By Olivia MinardiWritten by Mari McClenney FSHN 451, Student of the Community Nutrition Class taught by Dr. Jinan Banna, University of Hawaii Manoa.

Sugar is seen as an enemy in our diets nowadays and instead of completely cutting out added sugars from our diet, people are looking to sugar substitutes as a “healthier” way to fix their sweet tooth. One of the most popular sugar substitutes is agave nectar, but what is agave nectar? Is it actually a better option than sugar?

Agave nectar comes from the agave plant, which also makes tequila. Juice is taken from the core of the agave plant, filtered, heated and concentrated into the syrup. Agave has 21 calories per teaspoon while granulated sugar has 16 calories per teaspoon. Agave is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar so less of it is used in recipes.

Benefits of agave:

Low glycemic index → doesn’t raise blood sugar after consumption
Natural agave extracts contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory qualities which help decrease body fat and BMI

Risks of agave nectar:

  • High fructose → increases triglycerides which is a risk factor for heart disease
  • When eaten in large amounts, high fructose consumption can cause the body to not take in glucose properly, which lowers energy and can increase risk of metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes

Now to tackle the main question, is agave a better option than sugar? For short-term,YES! It will help in decreasing body fat and can bring you to a healthy BMI. As a long-term healthy lifestyle change, NO! When eaten in large quantities it provides long-term health risks that can be toxic to your health and must be eaten in moderation.

Works Cited

(1) Mellado-Mojica E, Lopez MG. Identification, classification, and discrimination of agave syrups from natural sweeteners by infrared spectroscopy and HPAEC-PAD. Food Chemistry. 2015; 167: 349-357.

(2) USDA. Basic Report: Sugars, granulated. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. 2016

(3) USDA. Basic Report: Nectars, agave. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. 2016

(4) Barragan-Alvarez CP, Diaz-Martinez NE, Flores-Fernandez JM, Padilla-Camberos E, Rathod V. Effects of Agave fructans on body fat and serum lipids in obesity. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 2018; 73: 34-39.

(5) Adeli K, Basciano H, Federico L. Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia. Nutr Metab. 2005.

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