Anything that is marketed as healthy, or lows GI and gets little support from health and lifestyle influencers instantly becomes a hit. You must have definitely seen the aisles of your supermarket with agave nectar when once its existence was not even known. But now, it’s popular, trendy and recommended by many influencers.
But what is agave nectar, is it a better and a healthier alternative or is it worse and should be avoided, this article will clear all your doubts with some science so that you can make your choices in the simplest way possible.
For reference, we will be comparing agave nectar with table sugar.
What Is Agave Nectar?
Agave nectar comes from the blue agave plant as well as Agave americana, which is also known as maguey or the century plant. It is the same plant that is used to make tequilas.
Agave nectar is a sweetener and has a syrup-like consistency. It is not directly obtained. Fluid is extracted from a blue agave plant which is filtered and further processed to make the agave nectar. It is a plant-based vegan product and is much sweeter than normal cane sugar. It has a low glycemic index and this is one of the things, people prefer it for.
What is Glycemic Index (GI)?
The Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly the sugar consumed in our food could cause a relative rise in blood sugar after two hours of consumption. It ranges from 0 to 100. Pure glucose has the highest GI which is a straight 100.
The Glycemic index helps create awareness about your blood sugar level so that it can be maintained well.
However, there are several factors that influence the glycemic index of a food, including its nutrient composition, cooking method, ripeness, and the amount of processing it has undergone.
Composition Of Agave Nectar
It contains 80% fructose and 20% glucose. Due to this high concentration of fructose, it is much sweeter than table sugar. Hence a very small quantity is enough for sweetening.
It has a glycemic index of 17 which is considered very low.
Composition Of Table Sugar
Table sugar or cane sugar is made up of sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide, a molecule composed of two monosaccharides which are glucose and fructose. Sucrose has 50% glucose and 50% fructose present in it. It is rapidly digested in our bodies.
It is also a processed sugar but less sweet than agave nectar because of the low concentration of fructose.
The Glycemic Index of sucrose is 65.
How Agave Nectar Works Inside Our Body?
We now know, Agave nectar has a low GI and that is because of the high concentration of fructose present in it. Fructose and sugar are structurally very similar but they are not the same. Glucose doesn’t need further breaking down and can be directly absorbed in the bloodstream. Hence, the process is quicker.
But since agave nectar has more fructose, it doesn’t work the same way. The presence of 80% fructose makes the task a little hectic for our bodies. Fructose unlike glucose cant is aborded directly in the bloodstream. It needs to be converted into glucose in the liver first before getting absorbed. So, when we consume agave nectar, 20% of the glucose is absorbed first and the rest of the 80% of the fructose is taken to our liver where it is further processed. This makes the process longer in absorption.
The slow process due to low GI gives a low and almost steady rise in blood sugar levels.
The higher the concentration of agave nectar consumed, the longer the process will be.
How Table Sugar Works In Our Body?
Table sugar is made up of sucrose which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose combined together. The enzymes present in your intestines helps in breaking sucrose down into glucose and fructose. From here the glucose gets directly absorbed whereas fructose is sent into the liver for further conversion into glucose.
The high concentration of glucose gives a rapid rise in blood sugar levels which eventually starts falling down.
Benefits of Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is considered ‘healthy’ and here are some benefits of it-
1. Agave Nectar Is Low On The Glycemic Index (GI)
A low GI diet may help control blood sugar levels, especially if you have diabetes. So if you are a diabetic patient and your doctor allows you the consumption of Agave nectar, you should give it a try.
2. It Helps Metabolism
Agave has small concentrations of Vitamin B6 present in it. It plays a big role in how your body breaks down food, particularly proteins and carbohydrates.
Potential Risks of Agave
While agave is a natural sweetener, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t risks associated with it. Here we have mentioned the risks of agave nectar, which shouldn’t be skipped.
Dangerously High Levels Of Fructose
1. A high level of fructose is not good for health. High concentrations of fructose convert into fats and triglycerides. This increases the level of cholesterol in your body which can lead to heart attacks.
2. High fructose foods are thought to lead to belly fat, which is bad for your overall heart health.
3. Consuming excess added fructose can cause trouble with your metabolic health and may contribute to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Our Final Verdict
While Agave nectar is marketed as a healthier and better choice, we certainly disagree. You dont have to follow the herd and become a victim of false advertising. Proper research before shifting your dietary requirements is necessary and incase of agave nectar, we believe it highly important to do so.
A small amount of agave nectar can be consumed but high concentrations have more serious risks involved than benefits. Several natural sweeteners including stevia, erythritol, and xylitol are much healthier choices and substitutes in our opinion.
But we believe, If you are going to use agave, use it sparingly.
We strongly recommend consulting your doctors if you still have any doubts.