Eight Facts about Agave Nectar

We’ve gotten a question from one of our Facebook friends, who is confused about agave nectar, a sweetener that has gotten itself a health halo in some circles over the past few years. Below you’ll find the facts. Bottom line – the health halo is not justified, but that does not mean agave nectar is bad for you. But then again, neither is sugar. It’s all a matter of limiting intake, something we have trouble doing, what with all the processed foods “fortified” with sweeteners out there.

What you need to know:

1. Agave nectar is derived from Agave plants grown in Mexico. There are several processing methods used to obtain the syrupy sweetener, but you can’t just tap into the plant like you would with maple syrup.

2. Agave nectar is composed mostly of fructose, and also glucose.

3. It has a slightly lower glycemic index than table sugar, due to the fact that glycemic index measures only glucose levels, and agave nectar has less glucose than sugar.

4. Agave nectar has the same number of calories as sugar, 4 calories per gram. that works out  to 16 calories per teaspoon.

5. Agave nectar is about one and a half times sweeter than table sugar, which means you need to use less to reach the same sweet point. That works out to slightly less calories for the same level of sweet.

6. Many vegans prefer to use agave nectar in recipes calling for honey as no animals are involved in its processing.

7. Agave dissolves quickly in water and is sometimes used as a sweetener for cold drinks.

8. Tequila (yes, the alcoholic drink) is a cousin of agave nectar. Blue agave (Agave tequilana) is the source for both. Agave nectar can also be made from other types of agave plants.

What to do at the supermarket:

Agave is a sweetener thats neither bad nor good for you. Like all sweeteners, it is best consumed sparingly.

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  • http://www.psychiclunch.com Psychic Lunch

    I usually agree with the articles I find on Fooducate, but agave syrup is too processed for me to agree that it’s not bad for you. I recommend whenever possible that people adopt stevia as a sweetener. Also check out FoodRenegade’s post on the subject: http://www.foodrenegade.com/agave-nectar-good-or-bad/

    • Anjil

      I do and don’t agree with you, for 1 very clear reason. If your going to use stevia I suggest you grow the plant and make your own. The processed store brands are not what they seem. 

  • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Editorial Staff

    @Psychic Lunch
    You know of course that Stevia sweeteners have their detractors as well http://www.cspinet.org/nah/4_00/stevia.html

  • http://www.whatisyourtee.com Dennis Allio

    Great post. Non-artificial sweeteners are all basically sugars when it comes to their carbohydrate content. It’s better to stop looking for a “better sweetener” and recognize that most have their uses and should be consumed in moderation.

  • http://dietdessertndogs.com Ricki

    I think it depends on the brand of agave, and the means by which it’s processed. Some are highly processed; others aren’t. I’d equate agave with pure maple syrup in terms of health benefits and/or risks. As you say, like all sweeteners, it should be taken in moderation. But I’d still go for agave instead of white sugar any day.

    • Anjil

      Right on Ricki I agree totally. Organic Agave is the only way to go. As products like this gain popularity they are copied by some not so scrupulous company’s. That is why you end up with over processed low nutrient foods on the shelf. Moderation is not a word that most Americans understand. Agave is still better on all points than sugar even the raw sugar. 

    • Anjil

      Right on Ricki I agree totally. Organic Agave is the only way to go. As products like this gain popularity they are copied by some not so scrupulous company’s. That is why you end up with over processed low nutrient foods on the shelf. Moderation is not a word that most Americans understand. Agave is still better on all points than sugar even the raw sugar. 

  • http://www.acupuncturebrooklyn.com Karen Vaughan, L.Ac.

    Because agave is high in fructose, often higher than high fructose corn syrup, it causes the body to store fat more than glucose does, to increase triglyceridea and to stress the liver. See the article I wrote on it at:

  • Jim Pitre

    According to Dr Mercola ……


    What is the “Real” Truth about Agave?
    If you knew the truth about what’s really in it, you’d be dumping it down the drain — and that would certainly be bad for sales.
    Agave “nectar” or agave “syrup” is nothing more than a laboratory-generated super-condensed fructose syrup, devoid of virtually all nutrient value, offering you metabolic misfortune.
    Unfortunately, masterful marketing has resulted in the astronomical popularity of agave syrup among people who believe they are doing their health a favor by avoiding refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup, and dangerous artificial sweeteners.

    • Anjil

      Well I disagree with Dr. Mercola and most of his opinions, Yes Doctors like the average Joe have opinions. You must consider the source, doctor or not. No offense to the medical field, but doctors just like Dr. Mercola have given me bad advice on health issues more times than not. Try agave nectar if it doesn’t seem to help you in your weight loss or your diabetes then dump it just like the medicines the so called doctors have given in the past. By the way, those medicines cause more problems than they treat. I am a diabetic and have recently lost 30+ pounds by cutting out most carbs. I use agave because like most diabetics I refuse to eat the bland dried up nasty garbage that they call diabetic food. My blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and  overall health has improved 75% in the last 4 months. I am of the opinion that most people should be very cautious in the use of any carbohydrate even agave. 1 teaspoon is the recommended serving in tea/coffee, because how many of you have only 1 cup in the morning or throughout the day. One other thing agave is sweeter than sugar so it is really good to use in baking. Since it is sweeter you can much less and there by cut the amount of carbs in your foods. Oh, and Jim you shouldn’t blindly believe all you read…… 

  • Dani

    I have no issues with Agave Nectar. I use the Raw Unprocessed kind.. and yes there is a difference even though many cry otherwise. However some manufacturers abuse the labeling. It’s key to know and trust those who make the products you take into your body.

    A few reasons why I use it.. 1- I don’t have to use as much. So to your point comparing if you eat a pound of each… THATS the key. With Agave I use WAY less to achieve the same sweetness. 2- Fructose is what you find in NATURAL fruits like apples, etc. Fructose is absorbed into the body slower than sucrose(therefore the much lower glycemic index) so there’s no Spike then Crash of your blood sugar which causes one to lose energy and BURN LESS CALORIES. And finally.. 3- Sugar is processed using Animal products such as BONE CHARCOAL! ICK!

    So to sum it up… Agave allows me to moderate my sugar intake a great deal!

    • PStarr

      Fructose in fruit is partially negated by the fiber and other compounds found in fruit. In agave syrup, it’s straight fructose, for the most part. Low GI or not, the liver has to process it, unlike sucrose and glucose, which can be bad news.

  • http://www.agave-syrup.net Agave Syrup

    Thank you for this informative article.. Agave syrup seems very popular right now so i appreciate your balanced view point. I live in New orleans where diabetes is an epidemic so I have been trying this out because of the popularity of its low-glycemic index.

  • Kurt

       An even better sugar in my opinion is xylotol. It has a glycemic index of only 13 and is considered safe for diabetics and hyperglycemics and is tooth friendly.

  • davjohn

    Actually, Agave Nectar is much better than table sugar. The measure of the glycemic index is not as limited as the article indicates. The full test is taken from the degree that the sweetener changes the blood glucose, not the glucose within the food. Therefore, Agave Nectar has one of the lowest glycemic indexes in the sweetener class.
    Agave Nectar is the preferred sweetener for diabetics.

    • Joyce

      Well, Agave is NOT a low calorie sweetner. Just because it won’t spark blood levels like table sugar, does not mean it has less calories. One tablespoon=60 calories.

      • davjohn

        Thank you for your reply. Yes, you are correct in that Agave Nectar has 60 calories per tablespoon, however, I did not state that Agave Nectar had fewer calories than table sugar. In fact, where Agave Nectar has 60 calories per Tablespoon table sugar, Sucrose, has 48. The beneficial difference of which was my point is in the glycemic index. Sugar is a carbohydrate which quickly converts to sugar thus spiking the blood glucose, where Agave Nectar is a more complex carbohydrate which converts to sugar much more slowly making Agave Nectar the diabetic-friendly sweetener of choice.

        • mn

          Fructose is very hard for diabetics. And some agave syrup is very high in fructose.