Agave - Multipurpose Whole Food Sweetener
Agave: not just used to produce tequila; but also a multipurpose whole food sweetener that’s neutral in taste, making it easy to add to your favourite recipes.
Did you know that Canadians consume on average 57.1 g of added sugars, 67.1 g of free sugars and 105.6 g of total sugars per day? Indeed, according to Statistics Canada, Canadians are consuming an awful amount of sugar. This is alarming because consuming too much sugar has been linked to many adverse health outcomes including: high blood sugar, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
As you may know, reducing your sugar intake has many positive health benefits but not all alternative sweeteners are made the same; some are just as bad for your overall health as sucrose itself. Although they contain fewer calories, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame potassium don’t help with weight loss as many think. A 2005 study showed that diet drinks were a marker for increased weight gain and obesity. It has also been suggested that diketopiperazine, a compound that forms when aspartame decomposes, may cause allergic symptoms such as hives. So, how do you lessen your sugar intake without sacrificing taste and health? Alas, there are many natural sweeteners on the market that make great substitutes, agave being a fan favourite.
What is Agave?
Agave nectar is a natural sweetener derived from the blue agave plant, which is also used to make tequila. But don’t worry, their processing differs, resulting in two very different products.
How is Agave Syrup Made?
Agave syrup is made by extracting the juice from the agave plant. The sweet liquid is then heated to evaporate the water and concentrate the sugars, leaving a concentrated, sweet syrup that has a lower glycemic index than sugars. Agave nectar can range from light to dark amber depending on how it is processed. Agave naturally contains some phytonutrients and is free from synthetic flavours and ingredients.
How Does Agave Taste?
Agave is sweeter than honey and has a neutral taste. Unlike the no-impact or low-impact sweeteners like stevia, agave does not have a bitter aftertaste.
Agave and Blood Sugar
The glycemic index (GI) assigns a value to foods and beverages based on their impact on blood glucose levels. Generally, substances low on the glycemic index will release glucose more slowly and steadily while foods higher on the glycemic index will release glucose quickly. Low GI foods are good for those with blood sugar issues and high GI foods are better suited to help provide energy recovery post-exercise. Although agave has a reputation for having a low glycemic index, the way that it is processed enhances its fructose content, which means that agave is best avoided by diabetics. It is worth pointing out that agave is a whole food sweetener. Those with diabetes would be better off using a no-impact or low-impact sweetener that won’t raise blood sugar such as stevia, monk fruit, xylitol, or erythritol.
Agave and Gut Health
Sucrose can wreak havoc on your gut health because it's food for bad gut bacteria. Therefore, those with gut health issues or those looking to give their gut a little TLC should consider natural sweeteners as an alternative. Agave contains a type of fibre called fructans, which could have prebiotic benefits within the gut. Fructans travel to the gut undigested, where they become food for friendly gut bacteria. It is worth pointing out, however, that excessive use of agave could potentially cause dysbiosis, which is an unfriendly balance of gut bacteria. Therefore, like anything, it’s best to use it in moderation to keep the delicate balance of gut bacteria happy.
How to Use Agave Syrup
Because of its sweet and mild taste, agave can be used as a multipurpose sweetener. Many people love to use agave for cooking and baking, as well as in drinks. It can be added to your favourite tea, oatmeal or unsweetened yogurt to add a little sweetness and can make a refreshing glass of iced tea or lemonade. Agave is roughly 20% sweeter than sugar, so you can use much less of it, but still, get the sweetness you desire.
Shopping for Agave
The top selling agave syrup is produced by Wholesome Sweeteners. It is a trusted and high quality natural sweetener that’s organic and non-GMO. Available as organic blue agave syrup which is a light amber colour and dissolves quickly in drinks or baking, it offers a bright sweetness and processed at higher temperatures than the raw formula. Wholesome Sweeteners raw organic blue agave syrup is processed at lower temperatures which helps keep agave’s profile in tact. It’s a darker amber colour and also dissolves quickly and is great in beverages, oatmeal, cooking and baked goods. Both can be used at a 1:1 ratio to replace sugar.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your practitioner prior to taking herbs or nutritional supplements.
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