Agave Nectar – Safe for Your Blood Sugar?
Last week I fielded a question on my Facebook page on the pro’s and con’s of artificial sweeteners and a product was brought up that I was not all to familiar with, that product, agave nectar. As a type 1 diabetic and not a fan of any artificial sweetener (hello sucralose), I decided to take a look and see what this “natural” alternative is all about.
Agave nectar is a natural sweetener, valued as a vegan alternative to honey and touted for its low glycemic index. Foods with a higher glycemic index (GI) tend to trigger a greater surge in blood sugar and insulin—the hormone that helps the sugar get into cells—just after eating. (These spikes can be particularly problematic for those with diabetes. High-GI foods also tend to make you hungry again sooner because they’re digested quickly.)
According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, agave’s GI value is about five times lower than table sugar’s. Currently no studies compare how, relative to other sugars, agave may affect blood-sugar control, but based on the buzz agave’s been generating, we’ll likely see research in the near future.
Agave Nectar Glycemic Values By Comparison:
Organic Agave Nectar 27
Fructose (fruit sugar) 32
Lactose (milk sugar) 65
High fructose corn syrup 89
Sucrose (sugar) 92
Glucose tablets 146
Health Benefits Of Agave Nectar:
Agave nectar contains saponins and fructans. According to Dr. Sahelian, saponins, which are found on quinoa and many plant roots, including ginseng, have anti-inflammatory and immune system-boosting properties, including antimicrobial capability. In fact, the Aztecs used agave syrup to treat wounds because of its antibacterial properties. Inulin is a type of fructan or fiber that has many health benefits. Studies suggest that inulin can be effective in weight loss because of its low impact on blood sugar and its ability to increase satiety and decrease appetite. Inulin is also associated with lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of certain cancers, and increasing the absorption of nutrients, such as isoflavones, calcium and magnesium. Inulin can also be found in some varieties of yogurt.
Is Sorbitol Safe For People With Diabetes?
In a recent discussion earlier this week, someone in my Facebook group brought to my attention if sorbitol in toothpaste was really that bad even though he tries to avoid it at all costs. Honestly, I’ve never heard of sorbitol and curiosity immediately kicked in. As a type 1 diabetic, the vast majority of us try and eat as health as possible to avoid any potential long term side effects. So what’s the deal? Are sorbitol side effects in gum and toothpaste really all that bad? Lets take a closer look!
What Is Sorbitol?
So what is this stuff anyway and are there other names for sorbitol? Well, sorbitol was first discovered in its naturally occurring form in 1872 and is in a variety of fruits and berries. Common fruits which contain this sugar are the stone fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches, apricots and cherries. High quantities of Sorbitol are also found in such items as dry fruits, prunes, raisins and figs. Sorbitol in these fruits is often associated with gas formation and aggravation of irritable bowel syndrome.
Safe For Type 1 Diabetics?
I guess (for obvious reasons) this is the one that surprised me the most and Jim, I can now see your concern with using sorbitol and thank you for pointing this out to me. I’m also thinking that you have to have adequate amounts as part of your daily diet, but lets see.
As type 1 and type 2 diabetics we may incorrectly believe products containing sorbitol and labeled “no sugar added” or “sugar free” will not affect their blood sugar. This is a dangerous misunderstanding that could lead to significantly elevated blood sugar levels, according to Joslin Diabetes Center.
The calories and carbohydrates in foods containing sorbitol or any other sugar alcohol must be added in to the total allowed amounts of a diabetic person’s meal plan. Read the nutrition label and look for sorbitol on the ingredient list; also look at the total carbohydrate grams per serving in order to avoid abnormally high blood sugars.
An Artificial Sweetener?
Well lets just say that once man gets into a lab, essentially anything can become artificial and altered, but what about sorbitol? Like I mentioned earlier sorbitol occurs naturally in fruits and berries, but sorbitol can now made chemically from corn syrup and is in a variety of foods and health products. Because it contains one-third the calories found in glucose, it is widely present in a variety of diet drinks and foods. Sorbitol is found in puddings, pancake-mix, cookies, oatmeal, and a variety of other foods. Foods products labeled as “containing no sugar” or “lite” frequently contain sorbitol as an artificial sweetener. A number of health and nutrition bars also advertised for diabetics also contain quantities of sorbitol.