I use a lot of alternative food sources in my cooking. I try to encourage others to do so. I like to cook ‘inclusively’–so that more people can sit at my table and enjoy whatever I’m serving without any qualms or issues regarding what’s in my food, or what’s not in my food. Which brings me to what’s wrong with agave syrup.
As the American population ages and begins to discern the benefits of a processed, agribusiness determined diet, more and more people discover daily that they can’t eat the way they used to. Diabetes, obesity, liver ailments, high blood pressure &tc. are the whirlwind we reap these days often due to dietary choices made decades ago. So what’s wrong with agave syrup, which has been touted as the panacea sweetener when one must watch every mouthful one takes in?
What’s wrong with agave syrup, or ‘nectar’ as it is deceptively called by more than one purveyor, is–wait for it–nearly everything. It’s monocropped in fragile desert environments, contributing to soil erosion, soil nutrient depletion, and economic over-reliance on one commercial crop in disadvantaged communities. Further, it’s happening in an emerging economy, where most folks are willing to do just about anything to get their noses over the break-even point.
Agave is not allowed to flower and complete it’s reproductive cycle (in order to keep its sugars concentrated and harvestable). This means that four different endangered bat species lack an essential pollen contributor in their diet. This means that blue agave is nearly all clones now. And that means the entire plant population is frighteningly susceptible to insect infestation or ‘plague’ grade disease vectors. Which is why most agave is sprayed with a wide range of pesticides–including paraquat (not legal in the US anymore, but not uncommon in emerging economies).
The harvested product goes through about as many transormative stages as High Fructose Corn Syrup to become Agave Nectar. Most of the pesticide residue is shed somewhere between the first fractionating and the last hydrolysis of the pulp mass. But the people who live around the agave fields and work in them aren’t as isolated from pesticide exposure as the developed world consumers are. Is it neighborly to visit the Fifth Horseman of Agribusiness upon our hapless economic dependents? Let alone the disappearing long-nosed bat species of the Jalisco region?
I’m lucky to have my health, by and large. Medical professionals ask me repeatedly in various ways what daily meds I’m on when they’re filling out forms, or having me do so. Though I’m approaching fifty, the answer is ‘none’. I’m well–or well enough. But even if I weren’t, I would have a hard time justifying improving my health by ensuring that others would become less well. Or improving my health by trading out the environmental vitality of an entire bioregion.
What’s wrong with Agave syrup? Besides what I’ve mentioned so far, there’s even some concern that the fructose profile of Agave is hard on the liver, and mimics HFCS in the way the body processes and reacts to it. I’m no nutritionist, but I just say ‘No’ to Agave syrup.