Agave syrup or agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, has a lower glycemic index, and has a higher percentage of fructose. It is made from the agave plant and marketed as a "natural" sweetener, although it is as processed as table sugar.
|Source||Nectar from the blue agave plant||Sugarcane, beets|
|Types of included sugars||Fructose (55%-90%) and glucose||Sucrose (disaccharide consisting of 50% fructose & 50% glucose bound together)|
|Sugars||1 g (per 100 g)||99.91g (per 100g)|
|Fat||0 g||0 g|
|Protein||0 g (per 100 g)||None|
|Calcium||72 mg (12%)||1 mg (0%)|
|Iron||0.42 mg (3%)||0.01 mg (0%)|
|Vitamin C||1 mg (2%)||None|
|Dietary fiber||2 g (per 100 g)||0 g|
|Sodium||4 mg (0%)||None|
|Carbohydrates||5 g (per 100 g)||99.98g (per 100g)|
|Calories||310 (100 gm)||387 Calories[kcal] per 100g|
|Health Pros and Cons||Lower glycemic index than sugar, more fructose than high fructose corn syrup, can lead to insulin resistance||Too much consumption leads to obesity and diseases such as diabetes. Can also lead to tooth decay.|
|Introduction||Agave syrup is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of agave.||Table sugar or sucrose is the organic compound seen most commonly as white, odorless, crystalline powder with a sweet taste.|
|Production||Juice extracted from core of agave, heated, concentrated to produce thin syrup||Sugarcane: milled, juice extracted, water evaporated, sugar crystals separated in centrifuge, crystals refined Sugar beets: beets soaked in hot water, sugars isolated through filtration and purification, water evaporated, crystals separated.|
|Uses||Vegan alternative to honey, recipes, sweeten cold beverages||Baked goods, natural cereals, table sweetener|
|Texture||Liquid, less viscous than honey||Granules|
|Types||Raw, light, amber, dark||White, brown, turbinado, demarrera|
|Minerals||Calcium, potassium, magnesium (all in little if negligible amounts)||None|
|Origin||Mexico, South Africa||India|
Agave syrup is made from the native varieties of agave plants in Mexico, the same plants used to produce tequila. Known brands Madhava and Wholesome Sweeteners sell for approximately $0.16 an ounce.
Table sugar is produced from either sugarcane or sugar beets. The sugarcane is grown in South America, the South Pacific, South Asia or the southern United States. Sugar beets may be grown anywhere. C & H and Domino are typical brands of table sugar that sell for about $0.05 an ounce.
Effect on Health
Agave syrup does have a lower glycemic index than sugar. However, agave syrup has more fructose content than even high fructose corn syrup. Agave syrup is composed of 47-56 percent fructose and 16-20 percent glucose, whereas sugar is composed of equal parts, 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. Although fructose has a lower glycemic index than glucose, it has a much higher glycemic load and causes seven times as much cell damage as glucose. This higher fructose content in agave syrup gets broken down in the body differently from glucose, which can ultimately lead to insulin resistance.
Because it's "natural" and an alternative to sugar, agave syrup is often thought to be a better substitute and an option for people with or at risk of diabetes. It is however, not recommended on account of its high fructose content, as mentioned in this video:
Agave syrup is marketed "natural" and relatively healthier than sugar, but is actually just as processed as sugar. It has slightly fewer calories per 100 grams than sugar (310 as compared to sugar's 387), but significantly less sugar content (68g to table sugar's 100g) and fewer carbohydrates (76g to table sugar's 100g). It also has more sodium, potassium and magnesium compared to sugar.
Agave Syrup or Agave Nectar?
Agave nectar initially referre
While the terms agave syrup and agave nectar are used interchangeably, it is unclear whether they mean the same thing. While agave nectar is considered the same as agave syrup, there is a small set of people who believe counter-argument that agave nectar is the pure extract from the agave plant, while agave syrup is a processed product with higher fructose. According to them, agave nectar is raw, less processed, involves no chemicals or enzymes and contains less than 55% fructose, while agave syrup is more processed with chemicals and enzymes and has a higher percentage of fructose. However, all agave is now processed chemically to yield a syrup with high percentage of fructose, and various manufacturers sell it by different generic names; some call it nectar and others call the same thing syrup.
The bottom line, however, remains this: Even if the distinction between agave nectar and syrup had at some point been true, manufacturers do not distinguish between the labels "syrup" and "nectar," and a bottle that says Agave Nectar could very well be — and most often is — agave syrup.
Light agave syrup has a mild, almost neutral taste; amber agave syrup has a medium-intensity caramel flavor, and dark agave syrup has a distinct, strong caramel taste. The sweetness of sugar falls somewhere between that of amber and dark agave syrups.
Agave syrup is a light to dark amber liquid. Sugar ranges from brown to white, depending on the type and how much it's processed.
Agave syrup has a viscous to runny texture, which makes it much easier to dissolve than the granular crystals of table sugar.
Varieties and Use
Agave syrup is a vegan alternative to honey. Since it dissolves quickly, it is effective as a sweetener for cold beverages and desserts. Agave syrups are sold in light, amber, dark, and raw varieties.
- Light agave syrup has a mild, almost neutral flavor, and adds subtle flavor to delicate-tasting dishes and beverages.
- Amber agave syrup with medium-intensity caramel flavor is used in dishes and drinks with stronger flavors, where one could otherwise use sugar.
- Dark agave syrup has stronger and noticeable caramel notes, which imparts a very distinct flavor to more nuanced dishes including some desserts, poultry, meat, and seafood dishes.
Amber and dark agave syrups can be used "straight out of the bottle" as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and French toast. Since the dark version is unfiltered, it contains a higher concentration of the plant's minerals.
Sugar is used in baked goods, natural cereals and as a table sweetener. Brown sugar is more popular for baking. Turbinado or demerara sugar is unrefined cane sugar that can be used as a direct replacement for table sugar. White sugar is refined cane or beet sugar. All varieties of sugar taste similar to each other, outside the slight molasses flavor of brown sugar.
Agave syrup is obtained from the agave plant. The juice is extracted from the core of the plant, filtered and heated to break down into simple sugars. It is then concentrated into a thin syrup. To produce agave syrup without using heat, enzymes derived from the mold Aspergillus niger are used to convert the juice into simple sugars.
For beet sugar, beets are sliced and soaked in hot water at the processing plant. Sugars are isolated through filtration and purification with milk of lime. Rapid boiling in a vacuum evaporates the water. The syrup is seeded with crystals after it has cooled. The resultant sugar crystals get separated from the liquid in a centrifuge. The end result is white table sugar.
- Wikipedia: Agave nectar
- The Truth About Agave - WebMD
- Wikipedia: Sugar
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup Production and Prices - USDA.gov
- How Sugar Works - HowStuffWorks
- What is Agave Nectar? - What's Cooking, America?
- Agave Syrup Nutrition - USDA.gov
- Granulated Sugar Nutrition - USDA.gov
- Sugar: The Bitter Truth - YouTube
- The Sugar Conspiracy - The Guardian