The health benefits of agave nectar

Natural Sweetener:
Agave Nectar

The newest sweet buzz in the health food realm is agave nectar, also called agave syrup. A natural sweetener similar to honey and derived from the plant that is used in making tequila, agave nectar can be used to sweeten both food and drink. This sweet syrup is an ideal alternative to sugar and offers health benefits -- beyond being a natural sweetener -- from weight loss to wound healing. Read on for more reasons to include agave in your diet.
Agave Plant

What is agave?

According to Dr Ray Sahelian, bestselling author of Mind Boosters and The Stevia Cookbook, there are several hundred species of the agave plant. Agave has been cultivated for centuries, first by the Native American population and then in Europe, when agave plants were brought back by the Spaniards and Portugese in the 17th century.

Agave is a succulent plant, related to the yucca and lily, that grows in the southern and western United States and in central and tropical South America. The agave plants have a large rosette of thick fleshy leaves, each ending generally in a sharp point.

Each agave rosette grows slowly and flowers only once. When the agave is ready to flower, a tall stem grows from the center of the leaf rosette and produces a large number of short tubular flowers. After development of the fruit, the original plant dies, but shoots are frequently produced from the base of the stem which become new plants.

Four major parts of the agave plant have culinary uses. The flowers are edible and can be tossed in salads. The leaves are rich in sap and can be eaten. The stalks can be roasted before they flower and exude a distinctive sweet molasses-like flavor. Sap that is used in tequila or as sweetener comes from the flower shoots.

Agave syrup is a low-glycemic sweetener

What makes agave superior to sugar? Sugar is a processed sweetener that has no nutritive value, other than calories. And agave, as compared to other sweeteners, has a desirable low-glycemic index. This means that when consumed, it won't cause a sharp rise or fall in blood sugar.

Here is a list of sweeteners and corresponding glycemic values. The higher the value, the bigger the impact on blood sugar.

GLYCEMIC VALUES
Organic Agave Nectar 27
Fructose (fruit sugar) 32
Lactose (milk sugar) 65
Honey 83
High fructose corn syrup 89
Sucrose (sugar) 92
Glucose 137
Glucose tablets 146
Maltodextrin 150
Maltose 150

Source: BlueAgaveNectar.com

If you are diabetic and monitor your food exchanges, a one-teaspoon serving of agave nectar equals a "free food." Two servings or two teaspoons equals 1/2 carbohydrate exchange.

Replace sugar with agave

Take advantage of agave's low glycemic impact by using it to replace the sugar in your diet. Like many natural sweeteners, you can seamlessly substitute agave nectar for sugar in most recipes.

Use about 1/3 cup of agave nectar for every one cup of sugar called for in recipes.

Reduce the liquid ingredients in recipes by one-third, since agave nectar is liquid (and sugar is dry).

Reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees.

For recipes using agave, check out these savor-worthy recipes sweetened with agave.

Health benefits of agave nectar

Agave contains saponins and fructans. According to Dr. Sahelian, saponins, which are found on quinoa and many plant roots, including ginseng, have anti-inflammatory and immune system-boosting properties, including antimicrobial capability. In fact, the Aztecs used agave syrup to treat wounds because of its antibacterial properties.

Inulin is a type of fructan or fiber that has many health benefits. Studies suggest that inulin can be effective in weight loss because of its low impact on blood sugar and its ability to increase satiety and decrease appetite. Inulin is also associated with lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of certain cancers, and increasing the absorption of nutrients, such as isoflavones, calcium and magnesium. Inulin can also be found in some varieties of yogurt.

In addition, Dr Sahelian says fructans are not destroyed in the stomach and may be a delivery system for drugs to treat colon diseases such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease.

Where is agave nectar sold?

Agave nectar or agave syrup is sold in health food stores as well as in some supermarkets. It can be found next to the honey or in the health food section.

Agave nectar is also sold online at BlueAgaveNectar.com, SweetCactusFarms.com and VolcanicNectar.com. A (13-ounce) bottle costs around $7. Regardless of where you buy it, your best bet is to opt for organic varieties.

If you're looking for a new way to soothe a savage sweet tooth, give agave a try!

Comments

Comments on "The health benefits of agave nectar"

E? Straub February 23, 2014 | 5:43 PM

I believe Agave should be a controlled substance, it just taste to very good, to be also good for you. I finally tried it an am hooked.

Constanze February 11, 2014 | 5:55 PM

Just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it's good for you. Five of the world's deadliest toxins: cyanide, ricin, strychnine, botulinum, and amanitin are found in plants and fungi. Incidentally, the blue agave plant is actually toxic. The sugars are also extremely difficult to extract because the plant is incredibly fibrous. Ask yourselves how much effort and refinement it'll take in order to produce the clear, viscose, and sweet end product if there are so many steps that needs to be taken just to extract the sugars and neutralize the toxins. It's amusing to me that there are agave nectars marketed as "raw" agave nectar, because if that's really the case, there would be a lot of people with melted insides.

Constanze February 11, 2014 | 5:37 PM

What a crock of ----. It's on par with high fructose corn syrup. Read the scientific findings before you jump onto the bandwagon. All sugar -- from table sugar to HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) to honey -- contains some mixture of fructose and glucose. Table sugar is 50/50, HFCS is 55/45. Agave nectar is a whopping 90 percent fructose, almost -- but not quite -- twice as high as HFCS. Fructose causes insulin resistance and significantly raises triglycerides. It also increases fat around the middle which in turn puts you at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and Metabolic Syndrome.

fit girl December 11, 2013 | 2:14 PM

Agave is a natural plant found in nature! As long as your getting organic non gmo agave your fine!!! It is not high fructose corn syrup ! JEezzz people get your facts straight!

Ami January 14, 2013 | 10:52 PM

I have used agave nector to make a cheesecake and it was delicious. If u are worried about it being processed then here's a tip, buy the plant... Try and tell me the plants a lie and unnatural?

tatiana December 05, 2012 | 9:36 AM

I use agave for my pancakes and my bread and is organic and heard that has low glycemic so if you use in moderation is ok. I substitite stevia for sugar that is 100 good for everyone and more for diabetic people

julie burton July 02, 2012 | 12:00 PM

Just read labels. Pay attention to where your food comes from and how it is made. It is not hard to find good quality, will produce agave

caroline June 12, 2012 | 4:40 PM

After reading all these comments, I don'tthink i will try agave nectar. It'sjust anotherunhealthy food additive.

Michele Borboa, MS March 20, 2012 | 10:36 AM

Scilla, Dr Ray Sahelian's webpage on saponins is here: http://www.raysahelian/saponin.html You can read about the sources, function, and benefits of saponins, including journal research.

Scilla March 17, 2012 | 10:15 PM

Can you tell me where you got that info about saponins. I thought they were toxic!

BlueRed March 13, 2012 | 3:14 AM

I haven't tried using agave. I'm using Natvia. It is a great natural sweetener with many good effects and health benefits on your body. You can check this one.

Dean Avey September 16, 2011 | 6:57 AM

For those with worries about the agave, you might consider palm-sugar. It has a nice caramel sugar taste, is packed with nutrients and apparently very safe for diabetics. I had some in a cappuccino last night and it was great.

Karen January 21, 2011 | 7:14 PM

My husband has colitis with increasingly bad flare-ups, and I recently got him a good book with information about changing your diet completely to alleviate the symptoms. One of the things he needs to do is to eliminate wheat from his diet, so I will be trying out almond flour to make baked goods. In the recipes for these almond flour breads and such, they call for agave nectar, which is illegal if you have colitis or Crohn's disease, as is regular sugar! Just a note on that, and wondering if anyone has a good alternative, other than honey (don't like the taste) for a sweetener that is healthy for the digestive tract? Thanks for any help.

Lynn October 23, 2010 | 7:28 AM

just like anything else, you have to check how the product is produced. Look for cold-processed agave. Look for lower content fructose (

Stephen J. Ardent April 21, 2010 | 11:32 PM

There is a lot of conflicting information about whether Agave is good or bad for ones health. Raw foodists have started a very determined drive to demonize it. Demonizing Inulin at the same time as well. Inulin is a type of vgetable fiber that helps control sugar absorption and is the main ingredient in products like Fiber Choice. Agave is a sweetener, low glycemic to boot. But as with any sweetener, should be used in moderation.

Ginny Alexander April 16, 2010 | 11:53 AM

I researched the other sweetners and was shocked how poisenous they are so I started using honey. It's fine but when I saw the Madhava Agave Nectar on WalMart's shelf for $3.48 for a 11.75 oz, I thought I'd try it. It tastes really good and sweet. I hope it isn't fructose like some of the "notes" from you all say. I need to lose weight and hope this will help as well as be healthy.

tanya April 02, 2010 | 8:53 PM

AGAVE NECTAR IS EVIL !!!! Essentially identical to high fructose corn syrup. Human body cannot process it. Do more research. It is a scam. Not natural. not raw. Totally completely refined!!!!

billy carter March 30, 2010 | 10:13 AM

I got the same article from dr. mercola in my email,i learn a lot from him.I eat natural foods as much as possible including deodorant,don't use deordorant with aluminun it causes breast and other cancers,buy only aluminum free deorderant.

Melanie March 30, 2010 | 8:43 AM

I just read a big article http://articles.mercola/sites/articles/archive/2010/03/30/beware-of-the-agave-nectar-health-food-fraud.aspx?sms_ss=facebook explaining why agave nectar is a misnomer. How it is actually a highly processed food, similar, but even worse, than High Fructose Corn Syrup. I suggest reading the Mercola article amongst others and make an educated decision about what is best for your health.

billy carter March 18, 2010 | 7:39 AM

Im type 2 diabetic,agave is low-glycemic,it still harms you,i'm off my diabetic medicine for 3 months,lost 20 pounds.Stay away from high fructose,white bread,sugar well if your diabetic you know the drill.I spent many hours reading.Set the stupid drugs aside,eat right and start living normal again.

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