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.
Here's a Sugar-Free Meal Plan You Can Totally Get Through
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Squash is one of our favorite vegetables, and this is my husband's favorite fall dish. He looks forward to it all year. —Kim Caputo, Cannon Falls, Minnesota
The sweetness of the apples and onions nicely complements the roast pork. With its crisp, golden exterior and melt-in-your-mouth flavor, this pork is my family's favorite weekend dinner. —Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
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My family has always loved this flavorful golden brown chicken. I watch for frequent sales on leg quarters to keep the cost per serving low. —Linda Trammell, Kingston, Missouri
This recipe for apple cinnamon overnight oats couldn't be easier to make. Prep takes only five minutes! —Sarah Farmer, Taste of Home
Executive Culinary Director
I'm a huge fan of taking classic dishes and adding some flair to them. I also like to change up heavier dishes, like Cobb salad. I've traded out typical chicken for crunchy falafel that's just as satisfying. — Jenn Tidwell, Fair Oaks, California
My mac and cheese is simple and has lots of flavor from the cheeses and ground chipotle chile. I use conchiglie pasta because its shape allows more melted cheese to pool inside. Yum! —Colleen Delawder, Herndon, Virginia
We enjoy this colorful frittata often. Wedges are not only great for breakfast or brunch, but also for a tasty meatless dinner. The sour cream gives the eggs great flavor. —Teri Condon, Burley, Idaho
You'll be amazed that you can make this simple, elegant pasta in mere minutes. Serve with crusty bread to soak up all of the garlic lemon sauce. —Athena Russell, Greenville, South Carolina
Laced with lemon and simmered in white wine, this stovetop entree is super easy and elegant. Just add a side of veggies and bread to make it into a wonderful meal. —Cynthia Heil, Augusta, Georgia
When we travel by car, I make the frittata the night before, stuff it into pita bread in the morning and microwave for a minute or two before I wrap them in a towel so down the road we can enjoy a still-warm breakfast! —Carol Blumenberg, Lehigh Acres, Florida
Orzo is a tiny pasta shaped like rice. We use it as a base for veggies, lemony vinaigrette and cheeses such as mozzarella, feta or smoked Gouda. —Heather Dezzutto, Raleigh, North Carolina
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Here’s my version of a deconstructed breakfast burrito that’s actually good for you. Go for hefty corn tortillas in this recipe. Flour ones can get lost in the scramble. —Christine Schenher, Exeter, California
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Pasta salad loaded with steak, peppers and onions makes both my boyfriend and me happy. Plus, it’s versatile! We serve it hot, room temperature or cold. —Yvonne Starlin, Westmoreland, Tennessee
Relax after work with a cold drink while this savory chicken marinates in an herby tomato blend for an hour, then toss it on the grill. It's one of those basil recipes
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