructose is basically synonomous w/ sucrose, it's ideal to eliminate all sugar. Orrr... is honey really OK (according to what he'd say?) I get that fruit is OK to eat as it's got fiber. He had a memorable line about "God creates the poison along with the antidote" or something - that the fiber in fruit helps w/ the body's digestion of the fructose. But honey?

Sorry to get so off topic. I still don't know if we should use agave (haven't yet, lol, but have only recently eliminated refined sugars as we slowly transition to more traditional foods).

Never heard of raisin syrup - interesting!
post #15 of 22
Oops, I had to edit my previous post a little bit for accuracy. My DH reminded me that HFCS is also only 1:1 glucose to fructose, making its sugar composition no worse than honey or table sugar. But if some agave is as much as 90% fructose...whoa! That's really bad for your liver.
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by onetrumpeter View Post
So... maybe if I watched the video more and studied up a bit I'd get it... but if fructose is basically synonomous w/ sucrose, it's ideal to eliminate all sugar.
Yes. Sucrose = table sugar = glucose + fructose. But glucose isn't very sweet, so most of the sweet taste you get from table sugar is really just fructose. If you want to see what glucose tastes like, find some regular corn syrup and taste that. It has very little fructose in it. But be sure to check the label. Some manufacturers are adding HFCS to their corn syrup!

Quote:
Orrr... is honey really OK (according to what he'd say?) I get that fruit is OK to eat as it's got fiber. He had a memorable line about "God creates the poison along with the antidote" or something - that the fiber in fruit helps w/ the body's digestion of the fructose. But honey?
Nope, Lustig is not a fan of honey any more than he's a fan of table sugar (sucrose) or HFCS.

Lustig thinks fruit is okay. I think fruit is better than sugar-sweetened stuff, but that veggies are healthier. And I don't think type II diabetics or prediabetics should eat fruit except in extreme moderation (ie. a few berries now and then).

I still use honey or maple syrup in moderation when I want to sweeten something, but we've cut waaaay back on sweet stuff. (Tho' I do still eat a little bit of cane-sweetened 70-85% chocolate every day. Nom nom nom.) I prefer honey and maple syrup because they're the least processed sugars available. I tend to add about half the amount of sweetener that any recipe calls for, and figure that should be enough.

So I did use a little honey in pumpkin pies for T-giving and Xmas, but I reduced it to 1/4 of a cup. Fantastic recipe, by the way, and can be made dairy-free too if you sub coconut oil for the butter in the crust: Primal Pumpkin Pie - Paleo Too!. But if you try it, definitely decrease the salt!
post #17 of 22
Here's a discussion of agave from Rachel Matesz, a cookbook author who used to recommend it, but now suggests honey instead: Another Look at Agave Nectar. Both of her cookbooks are great, by the way, though I still think she uses an unhealthy amount of sweetener.
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by beka1977 View Post
I'm not worried about them being not sweet enough - I am worried about messing with the texture, or the ratio of wet to dry ingredients.

What is the story with raisin syrup?
Well, I've been doing a straight replacement and the texture has been good, when replacing a liquid sweetener. When replacing a "dry" sweetener, use 3/4 of the measure and reduce the other liquids by a tbsp, and add a tbsp of oil.

I haven't tried this with any cookies, as I'm still not thrilled with any of my almond flour or coconut flour cookie adventures.
post #19 of 22
I subbed maple and raw honey for the agave in her breads with good results. I also would like to know more about this raisin syrup idea...
post #20 of 22
Quote:
What about the processing do you object to? I am NOT trying to be snarky, I am just trying to understand
Quote:
Briefly though, the native people supplying the juice collect it from the live plant, by hand, twice daily. There is no heat involved in the removal. The juice is immediately brought to the facility to remove the excess water as it will ferment rapidly if left standing. It is during the removal of the moisture that the only heat is applied. The juice is evaporated and moisture removed in a vacuum evaporator. The vacuum enables the moisture to be withdrawn at low temperatures. The temp is closely controlled. Subsequently, our agave is handled and packaged at room temperatures. No other heat is applied. And, rather than convert the complex sugars of the juice thermally, we use gentle enzymatic action. Just as a bee introduces an enzyme to flower nectar to make honey, we introduce an natural organic vegan enzyme for the same purpose.
The biggest problem with agave is the enzymatic action. Incidentally, HFCS is also produced through enzymatic action. When proprietary enzymes are added to the natural agave juice (aguamiel) they convert agave's natural sugars into high fructose which is metabolized directly by the liver. Incidentally, agave nectar (as we know it) was invented in 1991, hardly a traditional food.
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