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Q. A Healthful Sugar: Is Agave Nectar Healthier Than Sugar or Other Sweeteners?

A. Agave syrup, produced from sap of a plant that’s been used medicinally in Mexico for generations, is gaining popularity in the U.S. In 2008, 29 new products with agave, including chocolate, energy bars, granola and soda, hit supermarket shelves, according to Mintel, a leading market research company.

The natural sweetener is valued as a vegan alternative to honey and touted for its low glycemic index. Foods with a higher glycemic index (GI) tend to trigger a greater surge in blood sugar and insulin—the hormone that helps the sugar get into cells—just after eating. (These spikes can be particularly problematic for those with diabetes. High-GI foods also tend to make you hungry again sooner because they’re digested quickly.) According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, agave’s GI value is about five times lower than table sugar’s. Currently no studies compare how, relative to other sugars, agave may affect blood-sugar control. But based on the buzz agave’s been generating, we’ll likely see research in the near future.

Agave packs 20 calories per teaspoon, five more than granulated sugar, but, like honey, it’s sweeter than sugar, so you need less to achieve the same level of sweetness. A general substitution is to use one-third less agave nectar than you would white sugar and reduce other liquids by one-fourth. (This may require experimentation when making some recipes, such as baked goods.)

One final caveat: look for USDA-certified organic products. Nearly all agave sold in the U.S. is imported from Mexico and the FDA has refused some shipments due to excessive pesticide residues. Check for the USDA-certified organic seal or Quality Assurance International (QAI) certified-organic stamp, an independent, global organic certifier accredited by the USDA.

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

I am allergic to aguave what is a substitution?

Anonymous

09/15/2014 - 3:21pm

wow . . this is confusing. I think I'll stick with agave in my ice tea and drop cookies.

Anonymous

08/23/2014 - 5:12pm

Are we talking Down syndrome now? I'm confused.

Anonymous

05/20/2014 - 11:53am

I have a child with down syndrome and you all trying to show each other up with your smarter than the last guys comment helped me not at all, so thanks not at all.
not anonymous
Randy

Anonymous

05/19/2014 - 3:01pm

you don't "need" as much agave syrup for the same sweetening power of cane sugar. I have found that less than half the amount is fine for sweetening.

Anonymous

03/15/2014 - 7:22pm

I try to eat food as close to it's natural state as possible, so agave works. I refuse to believe that organic agave is just as bad for me as refined white sugar. It's good to just revert back to plain old common sense...

Anonymous

01/31/2014 - 7:05am

For me Agave works great, it is not a magic pill that has no calories or effects on your sugar levels. For me it is the best natural alternative to sugar and I am a diabetic. I do take into consideration everyone I put on my mouth and count the amount of insulin I will need. Other sugars and honeys make my glucose go crazy, but Agave its more subtle. I am no willing to take all the non caloric sugars because those make me eat more at the end and add all those chemicals. Be realistic what is all percent good for you if you don't grow your fruits, vegetables and animals. Think about balance.

Anonymous

01/28/2014 - 2:38pm

eat live love enjoy life to the fullnest love those around you ask the Lord what is best for you and your family to be more active and reach that goal and move on.sugar agave stevia whatever be happy......Love

Anonymous

10/22/2013 - 11:59pm

Stevia have after taste..Agave taste better...but should not be using a lot...too. But better than artificial sweetner like splinder, equate, etc...The sugar and honey is safer than the artificial sweetner...as long as not use more than 3 teaspoons daily for routine drinks...Avoid the icing, fudge like candy like all the refinary concentrate sugar or syrup will be prudent if one has diabetes mellitus..I would say

Anonymous

10/13/2013 - 11:42pm

How come all of these reviews are signed by "Anonymous"? I don't even read reviews like that. If you can't sign your name to your own writings then stop wasting everyone's time. Use fruit to sweeten your food. No fuss, no muss :)

Anonymous

09/20/2013 - 11:03am

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