Agave Nectar, Friend or Foe?
Agave Nectar is a sweetener that comes from Mexico. In its simplest form it was used by the Aztecs and was thought to be a prized gift from the Gods. The nectar in Mexico is known as aquamiel, or “honey water”. It comes mainly from the Agave tequilana (the same plant tequila is made from), or Blue Agave, and the Agave salmiana plants. They are succulent plant that looks similar to Aloe Vera plants.
The plant grows for seven to ten years before reaching maturity. Once the Blue Agave plant reaches maturity, it can be harvested by removing the leaves to reveal the core, or pina, which resembles a pineapple and can be 50-100 pounds in weight. The sap is then extracted from the core, filtered and heated at low temperatures. The Agave salmiana it harvested once it reaches maturity by removing the stalk, or quiole, which creates a hole. The hole then fills with the sap, which is removed daily to produce the nectar.
The nectar ranges in color from light to dark. The lighter color has a mild flavor, the amber color has a caramel-like flavor, and the dark color has a strong caramel flavor. It rates low on the glycemic index and has a low glycemic load. It ranks lower than actual sugar. This gains it a recommendation from the ADA, American Diabetes Association, for use by diabetics.
However, we don’t recommend it because it contains glucose and fructose. The average Agave Nectar contains 70% fructose and 30% glucose. When too much fructose enters the live it can’t process it fast enough for the body to use so it gets stored as fat. Agave Nectar actually has more concentrated fructose than even high fructose corn syrup.
Because of the process involved in creating it, it should not be considered a “natural sweetener”. The fructose is concentrated which means it comes from the refining process and is not naturally found there. Concentrated fructose goes straight to the liver for processing and doesn’t get digested naturally through the body. Because of this it doesn’t raise or lower the blood sugar levels. Fructose has also been found to inhibit leptin levels, which tells your body you are full. Therefore, you eat more.
You do get fructose naturally from fruits and vegetables which are OK and probably helps with the processing of glucose in the body. However, the amount of fructose in Agave Nectar is too high and therefore shouldn’t be eaten. If you are a diabetic, stevia, which is a natural sweetener is a better alternative.