Can I eat honey and agave syrup if I'm trying to lose body fat?

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Can I eat honey and agave syrup if I am trying to lose body fat?

Is honey healthy

By Guy Lawrence

‘For all but the last few hundred years (a heartbeat on the genetic evolution time scale), really sweet foods have been difficult to find.’ – David Gillespie

Sugar… It’s a delicate topic. Unless you’ve been living in a cave lately, you will know that sugar has been copping a lot of flack from the media over recent times (and rightly so I feel). But even with all this media attention, it still washes over many people’s heads and gets thrown into the all too hard basket, with my mate included.

I’ve been guiding my mate now for quite some time with the misconceptions of weight loss and his health kick. He felt that eating fruit salad would help his weight loss plan, counting calories and drinking diet sodas was a healthy choice, following the food pyramid was  beneficial and hours and hours of running a week was going to improve his health. Then I challenged him and his way of thinking and asked him to reconsider his approach, and thankfully he has so far.

We caught up for a cuppa and a chat recently, and as he puts a great big spoonful of honey in his tea, he looks at me and says “this is ok isn’t it? I mean, it’s natural right?”

He then tells me he’s stirring lots of agave syrup into his porridge in the morning too. O’ dear…

In my head I’m thinking ‘mate, if it’s sweet it usually means there’s sugar in there, natural or not.’

But I did not want to deflate his efforts as he was making great progress overall. His intentions where honorable, but he was a little off the mark.

I felt it was now time to delve into a little more about sugar… I just hoped he was ready to hear what I had to say…

Some technical stuff on sugar

SugarYou could write a book on this stuff, in fact someone has and it is called Sweet Poison by David Gillespie (a must read if you care about your health). So bear with me here as I try and condense masses of information into a paragraph in this blog post.

From my experience, when you think of sugar, most people will think of table sugar. So white, brown, caster, or raw sugar is pretty much all the same.

Now table sugars technical name is ‘sucrose’. Sucrose is actually made up of two simple sugars – glucose and fructose – at molecular level. When you eat sucrose, your body actually digests it as half fructose and half glucose. Make sense?

To recap:

  • All types of table sugar = Sucrose
  • Sucrose = 50% Glucose + 50% Fructose

So if you ate 10g of table sugar (sucrose), your body is actually seeing and digesting 5g of glucose and 5g of fructose.

To throw a little more into the mix, there are only three important simple sugars: glucose, fructose and galactose. All sugars you are likely to come across in food are going to be some form or combination of these three.

For instance, fruit will contain sucrose, fructose and glucose. But our body see’s this simply as fructose and glucose because we now know sucrose is a combination of both.

Another good example is milk, which contains the sugar lactose. Lactose is a combination of glucose and galactose.

These three sugars make up the majority of food we call carbohydrates along with fibre (cellulose). Fibre we don’t use for energy.

Now contrary to popular belief, sugar is quit rare in nature. It’s just that us humans have made it insidious and put it in all our food and beverage products. A lot of manufactured foods are basically bland as bat shit so they load them up with sugar so they taste all sweet and yummy.

Now we certainly know sugar impacts our health from stressing the body by effecting blood sugar levels and increasing insulin production. These things alone effect longevity of life (I’ve covered all these things on many posts with more to come). But what seems to slip under the radar a little is fructose.

Fructose has minimal effects on impacting insulin and blood sugar, hence it’s low GI. The problem is that fructose is much more damaging than glucose or galactose. It’s actually 20-30 times more glycating (damaging) than glucose. Why?

In wikipedias own words:

“The medical profession thinks fructose is better for diabetics than sugar,” says Meira Field, PhD, a research chemist at United States Department of Agriculture, “but every cell in the body can metabolize glucose. However, all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. The livers of the rats on the high-fructose diet looked like the livers of alcoholics, plugged with fat and cirrhotic.”[59] While a few other tissues (e.g., sperm cells[60] and some intestinal cells) do use fructose directly, fructose is almost entirely metabolized in the liver.[59]

“When fructose reaches the liver,” says Dr. William J. Whelan, a biochemist at the University of Miami School of Medicine, “the liver goes bananas and stops everything else to metabolize the fructose.” - Wikipedia

In other words, when we eat glucose we have controlling mechanisms. We can use the glucose for energy and/or produce insulin to convert the glucose into fat and save it as stored energy. Fructose on the other hand bypasses the controlling mechanisms and is directly converted to fatty acids. So all the fructose we eat is converted to fat.

apple juiceNow if you consider an apple is approximately 8% fructose (2 teaspoons), throw in the fibre, skin, flesh and all the other nutrients and an apple a day isn’t going to knock you sideways… But the moment you start to process these things (like 10 apples to make a juice) and it’s a different story!

Fructose is even found as one of the main ingredients in many health/weight loss products. It’s used as a cheap source of carbohydrate. The mind boggles…

If companies started listing their ingredients transparently with pictures next to them like we do here, I think things would be a little different.

And to top it off some bright spark came up with high fructose corn syrup – HFCS – (it’s in lots of processed foods), which is extremely damaging. Think of it as an industrial strength sweetener. I read recently that this is the number one source of dietary calories in the USA, amazing!

Do you have these foods in your daily diet?

These are some of the foods sweetened with HFCS: Sodas, cookies, soups, salad dressing, sauces, bread, peanut butter, mustard… To name but a few but you get the picture. Read the labels first. Fortunately HFCS doesn’t get used as much here in Australia as it does in the US, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that changes in time. It’s cheap to produce, transport and store. As always just follow the money.

As mentioned by the Wikipedia quote above, there have been numerous studies undertaken where animals (usually rats) have been fed a high-fructose diet, and they developed livers of an ageing seasoned alcoholic.

Then if you look at the rest of your food and how they are affecting your insulin and blood sugar levels, you could be digging an early grave with your fork. A good example of unsuspecting food is breakfast cereal. Did you know that there are breakfast cereals on the market that effect your blood sugar levels more than glucose? Incredible.

Personally, if I was a diabetic or suffering high cholesterol/ high blood pressure etc. The first things I would cut out of my diet are fructose and breakfast cereal. But that’s just me…

honey

Agave syrup & honey

So back to honey in my mate’s cup of tea and agave syrup in his porridge. We now know if you want to have a fatty liver like a raging alcoholic and get fat, consuming lots of fructose daily will greaten your cause. If you don’t want that, cutting back on your fructose intake is a smart move over the long term.

You know what’s coming next right? Honey is on average 38% fructose. Agave syrup is anywhere from 70% fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites.

Agave is touted as this wonderful natural sweetener. The only thing wonderful about it is the marketing. Agave nectar and high-fructose corn syrup are made the same way, using a highly chemical process with genetically modified enzymes.

Quit the sweet stuff

Should my mate quit the honey and agave syrup? It’s entirely up to him. But I would suggest to taking a close look at his diet and seeing how much processed foods, breakfast cereals, processed fruits, dried fruits etc make up his daily diet. I try and keep my fructose intake to a minimum. I’ll get it through a little bit of fruit each day. Personally I don’t sweeten things, as I don’t have a sweet tooth as I don’t have much sugar in my diet.

On a side note: I truly enjoy writing these posts, hence our frequent blog posts. At the end of the day though, these are just my thought’s and feelings around a topic I’m passionate about. I encourage everyone to do their own research and check out the facts for themselves.

If you did enjoy the post and got something from it or have something to share on the topic, I would love to hear your thought’s in the comments section below. If you feel others would benefit from this then it would be great if you could share it using one of the icons below (Facebook etc). Cheers, Guy…

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    27 Responses to Can I eat honey and agave syrup if I am trying to lose body fat?

    1. Zia
      July 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      Great topic!!
      I feel like the sugar banshee around my colleagues, family & friends when I try to discuss how large a percentage sugar is in everyone’s diet (due to it being an ingredient in almost everything) & the benefits to an unprocessed, “clean eating” lifestyle change.
      Great to have such an informative topic though as it reaffirms how important my journey to reduce my sugar intake is.

      Would be great to have GI as a topic & why we should increase our low GI intake with regards to insulin & weight loss – I read a quick snippet last night that introduced me to learning more about GI & would be interested to know more! -If you have written about GI, could you direct me to the article please!
      Thanks for your helpful tips & informative articles, when I see an email pop up & I have 5 minutes I always try to read through :)

      • 180nps
        July 25, 2012 at 9:29 am

        Thanks Zia… I think eating unprocessed foods and reducing sugar intake is certainly overlooked by many, but each to their own ;)

        Writing about GI is certainly on the radar… But again it’s certainly one of those things that can easily be misinterpreted to sell a ‘health product’ if you know what I mean… So should make for good reading :)

        • Sam
          October 28, 2014 at 7:34 am

          Hi Guy

          Agree with everything and just wanting to check your views on the isagenix products. I don’t usually agree with manufactured ingredients/ shakes but have been informed that the isagenix is superior because of the quality of ingredients? I know that it does have a lot of good nutrients and herbs and can see the benefit if people are starting to lose weight and improve their health by exercising etc. There are also a lot of nutritionist and health professionals such as chiro’s recommending it. My concern is the fructose and sunflower oil. I would like to know whether the amount of fructose in Isagenix is safe or damaging? I keep coming back to the fructose however, which they say comes from beets and pears and say that if you can eat an apple then you are ok? On the ingredient/nutritional info under sugars it says – 11g per serving. I’m not sure if this is just fructose though? There is also a cleanse as part of the programme and some of the tablets that you take while fasting are made up of fructose?

          • Guy Lawrence
            October 31, 2014 at 10:38 am

            Hey Sam… I’m not in a position to comment on other products I don’t use. We do our best to research, interview health leaders and provide this free resource so people can make informed decisions over time. My best advice is always check nutritional labels on everything and to follow what feels right for you. Guy

    2. Kat
      July 25, 2012 at 11:34 am

      Very informative and necessary, thank you.
      Clarified a whole lot on fructose and Agave for me. Its interesting, i started using agave for my sweet tooth after watching series Good chef Bad chef. Under the assumption that agave was the go, as Naturopath/Chef claims it’s so good for you.

      That Agave is definitely getting the boot from my pantry,lol

      Cheers Kat

      • Natalie
        July 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm

        Kat, you can use Rice Malt Syrup as an alternative to honey and agave. You can get it from the health food shop and it’s fructose free.

    3. Lyn
      July 25, 2012 at 11:41 am

      Great post! So many people think they are making a better choice by using honey as a sweetner, but they don’t understand. I think we need to educate more people on Fructose rather than just be all about sugar- free. A friend of mine whos loves to eat healthy asks me why I don’t drink fruit juice as it’s natural – but you are right in what you wrote – one apple is fine but fruit juice has so many apples and the liver can’t cope!
      I am really cautious of anything in a store that says sugar-free as I am sure it has either honey or agave in it. Recently I bought a ginger drink from a health food store. I was in a rush and didn’t read the label properly. I could see it had honey in it, but I thought I’d allow myself to have a small amount. When I left the shop and took a swig of the drink it was so sweet. I turned to read the label and it had almost 40grams of sugar! If I am going to have that much sugar I’d rather have a coke!

      Keep spreading the message!

    4. Rebekah
      July 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Excellent post (i’m already a 4 month convert) but I still find the topic fascinating. And i agree with Lyn entirely…. its educating people on the chemistry and science behind what is a sugar molecule and how it is dealt with in the body ie… what happens to the glucose in the cells and then what happens with the fructose half. If people understood this as opposed to just being told to ‘quit sugar’ then i feel they’d be far more inclined to ditch the sweet stuff.

      • Renee
        July 26, 2012 at 8:40 am

        I agree with Rebekah entirely. Knowledge is power and marketing is misleading – it’s the same old thing, up to the consumer to sift through info to educate themselves, but this is incredibly difficult with the amount of conflicting sources out there. I am a nutrition student and I am constantly researching ingredients and food components and really feel that sticking to eating as nature intended, and just cutting the artificial sweet stuff entirely is the best way to go. It is critical that people can acccess articles like this (and others like Sarah Wilson’s blog as has been mentioned) for down to earth, simple explanations of the scientific effect that sugar has on our system and why it is best to avoid avoid avoid!! Standard food marketing does not provide the advice we need! Thanks Guy for filling the gap!

        • 180nps
          July 27, 2012 at 11:03 am

          Your welcome Renee…

    5. Ali V
      July 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      Fantastic article, have shared on my two facebook pages.
      Printing it off now to give to my clients :)

    6. Danielle Grinev
      July 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      Great info. I used to be a GP rep selling medication for diabetics, 1 in every 2 people in QLD either are pre diabetic or diabetic!!! It is all completely reversible through education, however, the education they get is funded by certain groups who don’t really want them to get better, as it is a multi billion dollar industry to have so many people on medication, most diabetics are on a minimum of 3 different drugs to ‘Stay healthy”. Crazy…. I would love to get a hard copy of Sarah Wilsons books….. Printing it of is ridiculous and I cant sit in front of my computer to read through or cook, anyone got their hands on one?

      • Sylvia
        July 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm

        I agree with you on the printing/reading, you are time poor….
        Buy instead, David Gillespie’s book, Sweet Poison The quit Plan, (this is his second book) or buy both….You can get them through Amazon….
        This set me on my new way of life, almost 2 years ago, my arthritis is about 70% better, and I lost 19 kilos over 13 months with little or no exercise, mostly sporadic walking, and stretching.
        Good luck
        Sylvia x

      • 180nps
        July 27, 2012 at 11:07 am

        There’s no hard version of the book as yet… But I’m sure they will look at it for the near future…

    7. Fiona
      July 26, 2012 at 9:52 am

      I’m approximately 4 months into a sugar reduced way of life (thanks to David Gillespie’s ‘Sweet Poison’ book), and have never felt better. It has been a huge change for my partner and I, and we’ve both found the hardest part has been focusing on the different parts of the food labels – ie, not paying as much attention to the fat totals, as to the sugar totals. What an eye-opener, realising that sugar is in so many products we previously had considered were ‘healthy’. Thanks for breaking down the different sugar types, and for simply explaining why fructose is something to be wary of.

    8. Deb
      July 26, 2012 at 10:56 am

      You say that honey is 38% fructose, but a quick search gives figures between 55-70%. I think David Gillespie settles for 48%. Interesting about agave syrup, thanks.

    9. Emma @ the muesli
      July 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      Great post Guy, it’s just so important for as many people as possible to do their bit in disseminating this information in what ever ways possible. Putting it in to language that everyone can relate to and understand like Robert Lustig, David Gillespie, Sarah Wilson and you – we can only hope that despite the might of the sugar industry worldwide – we can get the message to spread!
      the muesli exists because unlike the majority of the breakfast cereal products available it is naturally SUGAR FREE……

    10. Rene
      July 30, 2012 at 11:56 am

      I love your blog posts.
      Thank you so much for changing my mind on Agave Syrup. I knew it sounded too good to be true.
      What are your views on Sugar Free Maple Syrup. I absolutely love the stuff and I really don’t think I want to hear how much damage it’s doing?

      • 180nps
        July 30, 2012 at 12:43 pm

        Hey Rene… I’d be looking at rice malt… Hope that helps… Guy

        • Rene
          July 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm

          Awesome Thanks so much Guy
          And thank you for saving me from Agave :)
          I’ll be grabbing some rice malt next time I’m out.

    11. James
      August 8, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      what about stevia? what are your thoughts?

    12. Jamie
      August 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      Great read, Guy.

      I’ve been really thinking more about the amount of sugar in the foods I consume and I’d recommend anyone who hasn’t, grab Guy’s eBook which talks more about cards and sugar. Eye opening stuff.

      http://180nutrition.com.au/ebook/

      Cheers,
      Jamie

    13. Alan
      September 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      Many thanks for the great read, very interesting.

      In regards to bodybuilding, do you recommend to take a particular type of sugar? or any at all in your post workout protein shake?

      I have read and heard all manner of things, from adding half a spoonful of sucrose, to eating a banana or adding dextrose to your shake. Alot of it from what ive seen is nothing more than opinion so i would be very grateful if someone could offer me some advice backed by reasonable evidence.

    14. Alice
      September 18, 2013 at 1:29 am

      Interesting post Guy, this is probably a stupid question but is there ANYTHING sweet that can be used as an alternative to table sugar/honey/agave etc that you would suggest for someone with a mega sweet tooth trying to lose body fat?

      Thanks!

      • Guy Lawrence
        September 18, 2013 at 8:24 am

        A little Stevia if you must. L-Glutamine can also help with sugar cravings – Stu

    15. Katie
      March 3, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      WOW!!

      love this post! I have completely cut fructose out of my diet (except for the occasional piece of fruit) and have never felt better. It really is dangerous stuff and people need to know about it!

      Thanks for an awesome post!

      check out my blog kaleandthekettlebell.com if you are interested!!

      :)

    16. Alison
      September 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      Many thanks for clarifying what is, as you said, a hot topic for many right now. I have honey in every cup of tea and don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon! By the way, if you need someone to edit/proofread your stuff, I would be happy to help!

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