No need to give up sweets for the New Year. Agave nectar (also called agave syrup) is a low-glycemic alternative to popular sweeteners that elevate blood sugar levels rapidly. The simple sugars inherent in table sugar (sucrose), brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, honey, and the cheap, ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup metabolize quickly after ingestion. This can trigger insulin reactions and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and obesity. The natural, plant-based agave (pronounced ah·GAH·vay) nectar, however, sweetens without producing the same deleterious effects on insulin and blood sugar levels. Simply stated, agave nectar's sweetness doesn't cause a "sugar rush."
Because of its low Glycemic Index, agave nectar is suitable for some diabetics. The GI is a relative scale that ranks the effects of foods on blood glucose levels. That is, it measures the body's glycemic response (conversion to glucose) to carbohydrates over a two- to three-hour period after ingestion. An index of 100 represents pure glucose; 55 and below is considered low-glycemic. While the Glycemic Index of sugar (2 tsp) is 68, that of agave nectar—depending upon the producer—ranges from the teens to the 40s.
Agave nectar is made from sap extracted from the heart (piña) of the blue agave, a succulent plant, related to the lily, and native to Mexico—the same source from which the distillates tequila and mezcal (mescal) are produced. Blue agave's nutritional credits include vitamins B, C, D, and E, as well as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. It has been used as a blood purifier, as a digestive aid, and as an anti-inflammatory.
Approximately 25 to 30 percent sweeter than table sugar, agave nectar is available in light or dark (raw, unfiltered) forms, and tastes much like honey. (Mexicans refer to it as "honey water.") The nectar dissolves readily, making it a good sweetener for beverages and baking. (Incidentally, a free taste can be had at most Trader Joe's sample stations.) Furthermore, it has a long, stable shelf life (approximately three years) and does not crystallize.
With many brands from which to choose, which one is right for you? Perhaps the links below (arranged in no particular order) can help you decide:
How sweet it is!