With the backlash against table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar has taken the lead in the healthy sweetener game, mostly because consumers tend to view agave nectar as natural.
So is agave nectar healthy? That depends on your definition of the word. When compared to table sugar, agave is 60 calories per tablespoon to table sugar’s 40 calories. However, agave is significantly sweeter, meaning most people need to use less of it than regular sugar to achieve the same flavor. In fact, when it comes to recipes you can usually substitute 1/4 cup of agave nectar for every one cup of sugar, drastically dropping the calorie count of the finished product.
Agave Nectar Health Benefits
Outside of calories, most experts agree that agave nectar isn’t really any healthier for you than either table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Despite being touted as natural, actual agave nectar is a watery substance, while the product that you purchase at the store is thick syrup; as you know, getting from water to syrup requires a fair amount of processing.
Depending on the source of the agave plant that makes the syrup, some syrup may contain varying small amounts of minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. As with many natural products, occasionally you will hear about folk remedies using agave for symptoms such as skin infections and wounds.
Agave Nectar Glycemic Index
According to many dieticians, the only real advantage that agave nectar has over other sweeteners is its relatively small glycemic load. This means that it is slightly better for those sensitive to sugar. Despite this, most doctors recommend that diabetics treat agave nectar the same way as they would sugar, as the difference in glycemic load between the two is not substantial enough to make it safe.
While agave nectar is relatively healthy when compared to other sweeteners, it is still recommend to only be a very, very limited portion of a person’s diet, just like other sources of sugar.
Agave nectar is often used as a natural sweetener as a substitute for sugar or honey in many smoothie recipes. Agave is also has become a sugar substitute in popular beverages you see on the market from iced teas, sodas and even energy drinks that want to have more of the healthy marketing focus.