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Agave nectar

Better than sugar?


Milly Carter
Administrative Associate, Urban Region
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 816-252-7717

Published: Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Story source:

Glenda Kinder, 816-407-3490

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo.–Promoters of agave nectar tout it as a natural sweetener. Not really, says a University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.

“Agave nectar is a processed sweetener,” said Glenda Kinder. “It’s less processed than high-fructose corn syrup but more processed than honey.”

Agave nectar is made from a succulent plant grown in Mexico, agave—the same plant used to make tequila. To make the nectar, sap from the core of the plant is filtered and heated to break down the carbohydrates into sugar. The end product is a sweet, syrupy liquid. The main sweetener in agave nectar is fructose.

Agave nectar contains 16 calories per teaspoon, about the same as table sugar, but it’s sweeter, so you can use less, Kinder said.

Light agave nectar is mild and can be used in beverages, fruit or baked goods. Dark nectar is stronger and better suited for pancakes or waffles. When you substitute agave nectar for sugar in a recipe, use one-fourth less agave nectar than sugar. Because agave nectar is liquid, reduce the amount of other liquid in recipes by one-fourth as well.

The American Botanical Council states that agave is safe in amounts usually found in food and beverages, but it is not recommended for pregnant women. Agave nectar has a low glycemic index (GI) and therefore can have a lower impact on raising blood sugar levels in diabetics. The GI for agave nectar is 20 – 30, compared with 55 for honey and 68 for table sugar. However, the American Diabetes Association lumps agave with table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup on the list of “added sugars” that you should eat less of.

“Bottom line, you should consider it a sugar,” Kinder said. “While it might not have as much of a negative effect on blood sugar as other sugars, it should be enjoyed in moderation.”