Interview with Chelsea DiFrancesco, Better Body Foods

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about yourself? How did you get involved in this business?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: My name is Chelsea and my life basically revolves around food. I’m half joking when I say that, but for the most part it’s true. I’ve always loved to cook, and more importantly, eat. I grew up in Utah, and my older sister was friends with Stephen Richards, the founder of BetterBody Foods. Consequently, I’ve been a Xagave user since the very beginning, nearly 7 years ago. When I moved back to Utah after grad school, I was so excited to have the opportunity to join the BBF team. The best part is that now I get paid to think about food all day!

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about Better Body Foods?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: We are a Utah-based company dedicated to revolutionizing the way people cook. Our company brings healthy and tasty alternatives to sugar and fats in everyday baking and cooking. We are always looking out for new natural and organic products to help our customers make delicious and nutritious food. Our products are all certified organic, non-GMO and Kosher. We bottle all of our products in our certified organic packaging facility in Lindon, UT.

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about Xagave? How did it start?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: Xagave was BetterBody Foods’ first product, which launched in 2007. CEO and Founder Stephen Richards has family members who are diabetic, and so agave nectar was quickly on his radar because it’s so diabetic friendly. He became passionate about this amazing product and its many health benefits. He worked with agave growers to get the best product available. He literally started the company by selling Xagave out of his truck. He has built the business from there and we have added new products like Extra Virgin and Naturally Refined Coconut Oils and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla.

Sarah Velasco: What is agave nectar?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: Agave nectar is the raw nectar of the agave plant, a member of the lily family. Because of its fructose/glucose makeup, agave is a naturally low-glycemic food, about 35 on the glycemic index. This means that agave doesn’t cause the sharp spikes and crashes in blood sugar that other sugars do.

Sarah Velasco: How is it made?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: The agave root is dug up from the earth, cut from the rest of the plant and then ground into a pulp. The pulp is then distilled and strained to separate the nectar from the water and other plant materials. BetterBody Foods’ Xagave is a raw product, meaning that it is never heated above 117°F during the extraction process. In fact, we test every batch of agave we get for isomaltose markers that indicate the nectar has caramelized. This rigorous testing process ensures that we reject all incoming product with any indication that the agave has been cooked or adulterated.

Sarah Velasco:  Are there health benefits of Xagave Agave Nectar?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: The most commonly known health benefit of agave nectar is that it’s low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a numerical system that measures the increase in blood sugar level when triggered by carbohydrates or sugars. The higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response, including effects such as a burst of energy followed by a dramatic decrease in energy. Therefore, a high GI food will trigger a dramatic spike while a low GI food will cause a small rise. Agave is a low GI food, which means you will notice little to no change in your blood sugar response or energy levels. High GI sweeteners like honey, sugar and high fructose corn syrup provide an immediate burst of energy but quickly “burn out,” causing lethargy and hunger. This process leads to consuming more of the same sugar for that unsustainable burst of energy, causing a cycle of overeating. Xagave contains a different type of sugar that burns slowly and avoids this cycle, leaving you with longer-lasting energy levels if used wisely and in moderation.

In addition to being low-glycemic, Xagave is the only brand of agave nectar on the market that contains both fiber and calcium. One serving contains 2 grams of fiber and 17% of your daily needed calcium. These nutrients occur naturally in the agave plant, but are normally processed out during extraction. Because Xagave is an all-natural, raw product, we are able to retain these essential nutrients.

The fiber in Xagave is called inulin, which is a water-soluble dietary fiber found in more than 3,500 fruits and vegetables. Inulin feeds the good bacteria in your digestive tract, improving the health of your digestive system. It also decreases caloric intake and aids in weight management. Because of the inulin content in Xagave, recipes using Xagave can be altered to use less fat and oil. Additionally, fiber-rich foods are more satisfying and suppressing appetite. Studies have also shown that Inulin, in addition to promoting digestive health, improves calcium and magnesium absorption by as much as 20%, increases bone density by 15% and moderates blood sugar levels.

Sarah Velasco: What is the difference between Xagave Nectar and other ones on the market?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: Besides being the only agave on the market that contains both fiber and calcium, Xagave is also the best tasting agave on the market. Many agave nectars can have a strong molasses flavor that has a bitter aftertaste. Xagave has a clean, neutral flavor that doesn’t change the flavor of your foods. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to taste the difference between foods sweetened with Xagave and regular sugar.

Sarah Velasco: Are there any misconceptions when it comes to agave nectar?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: The most common misconception about agave nectar is that it gives you a free pass to eat as many sweet treats as you want. Like all sugars, agave should be consumed in moderation. However, agave is a much healthier alternative to other natural and artificial sweeteners.

I get a lot of great questions about agave vs. zero calorie sweeteners, particularly from customers who are watching their weight. They usually ask, "But Stevia/Splenda/etc. is zero calorie, doesn't that mean it's better for me?" In short, the answer is no, it doesn't. Unless you are getting the unrefined juice from natural Stevia leaves (very hard to do unless you grow the plants yourself), the Stevia customers are using is chemically processed. We are just beginning to understand the negative effects of the chemicals used in artificial. Sucralose, the main ingredient in many sweeteners, actually leads to increased weight gain! Stevia and other artificial sweeteners are also much more difficult to cook and bake with than agave.

Xagave on the other hand, is 100% natural, never chemically processed and actually improves the texture of the foods you bake due to its fiber content. Because it's sweeter than sugar, you use less of it and save 
calories versus cooking with sugar. Although agave is not calorie-free like artificial sweeteners, consuming chemically produced artificial sweeteners is worse for your overall health than the few calories you consume by eating agave. Real food has calories, and I prefer real food to chemicals any day :)

There is also a lot of misinformation about the high fructose content of agave nectar, comparing it to high fructose corn syrup. The fructose found in Xagave agave nectar is a natural sugar found in all fruits, unlike the highly processed fructose found in HFCS. Fructose is digested differently than glucose, which is why it doesn't affect blood sugar in the same way. Low-glycemic diets have many benefits and have been linked to reduced cases of breast cancer and reduced likelihood of type-2 diabetes. Fructose is processed in the liver, which is the reason that people claim it can be bad for you. However, one serving of our agave (1 tablespoon) contains about 16 grams of fructose. A medium sized apple contains 12.6 grams. As you can see, agave contains only slightly more of this natural sugar than a piece of fruit. As with all sugars, consuming mass quantities of agave can be harmful to your health. However, consumed in moderation, agave is a great option for sweetening foods.

Sarah Velasco:  How long is the shelf life?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: The labeled shelf life on a bottle of Xagave is 2 years. However, I have a 5 gallon container in my food storage that’s lasted me much longer than that without any noticeable changes in the product.

Sarah Velasco:  Where can readers purchase Xagave Nectar?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: Xagave nectar is sold in a variety of retail locations. Readers can purchase it online at BetterBodyFoods.com or other online retailers like Amazon and VitaCost. Xagave is also sold in Sam’s Club, WinCo, Kroger, Associated Food Stores, HEB, and other health and natural foods stores.

Sarah Velasco:  Anything else our readers should know?
Chelsea DiFrancesco: We at BetterBody Foods love interacting with our customers! We’re all over social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) and we love getting customer feedback and seeing how they use our products. We are also committed to educating our customers about how to cook with our products and how to live healthier lives. We’re constantly developing new recipes, which we post on our blog and via social media nearly every day.  We also offer a free ecookbook download complete with conversion charts, a history of our products and nutrient-rich recipes.

You can follow us @BetterBodyFoods and @Xagave.