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.
- With its thin, light consistency, agave nectar can serve as a topping for fruit salads, pancakes or ice cream. This sweetener may also replace sugar in baked recipes. In addition to its versatility as a sweetening agent, agave nectar may provide certain health benefits. However, this syrup is still high in calories and may contribute to weight gain or tooth decay if consumed in large amounts.
Glycemic Index Value
Proponents of agave nectar claim that this sweetener is a healthier choice for diabetics than sugar or honey because of its relatively low glycemic index value. The glycemic index, or GI, measures the effects of foods that contain carbohydrates on your blood glucose levels. Because agave nectar has a high concentration of fructose, which does not exert a strong effect on blood sugar levels, the GI value of agave is low compared to other sweeteners. “Diabetes Forecast” magazine notes that agave nectar contains approximately the same number of carbohydrates as sugar — about 4 grams per teaspoon. To control your intake of carbohydrates and keep your blood sugar within a healthy range, limit your use of agave nectar as you would sugar or honey.
Agave nectar is marketed as a natural sweetener, which may appeal to you if you’re looking for a sweetening agent that’s unrefined and free from additives. However, many brands of agave nectar do undergo some commercial processing before they’re distributed to consumers. If you are concerned about preservatives, artificial coloring or other chemical additives in the foods you eat, look for brands of agave that bear the label “100 percent organic” or “organic.” A food labeled 100 percent organic must be made entirely with organic ingredients, and a food labeled organic must be made with at least 95 percent organic ingredients.
Agave nectar is 1.4 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, according to the Nibble, which means that you may need less of this product to sweeten foods and beverages. However, agave nectar has more calories than sugar — 20 calories versus 16 calories in refined white table sugar — which may balance out the total number of calories you consume.
Diabetic Side Effects
By far the most troubling and controversial side effects were noted in human clinical trials conducted by the Glycemic Research Institute. The group halted a five-year clinical study on the use of agave as a sweetener among diabetics due to unforeseen complications in insulin levels among diabetics taking agave syrup. It appeared that the agave syrup stimulated an insulin response despite the many claims to the contrary. The group advises diabetics, people who have trouble regulating blood glucose levels, and anyone who may be at risk from metabolic syndrome or prediabetes to avoid agave syrup since it has no better affect on blood sugar levels than plain old sugar.
- Please consult with your doctor.
Source: Live Strong, http://www.livestrong.com/article/398007-agave-nectar-benefits/
Herbs Love to Know, http://herbs.lovetoknow.com/Agave_Nectar_Side_Effects