Agave nectar, a natural sweetener derived from the agave plant, is becoming more and more popular among those trying to improve their health and eating habits. At least 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, agave nectar can be used in many ways to enhance a healthy diet.
1. In Beverages
One of the most common uses for any additive sweetener is to sweeten beverages such as coffee and tea. Agave is particularly suited for this use because it dissolves quickly even in cold beverages. Unlike honey, which tends to crystallize when chilled, agave will remain liquid so that you can stir it easily into any drink.
In addition, agave--particularly lighter agave syrups--has a mild flavor. Using agave in your tea or coffee, you get only the sweetness without any other flavors added to your drink. Some other natural sweeteners, such as stevia and even honey, can add strong, unwanted flavors to a delicate tea or an expensive grind of coffee.
2. In Cereal
Cereals like oatmeal or oat bran taste better with a little sweetener. Agave dissolves quickly in hot cereal and adds just enough sweetness to these healthy grains. Agave also works well with cold cereal, just as it does with cold drinks. A bran cereal or other slightly bland cold breakfast cereal can benefit from a small application of agave. Some cereals might taste great with a darker, less processed syrup, as well, so feel free to experiment.
3. In Cooking
Agave can be substituted for sugar in many recipes. About one quarter cup of agave will stand in for a full cup of sugar. Because agave is liquid, it might change the texture or cooking times of some recipes, so some experimentation might be in order. It might also be helpful to start with a cookbook aimed specifically at using agave.
4. On Waffles or Pancakes
Agave syrup can also subsitute for maple syrup on pancakes or waffles. The flavor of agave is a bit different from traditional pancake syrups, and if you prefer a stronger syrup flavor, you might want to try the darker, less processed forms of agave syrup for this purpose. Agave is in many cases a healthier choice than syrups made from sugar and maple flavoring, which in most cases are not really maple syrup at all. Experiment with different kinds of agave syrup until you find just the right combination of flavors.
5. On Raw Fruit
In most cases, fruit is sweet enough on its own. But, if you'd like to add just a bit of sweetness to those slightly-sour, freshly picked blackberries, agave nectar is a great choice. Lighter syrups will not interfere with the natural flavor of the fruit, offering just enough sweetness to enhance the fruit's natural flavor.
Though agave syrup has a lower glycemic index than most sweeteners, and is in most cases considered safe for diabetics, it is important to consult with a doctor regarding its use if you have any conditions that limit your overall sugar intake. Like any sweetener, agave syrup should be used in moderation to supplement a healthy, well-balanced diet.