Agave nectar (or syrup) is produced from the agave plant – the same plant used to make tequila. It tastes similar to honey with a hint of molasses and comes in the form of a syrupy liquid.
Proponents of this natural sweetener claim that it’s a healthy alternative to sugar, honey, and other sweeteners because of its low glycemic index. It’s advertised as ideal for people who are watching their weight or folks with diabetes who are working to lower their blood sugar levels. But before you add agave nectar to your grocery list, here’s you need to know.
Agave nectar contains up to 90 percent fructose. That’s significantly more than table sugar, which is 50 percent fructose (and 50 percent glucose) once it’s broken down by your body. Agave’s high fructose content gives it advantages and disadvantages. The good part first: Because fructose has a low glycemic index, agave doesn’t cause your blood sugars to spike as rapidly after eating it, which means it can temper the sugar rush that occurs after eating something sweet. And even though agave and white sugar contain approximately the same number of calories, agave is markedly sweeter. That means you can get away with using less to flavor your coffee, morning oatmeal, or baked goods and potentially save yourself a few calories.
Now for the bad part. The high fructose content in agave can have some undesirable health effects. Studies have shown that large amounts of fructose can increase blood-triglyceride levels, and high triglycerides are a known risk factor for heart disease. In addition, some people have trouble absorbing fructose, so eating it can cause bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort. Agave can be especially problematic for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
As with so many issues in nutrition, the health-related pros and cons of agave aren’t clear-cut. Joy Bauer recommends that if you’re only using a few teaspoons of sweetener a day, the differences are negligible and you can choose whichever one you prefer. In other words, limiting the total amount of sweetener you’re using will have a much bigger impact on your health than altering the type of sugar you use.
Are you sweet on fruit? Watch the happy healthcare host, Mr. Divabetic as he stops by Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA to talk to everyday people about favoirte fruits and vegetables often with hilarious results.
Meet Mr. Divabetic on the red carpet at the American Diabetes Association Expo in Pittsburgh, PA and New York, NY and the Taking Control Of Your Diabetes Conference in Austin, TX in Fall 2012. For more glitter, games and glucose advice visit: http://www.divabetic.org
LISTEN NOW: Free Diabetes Podcast Inspired by Katy Perry http://www.blogtalkradio.com/divatalkradio1/2012/07/10/diabetes-roundtable-inspired-by-katy-perry