If you pay any attention to alternative sweeteners today, you’ve probably heard of agave nectar. Often advertised as a healthier swap for sugar, this natural syrup appears in drinks, desserts and more. But what is agave nectar? Where does it come from, and what makes it distinct? If you’re wondering whether or not to add this to your kitchen pantry, here’s what you should know.
What Is Agave Nectar?
Agave nectar is a substance derived from agave, a plant found in parts of the southern United States, South America and Latin America. It’s made by boiling sap from the agave plant into a syrupy liquid. It is an effective sweetener for cooking.
Fun Fact: The #1 commercial use of agave is tequila, which is made with fermented agave sugars.
Is Agave Nectar Healthy?
As a plant, agave does naturally contain nutrients that could be good for health. However, most of those nutrients are destroyed in refining and processing agave into syrup. So while the original substance may support some of the modern health claims, the resulting nectar is actually processed in a way similar to high-fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners traditionally viewed as unhealthy.
Is Agave Nectar Lower on the Glycemic Index?
Despite being highly processed, part of the reason agave nectar has gained such traction is that it’s low on the glycemic index, meaning it enters the blood stream slower than traditional sugar. For people with diabetes or anyone worried about spiking blood sugar, this seems exciting. The problem, however, is why agave nectar is low on the glycemic index: it’s high on fructose and low on glucose.
Overconsuming fructose, such as in agave nectar, can be harmful enough to boost bad cholesterol, raise triglycerides and increase belly fat. The short-term lower blood sugar doesn’t negate the long-term higher blood sugar, which can end up putting someone at risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
So is agave syrup a good swap for sugar? Probably not. If you’re looking to curb your sweet tooth when cooking, try these ideas for reducing sugar instead.