Many diabetic people and people who want to lose weight want to find the right sugar substitute that can satisfy their sweet tooth. Agave nectar or syrup has gained popularity as one of the products that provide such as substitute.
It is about 1.5 sweeter than regular sugar and its taste and consistency are comparable to honey.
Although for many people agave nectar may seem like the best answer to satisfy their sugar cravings, the truth is that it’s best used in moderation because it has its own complications especially when too much of it is consumed.
What is Agave Nectar/Syrup?
Agave syrup is derived from the agave plant which can be found growing naturally in Southern Mexico. When fermented, the blue agave plant turns into tequila. Angela Ginn, National Spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Diabetes, explains:
Agave nectar is a sweetener that contains vitamins, carbohydrate and sweeteners such as calories, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium. The color difference is mainly due to the filtration of minerals and salts in production.
Health food advocates used to believe that agave was a good solution for people with diabetes (PWD) because it is made of 90 percent fructose. This means that agave is much lower on the GI (glycemic index) and thus doesn’t pack the same punch to blood sugar levels as table sugar.
However, we’ve learned that this might be somewhat misleading. Although it’s true that foods that rank lower on the GI index are absorbed slowly and tend to raise blood sugar gradually. However, a food’s healthfulness should not be based on the glycemic index. For instance, watermelon ranks higher than ice cream.
Agave Nectar Nutrition Facts
Agave is commonly used as a sweetener to replace brown or white sugar in baking. One tablespoon of agave contains 15 grams sugar, 16 grams total carbs and 60 calories. Therefore, agave nectar is straight sugar with very little else to offer in terms of nutrition.
What is the Relationship Between Fructose and Diabetes?
Most people with diabetes know that it’s generally healthier to choose foods that rank lower on the glycemic index because they keep blood sugar levels more stable. However, it’s also essential to understand that there is more to consider than just the glycemic index. For instance, although agave syrup ranks lower on the glycemic index compared to other sweeteners, it contains 90% fructose.
Numerous studies have linked over-consumption of fructose to a wide range of health problems including increased weight gain, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, fatty liver, higher triglyceride levels and cholesterol, to name a few.
Nowadays, loads of packaged and processed foods contain large percentages of fructose largely because it’s a cheap substitute for sugar. As a result, people are generally consuming fructose in high proportions.
Studies show that drinking and eating a lot of fructose leaves you feeling hungrier because it influences hormones including ghrelin, leptin and insulin. This creates a cycle where you still feel hungry even after your meal and you end up eating more food.
Overconsumption of glucose is one of the risk factors for insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, obesity and hypertension. Therefore, if you are diabetic, consuming fructose might make your condition worse and may even increase your risk of complications.