Agave is a succulent desert plant found in Mexico, parts of Central and South America, and southern and western United States. While it is best known as the plant used to make tequila, the nectar or syrup it contains has been used for thousands of years as a food ingredient.
Agave syrup is known in Mexico as aguamiel or “honey water” and aptly so as it is about 40 percent sweeter than sugar. The plant matures and is ready for harvest at around 7-10 years. The leaves are cut off to reveal the piña or the core, which looks like a giant pineapple and weighs anywhere between 50 to 150 pounds
The sap is then extracted from the piñas, and the liquid is selected to become dark agave syrup, or filtered to create light agave syrup. Both the light and dark varieties come from the same plants and are heated at a low temperature without using any chemicals to produce the agave syrup.
Because of the low temperature, chemical-free processing method used to produce it, agave syrup is generally regarded as a raw food. The sweetness of agave syrup can be described as a cross between honey and solid palm sugar, and does not have the bitter aftertaste associated with most artificial sweeteners.
Since agave syrup is much sweeter than sugar, a smaller amount gives you the same sweetness with fewer calories. Raw agave syrup’s sweetness comes mainly from inulin, a complex form of fructose (the sugar which occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables). The carbohydrates in agave syrup provide sweetness without giving you an unhealthy sugar rush and blood sugar spike because it has a low glycemic index.
Aside from being a natural sweetener, agave syrup also provides some health benefits. The Aztecs combine it with salt to create dressings for wounds and balms for skin infection. Studies show that when applied topically, agave nectar has been found effective against pyogenic (pus producing) bacteria such as Staph aureus, and when consumed, is effective against enteric (intestinal) bacteria.
Dr. Joseph Mercola was eyeing organic raw agave syrup as one of his sweetener choices when he was reformulating his new USDA-certified Organic Cocoa Cassava Bar. Pure organic raw agave syrup, however, is expensive and therefore, not cost effective.
The agave syrup that’s available in grocery shelves is highly processed and fractionated and is nothing like pure agave nectar. Deceptive marketing has promoted low-quality agave syrup as a healthy alternative to sugar but what food manufacturers don’t tell consumers is that the syrup they’re getting is not pure and organic but just highly concentrated sugar and no better than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
There was no way Dr. Mercola would put something unhealthy in his new natural energy bar. In the end, after more than three dozen recipe changes, Dr. Mercola settled for organic tapioca syrup, which provides a body, humectancy and taste similar to HFCS but is a more wholesome sweetener and is non-allergenic and not genetically-modified.
The new Organic Cocoa Cassava Bars contains only all-natural ingredients and make an excellent gift suggestion for those who love snacking on chocolate and are health conscious at the same time. Try one now and share this new natural energy bar with your family and friends!
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