What is agave?
Agave syrup is made from the blue agave plant and is widely used as a sweetener. Agave nectar or sap has therapeutic effects for use as a substitute for regular sugar. After harvesting the plant’s core, it goes through a process of boiling, juicing, and fine filtration to produce the sweetener. Agave is in the category of added sugar for use as an ingredient in beverages, meals, or to be directly ingested.
Agave syrup is sweeter than table sugar. You can use a smaller amount of it to get the same measure of sweetness. Its composition consists of:
Agave syrup vs. regular sugar
The fructose content of agave sweetener is about 80%, which is more than table sugar. When comparing agave syrup to ordinary sugar, the syrup has a lower glycemic index — which is the rate at which carbohydrates in food and beverages affect your blood sugar.
Both agave syrup and table sugar may increase the risk of diabetes and heart ailments. Therefore, they should both be used in moderation. A teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories, whereas a teaspoon of agave has 21 calories. This is a factor to consider for people with diabetes who are considering switching.
Benefits of agave sweeteners
Rich in antioxidants. Agave sweetener contains terpenoids, saponins, inulin, and glycosides. Saponins aid in the binding of cholesterol, lowering overall cholesterol levels, and controlling the growth of cancerous tumors. Agave syrup also contains healthy microorganisms and fiber, which aid digestion.
Agave contains essential vitamins. Vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, and K are present in agave in sufficient concentrations to provide health benefits when consumed daily. When used regularly, these essential vitamins pose no known dangers.
Low glycemic index. The sweetener helps people with diabetes to control their blood sugar. Compared to other sweeteners, agave has a low glycemic index.
The truth about agave
Agave sweetener has 90% fructose, whereas regular sugar contains 50%, and high fructose corn syrup has 55% fructose. When you consume too much fructose, it can lead to various chronic ailments like:
- Diabetes. Because of the high fructose level, people with diabetes should limit the use of agave sweeteners. Research conducted on rats showed that agave causes the body to release less insulin in reaction to fructose, causing blood sugars to remain elevated. It contributes to oxidative stress, which leads to tissue damage.
- Fatty liver disease. Sweeteners with high fructose have been linked to an increase in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Fructose, unlike glucose, can only be converted to energy in the liver, which can overwork the organ. When excess fat accumulates in the liver’s cells, it can cause inflammation and damage.
- Metabolic disorders. Fructose lowers leptin levels in the body, causing you to eat more, resulting in weight gain. Leptin is the hormone that tells the body you're hungry and when your stomach is full. Lower leptin levels result in high levels of triglycerides (body fat) when a high concentration of fructose metabolizes in the liver.
- Cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance and hypertension are linked to cardiovascular disease and obesity in people who consume too much sugar. Fructose causes a significant increase in body fat and cholesterol.
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Agave sweetener alternatives
Agave syrup is not an entirely natural sugar because the plant's primary fructans undergo refinement to produce high-concentration fructose. This concentrated sweetener is among the added sugars you should avoid in your diet. However, there are sugar replacements that are less harmful and contain modest levels of fructose that your body can absorb.
Fruits, whether fresh or frozen, are sweet because they contain natural sugar. They're also high in fiber and antioxidants, which are beneficial to your health. Unsweetened natural foods like bananas, yogurt, and organic coconut are good choices for your sugar cravings. Other natural flavors to sweeten your beverages and food include honey, maple syrup, molasses, stevia, cocoa powder, vanilla, and almond extract.
Agave can help prevent and reduce the effects of heart disease and diabetes, and keep your blood glucose under control. But the natural sweetener isn't a healthy choice, even though it has fewer side effects than conventional sugar. The high fructose levels in agave may be harmful to your liver's health and have an impact on your weight.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Augusta Health: "4 Reasons Why Too Much Sugar Increases Heart Disease risks"
Beckman Institute: "Research shows fructose increases body fat and decreases physical activity"
BetterHealth Channel: "Liver-fatty liver disease"
Food Insight: "What is Agave Syrup?"
Food Science and Nutrition: "Phytochemical profiles and classification of Agave syrups using 1 h-NMR and chemometrics"
Frontiers in Plant Science: "The Sweet Taste of Adapting to The Desert: Fructan Metabolism in Agave Species"
Global Organics: "The Story of Organic Wild Salmiana Agave Syrup"
Physiology & Behavior: "Effect of moderate intake of sweeteners on metabolic health in the rat."
ReVitalife: "WHY AGAVE ISN'T A HEALTHY SWEETENER ALTERNATIVE"
U.S.Department of Agriculture: "Sweetener, syrup, agave"
verywellhealth: "The Truth About Agave nectar and Diabetes"
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