What is Agave Nectar?
Mainly produced in Mexico, agave nectar is a syrup that is made from the Agave (tequila) plant. Agave nectar has grown in popularity in the past decade, but some health professionals are questioning its potential health benefits. It has been touted as a healthier sweetener option compared to regular sugar. It is in a liquid form and is a viable substitute for vegans who don’t want to eat honey. But is agave really healthy or is it just another scam?
Agave nectar is low in glucose and therefore doesn’t spike blood sugar levels much. This gives the sweetener a low glycemic index. It is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than regular sugar and contains roughly 60 calories per tablespoon. This is about 20 calories more than the same amount of table sugar.
Because agave nectar is sweeter than regular sugar, you can generally use less of agave than you would sugar. Because of this, agave nectar can be a lower calorie choice because you are using less amount.
So what’s the truth about agave nectar?
During digestion, table sugar breaks down into half glucose and half fructose, while agave nectar breaks down into about 90 percent fructose. So, unlike sugar and corn syrups, agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which means that it’s extremely sweet without giving you a huge spike in blood sugar.
The thing is that fructose isn’t as easily absorbed into our bloodstream as glucose, and it actually gets filtered out by our liver. It’s deemed as better because it doesn’t make our blood sugar rise as quickly. But if we eat a lot of it, our liver will be taking a lot of the fructose out of the system, leading to more fatty deposits around our liver.
NOT a Healthy Sweetener
While it is true that agave nectar is low in sugar, agave is very high in fructose. The concentration of fructose in agave is actually higher than in high fructose corn syrup. And, though it is true that agave won’t spike your blood sugar like white sugar will, this fact does not make it healthy. Using a concentrated fructose product like agave may spare your pancreas, but it does a number on your liver. Metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, fatty liver, very dangerous belly fat can be worsened or even caused by excessive consumption of fructose which agave nectar has in spades.
Need a truly healthy low glycemic sweetener? Unprocessed stevia leaf would be a good choice. It has a GI of zero, is 30 times sweeter than sugar and has been used for centuries in South America as herbal food and medicine. Just make sure to always avoid processed versions.