Agave Nectar: The Lighter Healthier SweetenerMarch 23rd, 2012
It used to be pretty inconvenient and quite distasteful to open my cabinet to pull out honey for my freshly brewed tea or maple syrup for my hot buttery pancakes to find both products in a sticky-glue like condition. I also did not particularly care for the rich sweet taste of maple syrup although I wanted it to cover every inch of my pancakes. That is until I started using Blue Agave nectar syrup in its place a couple of years ago. Now, not only do I not have to worry about its messiness but I use agave nectar as a lighter and healthier substitute for both honey and maple syrup (among other things), also lessoning the amount of products to buy when grocery shopping.
Agave is best recognized as the plant from which tequila is made. The nectar made from the plant is known in Mexico as aguamiel or “honey water”. The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods and used the liquid from its core to flavor foods and drinks. Agave nectar is most often produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soles of Southern Mexico. Agaves are large, spikey plants that resemble cactus or yuccas in both form and habitat, but they are actually succulents similar to the Aloe Vera plant.
Agave makes a good substitute for a variety of reasons. Its nectar is a real sugar, as opposed to an artificial or non-nutritive sweetner. It has properties similar to many sugars with one important exception: its glycemic index is significantly lower, making it a healthier alternative to many processed AND natural sweetners including: white granulated sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, maple sugar, dehydrated cane juice and date sugar.
Agave nectar’s low glycemic index makes it suitable for some individuals on low-carb or slow-carb diets. Granulated sugar has an average glycemic index in the high 60s, while agave generally scores under 30, which makes it considered as a low glycemic food Foods lower on the glycemic scale are less likely to trigger the body’s mechanisms for fat storage.
Diabetics are usually advised to monitor sugar intake in their diet, and like those trying to lose weight, watch the glycemic index of foods they eat. Agave nectar DOES have calories and carbohydrates that must be taken into consideration, and responses to sweetners vary from one individual to the next. However, because agave has a lower glycemic index than refined sugars, its carbohydrates are less likely to raise the blood sugar quickly.
Agave nectar is most easily substituted for liquid sugars since it is already in liquid form and the difference in moisture will usually be negligible. It has a number of advantages over honey such as its naturally light flavor and taste. Unlike honey, agave syrup is completely vegan. Honey, some granulated and brown sugars, especially brands made from sugar cane are filtered using bone char (animal bone based charcoal), making it appropriate for those whose diet or lifestyle choices exclude all animal products.
Parents are vigorously warned not to give honey to children in their first year of life. This is because honey frequently contains a bacteria that can cause botulism. While this bacteria is harmless to anyone over the age of one year, it can produce toxins in an infant’s immature intestinal tract, causing sickness, hospitalization, and in rare cases, death. Agave syrup has been clinically tested over the years and to date is not known to cause botulism in babies.
As we continue to educate ourselves and eachother to healthier lifestyles, I thank you and encourage your comments and welcome any suggestions of topics for future postings. I also encourage you to forward the weekly health blogs to any of your family and friends, as you never know how you can help save another person’s life or increase their awareness with one click of a button.
Remember: when you Do better you FEEL better!!!!
I would also like to take a moment to express my heart felt condolences and prayers to the family of Trayvon Martin, another innocent victim who was fatally shot and killed, while unarmed, as a result of racial profiling that continues to be an alarming issue to this day in black communities across the United States.
Continued Light & Love