Understanding the Benefits of Agave
Americans love the sweet taste of sugar, but too much of the sweet stuff can cause insulin surges that contribute to diabetes and other illnesses such as obesity. More people are turning to natural sugar alternatives to add a little sweetness to their life without jeopardizing their healthy and well being. A wonderful natural sugar alternative that has gained attention recently is organic agave sweetener, sometimes known as agave syrup or agave nectar sweetener.
Organic agave sweetener comes from a plant known as the agave plant which is somewhat similar in appearance to the yucca plant. To make agave nectar sweetener, the juice is pressed from the core of the plant and the complex carbohydrates known as fructosans are heated to break them down into fructose units which give the syrup its characteristic sweetness. Organic agave sweetener undergoes less processing than sugar which makes it popular with people who want alternatives to highly processed sugar.
What makes agave nectar sweetener healthier than sugar? Other than the fact that it’s less processed, it has a lower glycemic index which means it has minimal impact on blood sugar levels. Agave is much safer for diabetics to use and may also help to promote weight loss when substituted for sugar. Organic agave sweetener has a lower glycemic index than sugar and honey, however, it has been criticized on the grounds that its sweetness comes from fructose which some believe has some of the same problems as sugar from a health standpoint.
How does organic agave sweetener taste? It has a sweet, syrupy consistency that’s very similar to that of honey, but with a much lower glycemic index. There are various types of agave syrup ranging from light to dark in color with some being thicker in consistency than others. The thicker, dark agave syrups have a taste similar to that of maple syrup. Most people find the taste of agave sweeteners to be pleasing and a good substitute in recipes where they would use honey or maple syrup. My personal favorite are the light variations of agave they have a smoother sweetness then the dark.
Despite having a lower glycemic index than sugar and honey, agave nectar sweetener is not calorie free and shouldn’t be used in abundance if you’re watching your weight. It can be a good substitute for honey when used to sweeten coffee or tea and can also be used in place of honey in desserts as well as a syrup substitute on pancakes and waffles.
Agave nectar sweetener and syrups are a healthier alternative than table sugar, but if you’re watching your weight, keep in mind that Agave is not calorie free coming in at 17 calories per tablespoon. You are going to use less agave then sugar as the agave nectar is much more sweet then sugar which is great because overall you will use less making it more affordable to buy then sugar.