Is Agave A Healthy Sugar Alternative for Baking?

One of the latest supposedly healthy sugar substitutes to have emerged on the market recently is agave (AH-GAH-vay) nectar.

Agave is derived from the cactus plant grown in Mexico. Agave

The syrup derived from the plant is 1.5 times sweeter than white sugar. This sounds appealing because less sugar and calories will produce similar sweetness to your baking compared to white sugar.

But is Agave syrup better for us than sugar?

The answer is yes and no. Nothing in nutrition is straight forward, so let’s look at the facts.

1. Agave is a naturally sweet plant.

2. The sugar in Agave is mostly fructose, also known as fruit sugar and this is sweeter than other sugars, and it produces a slower rise in blood sugar level when consumed.

3. A sugar giving a slower rise in blood sugar is good, especially for people with diabetes as this is the aim of a diabetic meal plan.

The key point to understand is the sugar in Agave is not special, it is just about 80% fruit sugar, i.e., fructose. Having a high fructose diet is not healthy as it can increase blood fats called tryglycerides.

Agave’s v’s Honey and the impact on blood sugar

Agave tastes similar to honey but has a much lower glycemic index ( this means a slower rise in blood sugar over time) than honey, 15 vs. 55.

Table sugar has a glycemic index of 70. Therefore, while both Agave and honey are better choices than table sugar, Agave has the advantage over honey regarding its effect on blood sugar and food cravings.

But in case you think you can eat loads of agave, regarding calorie count, honey has the advantage. 100 grams of honey has 250 calories compared with agave, which has 310 calories. Agave has more calories than honey.agave nectar

If you are overweight, the answer is to reduce all sugars and unnecessary calories. If you have diabetes and are of a healthy weight, Agave could be a better choice because it provides a slower blood sugar rise.

 

Is Agave A Healthy Sugar Alternative for Baking?

Baking with Agave

One major consideration when using any sugar substitute is whether it can work as well as sugar in a range of recipes. In the case of agave, the answer is yes, if you bake it in the same way that you would cook with honey.

honey

Having said that, as with many other foods these days, it’s a case of buyer beware. Many products that are labeled agave might have small amounts of it mixed in with other forms of sugar, which would, of course, defeat the whole purpose of using it in the first place, that is, not disrupting blood sugar too severely, which is essential for people with diabetes, for example.

Make sure you aim for agave in its purest form. Look for the word organic on the label. Also look for the description 100%. Then read the label carefully. The product should not have any additives. Watch out for words like dextrose, glucose, added corn syrup, and syrup.

If you are looking for a safe, natural alternative to sugar and are more concerned about the impact on blood sugar level than the calorie count, then Agave could be the right sugar substitute for you.

Learn more about Sugar Substitutes and whether they are a healthier choice, and the difference between raw and white sugar when baking.

Bakingforthehome.com writers are dietitians and have a special interest in nutrition. Look at the posts on alternative baking needs such as eggless baking and gluten free.

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