Agave nectar, also known as agave syrup, is a sweetener commercially produced in Mexico from several species of the agave plant. This includes the Blue Agave, Salmiana Agave, Green Agave, Grey Agave, Thorny Agave and Rainbow Agave.
Agave nectar as a commercially produced sweetener that hit the shelves of health food stores beginning in the early 1990s and quickly become a highly touted alternative to other sugars and sweeteners such as sugar and honey.
Agave nectar is sweeter than honey but made with healthier ingredients. Agave nectar is produced in the Mexican States of Jalisco, Michoacan, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas. According to Mexican laws pertaining to certificate of origin, the majority is produced in Jalisco.
Although the alcoholic beverages Tequila and Mezcal are produced all over Mexico and throughout the world, the mountainous state of Jalisco is its birthplace. The primary reason for this is that soil in that region comes from the old volcanoes that make up the mountain range. Here, the soil shimmers from the plentiful amount of nutrients.
The Blue Agaves are more plentiful in Jalisco than anywhere else in the world. Incidentally, there’s a town in Jalisco near the city of Guadalajara called Tequila.
The Agave Plant
A mature agave plant has leaves 5-8 feet tall and is 7-12 feet in diameter and has a lifespan of 7-15 years depending on the species, climate, and growing conditions.
Agave and Tequila are both made from the sap that is found on the hearts or pinas of the plant. Agave is actually related to the lily and amaryllis plant. It is technically a succulent even though it shares a common habitat with many cacti. Contrary to popular opinion amongst health food enthusiasts, agave is not a cacti and has an altogether different life cycle.
There are over 160 variations or species of agave.
Agave Nectar can and will differ predicated upon the following:
- The geography or soil that the plant comes from.
- The variation of the plant the Agave Nectar comes from.
- How it is commercially processed
Nearly all Agave Nectar comes from Mexico. There are numerous kinds of agave throughout the country of Mexico.
Also, the soil from which an agave comes from is important. Agave from volcanic soil is going to cause the Agave Nectar to have a distinct taste and color as well as nutritional composition.
Make sure to purchase organic and raw Agave Nectar because most of the commercial brands on the market are mislabeled.
The healthiest variety of Agave Nectar is the Blue Agave Nectar, also known as Blue Agave.
Blue Agave is actually a desert succulent, not a cactus as some have been led to believe. Blue Agave is a species native to Mexico. While there are many kinds of agave throughout Mexico, the Blue Agave variety flourishes in volcanic soil in Guadalajara, Mexico.
How Agave Nectar is processed has a direct affect on its taste, color, and nutritional value. This is why agave nectar should be processed under 118 F, allowing it to be considered a raw food and still contain nutritional value, mineral content and enzymes.
When agave ferments, it becomes tequila, a distilled beverage.
Agave Nectar sweetens with about 25% fewer calories and is low on the Glycemic Index, making it an ideal food for diabetics and those who desire long-lasting energy.
Even though Agave Nectar generally contains a similar amount of calories per tablespoon as sugar, you don’t have to use a lot of it because it tastes very sweet. By using a small amount of Agave Nectar, one can still achieve a high amount of sweetness. Agave Nectar is a great sweetener for cooking purposes, especially desserts.
In fact, some brands of Agave Nectar contain less than 50% fructose, much lower than high fructose corn syrup. With certain brands of Agave Nectar, you can use 1/3 cup of it compared to 1 cup of sugar, thus greatly reducing your caloric intake.
Some Agave nectar’s are raw and are cooked below 118 F, contain no artificial fillers, do not contain large amounts of fructose and have a low Glycemic Index of 27.
There have been many controversies regarding the health effects of Agave Nectar.
Some people say that agave nectar is worse than high fructose corn syrup because. This is because high fructose corn syrup contains 55% fructose and many brands of agave nectar contain fructose levels ranging from 70-97%. The reason why some brands of agave nectar contain such high levels of fructose is because it is processed by over boiling the syrup.
Agave Nectar is processed very similar to maple syrup. It becomes very sweet from the sap that is being boiled. The same exact thing happens with Grade A maple syrup, which is not very sweet before processing.
Certain brands of Agave Nectar are great and healthy alternatives to sugar and honey. However, all brands of Agave Nectar are not the same.
Every brand of Agave Nectar on the market does not contain substances from the same plant. It doe not come from the same location or soil, and are not commercially processed the same way.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from starch, However, Agave Nectar does not naturally contain starch. If it does, then the Agave Nectar must contain High Fructose Corn Syrup.
High Fructose Corn Syrup can be detrimental one’s health. It does not have a Low Glycemic rating and it can be a serious threat to those with diabetes. It can greatly disrupt a person’s blood sugar levels and impair homeostasis.
HFCS is a highly processed product. A healthier alternative is Agave Nectar. Being a byproduct of the corn industry. HFCS is one of the most used commercial sweeteners today because it is so readily available.
High Fructose Corn Syrup comes from genetically engineered corn whereas Agave Nectar is made from its natural source, the agave plant. When determining the health benefits of a certain food product, it is important to consider the original source.
In order to avoid certain brands of Agave Nectar that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup, make sure that the product is organic and raw. If the Agave Nectar is raw and organic, it is generally much healthier than sugar or honey. Agave Nectar is an excellent alternative that can be used to substitute unhealthy sweeteners.