Food Babe’s Hypocrisy Grows. Who Gives a Sh*t? Agave Sh*t!

With the 2015 triathlon season fast approaching here in North America, I’m working overtime on my training regimen.  This, of course, includes a healthy diet.

Because I have a bit of a sweet tooth, I thought I’d turn to nutrition expert Vani Hari (the “Food Babe”) for advice on sweeteners.  A bit of chocolate or ice cream is a nice treat after a 50 mile bicycle training ride.  I burn thousands of calories with such workouts, but I don’t want to overdo the sugar reward.  Maybe I’ll do a little shopping on FoodBabe.com.  Hari claims to read the labels of–and personally use–every product she sells.  Surely I can’t go wrong on her own web site!

I wonder what the Babe says about agave nectar, a “natural” sweetener I’ve heard so much about?1  Made from a plant, agave seems like a good “organic” food source.  Take it away, Vani:

Food Babe agave warning

Food Babe warns about agave nectar in this August, 2013 post. (click/enlarge)

Oh dear.  I did not know that!  Fructose, a naturally-occurring sugar found in fruits and vegetables, should be avoided?  Sounds suspicious, but this woman claims to do her homework.  In fact, she elaborates on the theme in her latest book:

“Agave nectar is unnatural and highly refined.  It can make you gain weight, and it can affect your liver and your overall health.  Do not swallow the marketing hype; leave this sweetener on the shelf.”–Vani Hari, The Food Babe Way, page 163.

Sounds like a thoroughly researched scientific position, doesn’t it?  Well, let’s take Hari’s advice to heart and go shopping on FoodBabe.com.  Here’s our shopping list:

  • Chocolates
  • Ice cream
  • Avoid agave nectar

Away we go…

righteously raw goji food babe

Righteously Raw Goji Chocolate Bars sold on FoodBabe.Com. Vani Hari earns a sales commission when you purchase via her web site. (click/enlarge)

I must confess, those Righteously Raw Goji chocolate bars look scrumptious!2  And Vani Hari earns a commission from every purchase,3 which helps fund the crucial role this woman fills in keeping our food supply safe.  What’s not to love?  Let’s pull the trigger on this one…

CaptureWHOA! Not so fast on the purchase button there, cowboy!

I’m sure the rumors we’ve heard of Food Babe selling items she says are dangerous are untrue, but let’s check the ingredients of these chocolate bars.4  This is a skeptical science blog, after all:

Righteously Raw agave

Righteously Raw chocolate bars are made with agave nectar.  (click/enlarge)

 

Uh oh.  Agave nectar? 

But Food Babe told us that:

“Agave nectar is unnatural and highly refined.  It can make you gain weight, and it can affect your liver and your overall health.  Do not swallow the marketing hype; leave this sweetener on the shelf.”–Vani Hari, The Food Babe Way, page 163.

If it’s bad for you, why is she selling it?  She can’t claim she didn’t know it was there.  She wrote about it in another blog post:5

food babe agaveTo their credit, Righteously Raw provides a nice writeup on their web site as to why they believe their agave is better than other agave.  Sadly, they use Dr. Oz, Oprah, and Ellen Degeneres as references.4

Food Babe’s argument against agave is that it contains fructose (a naturally-occurring simple sugar found in all of the fruits she pushes in her recipes).  She tells us fructose “makes a beeline” for our livers, where it supposedly puts us at risk for disease.  So she doesn’t get a free pass on the agave issue, regardless of where it comes from.

Regardless, damn my eyes, agave isn’t just in the chocolate Food Babe pushes.  Let’s look at her online “pantry list”,6 taking particular note of the Coconut Bliss ice creams:

food babe coconut bliss

Food Babe pantry list includes agave-laden Coconut Bliss ice cream. (click/enlarge)

 

Every single item listed on the Coconut Bliss product ingredient page contains agave syrup.7  Every item.  Food Babe hates the syrup even worse than the nectar.  In The Food Babe Way, she has this to say:

“Most commercially available agave is converted into fructose-rich syrup, by using genetically modified enzymes and a chemically intensive process that may include activated charcoal, resins, sulfuric and/or hydrofluoric acid, dicalite, and clarimex.  Does this sound healthy to you?” –Vani Hari, The Food Babe Way, page 163.

Perhaps Food Babe will tell us her agave syrup is different from other agave syrups.  But, please keep in mind: her argument against agave is that it contains the simple sugar fructose.  Fructose is fructose.

This isn’t the first time Food Babe has been caught selling products with ingredients she says are dangerous.  It’s become rather obvious to me she doesn’t actually read the labels of the items she sells.  Her reaction to criticism has been, to say the least, suspect.  In the past, she’s either completely ignored reports and continued to sell, quietly pulled items from her store without comment, or tried to shift the blame for her hypocrisy onto her innocent partners.

Only time will tell how she handles the bad news about the agave.  In the interim, I hope that Righteously Raw and Coconut Bliss (Luna & Larry’s) won’t be punished because of Food Babe’s double standards and hypocrisy.  There’s nothing wrong with agave, fructose, and/or the products of these two companies.

I may just buy some Righteously Raw chocolate and Coconut Bliss ice cream as tiny rewards for some of the grueling distance training I’ll be doing this racing season.

I just won’t be buying via FoodBabe.com.

 

 

Image Credits
Food Babe, Amazon, Righteously Raw, and Luna & Larry Coconut Bliss screen snapshots are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

References
(1) Food Babe on Agave (Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/thefoodbabe/posts/635528573148524

(2) Food Babe Shopping
http://foodbabe.com/shop/for-your-belly/

(3) Righteously Raw/Food Babe Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/keywords=Righteously%20Raw%20Bars

(4) Righteously Raw–“Why We Use Agave”
http://righteouslyrawchocolate.com/natural-sweetener-debate/

(5) Food Babe Sugar Archives
http://foodbabe.com/tag/sugar/

(6) Food Babe Pantry List
http://foodbabe.com/pantry-list/

(7) Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss All Product Ingredients
http://coconutbliss.com/info/all-products-ingredients

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11 thoughts on “Food Babe’s Hypocrisy Grows. Who Gives a Sh*t? Agave Sh*t!

  1. Incredible. I hope lots of people show this blog to people who claim she is an honest, rational person. It’s pretty clear that either she’s 1) stupid and dishonest or 2) a knowing fraudster based on the claims she makes (oh no, not sulphuric acid in PROCESSING of a material!… among many other things shes’s said)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m thrilled with the response Yvette (Science Babe) has received to her Gawker article. She does an amazing job of pointing out so many of the major problems with Food Babe’s so-called “work”, and it seems to be having an effect, if you can judge by the number of people who have “unliked” Food Babe’s page since yesterday. I think the hard part is getting more of Hari’s fans to look at the facts. That’s where talented writers such as Science Babe come in. The more people like her we have out there fighting pseudoscience, the better.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Vani Hari “The Food Babe” living large – one million dollar house purchased under her husbands name? | The Truth About Vani Hari the "Food Babe"

  3. @BadscienceDebunked

    Can you take a look at one of Food Babes latest and debunk it? She claims that the FDA says it no longer can review and approve all food ingredients and so its decided to let the food manufacturers do it themselves and she’s got a link to a Chicago Times article that details the same thing. This can’t be accurate.

    Thanks

    Like

  4. I appreciate you sharing this. When I first started analyzing food labels as part of my job (for 6 years), I started to notice the ingredients in all of the foods that I never realized. I went completely nuts trying to exclude a certain ingredient, then I’d learn of a new ingredient or additive I wanted to avoid, and I started excluding that from my diet too. This process went on until it seemed like there wasn’t a single label that could ever satisfy me. It was incredibly restricting. You go through cycles of what you’re trying to do with your diet, eliminating certain things, adding certain foods, portioning, etc. Eventually though, you realize that you have to pick your battles. If you REALLY want ice cream, and you’re just wanting to treat yourself without having to make it yourself, go ahead and get the ice cream with agave. It’s better than gmo sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or other artificial sweeteners. Her having options on her suggested list with agave doesn’t mean she’s a fraud or lying. It’s almost repulsive that people come so drastically to that conclusion just because some items (obviously meant only as treats) have agave in it. Of course she will suggest the ice cream with agave over the more processed one. If she’s not selling agave itself on the site, and it’s just in a few items that are clearly meant as treats items, then I’m surprised that everyone is making a fuss over it. I think she’s trying to say that agave shouldn’t be your go-to sweetener of choice, and she’s right. There are better options. If you want to sweeten your coffee, or use a sweetener in your homemade recipes, go back to honey or other sweeteners instead of agave. But if your really want prepackaged ice cream, your options are VERY limited… Looks like you’ll be getting agave. WHO CARES, you’re eating ice cream, obviously it’s not going to be GOOD for you. Rethink the hate, it’s just silly and myopic. I’m studying to be a registered dietician, and the advice she gives is a tool for people to be able to make choices on their own. I have analyzed foods for many years, and eventually you HAVE to accept that when you eat anything packaged or premade, there is almost ALWAYS, at least one ingredient you’ll wish either wasn’t there, or was substituted with something else. I think you guys are missing her point. Although, yes, perhaps she should elaborated a bit more in reference to her suggested foods lists so people know the lack of perfection of the prepackaged and premade foods. it certainly doesn’t mean she’s a fraud or lying like some others have said in their comments. It just means she picked the lesser of the evils, trying to make it easier for people to pick. It makes a whole lot of sense to me.

    Like

    • Thank you for reading and your thoughtful comments Erica. The agave article is one in a series of over a dozen that all point out an unfortunate but undeniable fact about Food Babe–she tells her followers that an ingredient is dangerous yet she earns sales commissions off products that contain those same ingredients. Agave is just one example (but, in her book, she *does* say to avoid it completely).

      If you follow Food Babe, I’m sure you’re aware of her war on dyes such as FD&C yellow 5, blue 1, and red 40. She earns commissions on three different product lines that contain these dyes, all the while claiming they’re toxic and should be completely removed. She’s raved against BHT for years while simultaneously selling it in a product on her food babe shopping page. She warns against IARC group 2B carcinogens (remember her 4-Mel Starbucks campaign?) yet I can easily find over a half dozen food and beauty products she’s pushing that contain those carcinogens. She’s even so brazen that she wrote an article claiming aluminum in deodorants can cause Alzheimer’s–but she sells a deodorant in that very same article that contains aluminum.

      So I agree with you that you can’t walk over to a shelf and pick a product that’s made-to-order with just the ingredients you want. That isn’t the issue with Food Babe. The issue is that she’s making a great deal of money selling EXACTLY what she says is dangerous. The only difference between the choices she’s giving people is that she’s making money on them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would add too, though…if you are studying to be a dietitian, then you really need to examine your organic chemistry and biology background as well as the nutrition courses you are taking, Erica. You stated:
        “If you REALLY want ice cream, and you’re just wanting to treat yourself without having to make it yourself, go ahead and get the ice cream with agave. It’s better than gmo sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or other artificial sweeteners.”

        If we are talking about fructose, then it doesn’t matter if it is fructose in corn syrup or agave, or from a GMO source. Fructose is fructose is fructose.

        Everything in moderation, I understand how too much fructose is harmful. But the “Food Babe” is warning that fructose is to be avoided at all cost, and telling people to boycott companies which use it…but then selling from what appear to be healthy alternative companies which still contain fructose. It is unethical as Mr. Alsip points out. However, it goes farther in that she is purposefully harming companies that utilize an ingredient (They won’t listen until we vote with our dollars) even though she is either knowingly (as I suspect) or unknowingly (appeal to ignorance, and irresponsible against her own claims of doing her homework) affecting the behavior and results of companies in the marketplace. While I typically root for the underdog (smaller and individually owned companies) there are still people whose jobs rely on consumers not being falsely scared away from the products they make.

        Like

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