Agave nectar is a natural sweetener. It comes from the agave plant, grown largely in Mexico. There are several different varieties of agave, including blue agave, which is used to make tequila.
This high-powered, yet easily digested sweetener is undergoing a surge of popularity as health-conscious consumers find more and more ways to use it as a substitute for processed white sugar. Agave presents several benefits over sugar.
1. Agave Nectar Has a Lower Glycemic Index
One of the most commonly cited advantages of agave nectar is its lower glycemic index. While honey, another well-liked natural sweetener, has a glycemic index of 83, the glycemic index of agave nectar is only 27. This is largely due to the higher percentage of fructose to sucrose in agave nectar. Agave's lower glycemic index makes it more suitable for those with problems processing sugars of any kind, including diabetics. Some doctors recommend agave as an occasional sweetener for their diabetic patients. If you are diabetic, be sure to ask your doctor about the benefits of agave and how it might help your particular situation before changing any dietary habits.
2. Agave Nectar Is Sweeter Than Regular Sugar
Agave is estimated to be about one-and-a-half times sweeter than regular sugar. Because of its concentrated flavor, you can use a smaller quantity for everyday sweetening such as in beverages or on cereal. With a smaller quantity of fructose to process, the body is not strained as much in managing the sugar as it would be with larger quantities.
3. Agave Nectar Can Be Used in Recipes
Unlike some artificial sweeteners, agave nectar is safe to use in recipes, including baked goods and desserts. The more concentrated sweetness means that about a quarter cup of agave nectar can take the place of a full cup of sugar. Its liquid nature means certain recipes will bake up differently, and might mean adjustments in cooking times or other ingredients. Many cookbooks can be easily found that will help you get on the right track with using agave instead of sugar in everything from cookies to cheesecake.
4. Agave Nectar Will Not Affect the Flavor of Beverages
Lighter colored agave nectars have a very mild flavor, unlike some other sweeteners such as stevia. This means that if you add agave nectar to your tea, the flavor of your tea will not be changed. If, however, you prefer a stronger flavor more along the lines of honey or a dark corn syrup, darker colored agave nectars can offer that taste combination, as well.
5. Agave Nectar Dissolves Easily
Unlike honey, agave nectar works well to sweeten cold beverages or even cold yogurt. Honey will solidify in a cold drink, making it difficult to sweeten iced tea with this natural sweetener. By contrast, agave remains liquid, easy to stir into your drink or your morning yogurt parfait. Of course, it dissolves equally well in hot beverages such as tea or coffee.
Overall, agave nectar is a pleasant-tasting, nutritious substitute for processed sugar, to be used as an occasional sweetener or to bake up treats for special occasions. As with any sweetener, if used in moderation it can be a great addition to a healthy diet.