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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Agave Syrup: Why it's a Healthy Sugar Substitute

Reposted with thank to:

Love for the Earth

Agave Syrup 101: Why it's a Healthy Sugar Substitute.
by Kathy
Happy Healthy Life


I get a lot of questions about my use of Agave Syrup as a sweetener in my vegan recipes. So here is my Agave Syrup 101 post. It is a must read for anyone who is health-​.​.​.​.​conscious or simply curious about what they put in their bodies. I encourage all professional or amateur chefs to read this post as well. There is a wide world beyond white sugar. Click ahead for Agave Syrup 101, it includes health benefits, directions of use, sweetener comparisons and the history of this healthy sugar substitute...

Sugar Confusion.. I'm never surprised by the presence of confusion when it comes to sugar and sweeteners. With so many natural and artificial sweeteners on the market today, navigating the sweetener aisle can be a bit daunting. Options include: stevia, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, molasses, white sugar, sucanut, raw sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup and even those frightening little pink, blue and yellow packets marked ominously with zero calories. Sweet foods should have calories. Anything otherwise, goes against nature and will likely include chemicals. Stevia is the new natural zero-calorie sweetener, but quite frankly, the bitter metallic taste doesn't appeal to me. There are a number of sweeteners that I use on a regular basis, but if you are just starting to experiment, I highly suggest you try agave syrup. It's user friendly, minimally processed and has a lower Glycemic Index rating than most sweetener options.


Health Benefit:. Low GI. Agave syrup has a lower glycemic index that granular sugars and even other natural sweeteners like dehydrated cane juice, date sugar or maple sugar crystals. A lower glycemic index means that agave syrup is less likely to cause a spike in your blood sugar. And many scientists have argued that spiked blood sugar can trigger the fat storing mechanism in the body. Thus making agave syrup a better option if you are trying to control or lose weight.

Vegan, for sure.No Bone Char, guaranteed! All vegans have heard about the possible use of animal by-products, in this case animal bones, in the processing of many low quality white sugars. Some granulated and even brown sugar, mostly made from cane sugar, are filtered using animal-​.​.​.​.​bone-​based charcoal, also known as bone char. Yuck. Agave nectar is completely plant-derived, vegan and bone char free.

What is Agave?. The agave plant, which resembles an aloe vera or cactus plant, grows in dry regions and specifically thrives in Southern Mexico. Most agave syrup is produced from the Blue Agave plant. In Mexico, the nectar from the plant has been known for years as 'honey water'. Agave has only gone mainstream in the United States over the past few years. Agave syrup can be found as a sugar option for tea and coffee at many mainstream health-valued restaurants and cafes such as Le Pain Quotidian an even smaller cafes like Teany in NYC. (Agave syrup lines the shelves of the 'sweetener section at Teany'. Yippee. Agave sweetened foods can be found all over the supermarket and store chains like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's carry a wide variety of agave syrup brands and products.


Agave Syrup Taste.. Agave Syrup is similar to honey or maple syrup, but the taste is lighter and pure-tasting in sweetness. Agave's texture and consistency is a bit thinner than honey, but thicker than maple syrup. While honey provides a strong floral 'honey' flavor, and maple a strong woody-sweet 'maple' flavor, agave's taste is a bit more pure and simply sweet. Thus, it makes the perfect sweetener to replace the simply sweet flavor of traditional sugar.

Agave vs. Maple Syrup.. Maple syrup is indeed a fabulous natural sweetener. however it has a very distinctive flavor that may not be appropriate for all recipes. The main problem with maple syrup, however, is the price. Maple syrup is usually almost twice as much as agave syrup. This is a very appealing reason to get excited about using agave syrup: cheaper than maple syrup. I also find that maple syrup doesn't go well in my hot beverages, agave does.

How to Replace Sugars with Agave Syrup:

Honey:. Replace every cup of honey with a cup of agave. 1 to 1 ration in sweetness.
Maple:. same as honey, 1 to 1 ratio for use.
Corn Syrup:. Replace each cup of corn syrup by using 1/2 to 1/3 as much agave and increase other liquids in the recipe by up to 1/3 of a cup.
White Sugar:. For each cup of white sugar replaced, use 2/3 of a cup of agave and reduce other liquids by 1/4 to 1/3 cup. This substitution will also work for Demerara Sugar, Turbinado Sugar, Evaporated Cane Juice, or Sucanat.
Brown Sugar: .the same as white sugar, only you will not need to reduce the liquids because brown sugar has a higher moisture content than white sugar.

Other notes: Agave syrup may cause baked items to brown more quickly, so you may want to reduce the heat by 15-25 degrees.

Ancient healing properties of agave:. The Aztecs used a blend of agave nectar and salt to dress wounds and heal skin disorders or infections. Modern medical study has confirmed agave's remedial properties. Agave nectar applied to the skin has been found effective against pyogenic (pus producing) bacteria. Adding salt to the nectar further boosts its anti-microbial property. Agave nectar has also been proven effective against enteric (intestinal) bacteria.


Other Facts:

"Safe for Babies. Parents are vigorously warned not to give honey to children in their first year of life. This is because honey frequently contains a bacteria that can cause botulism. While this bacteria is harmless to anyone over the age of one year, it can produce toxins in an infant’s immature intestinal tract, causing sickness, hospitalization..​.​.​.​.​,​ and in rare cases, death. Agave syrup is not known to cause botulism in babies." -​.​.​.​.​.​.​.​.​allaboutagave.​.​.​.​.​com


9 Responses to "Agave Syrup 101: Why it's a Healthy Sugar Substitute.":

ginger says:

i concur, but i am confused about 1 point:
you say to use 2/3 cup of agave per 1 cup of white sugar and then to also decrease other liquids. whereas, in baking recipes, sugar is actually considered a liquid ingredient. so if you're decreasing one liquid (sugar by 1/3 cup) then another liquid should be increased by 1/3 cup to keep the baking formula intact.
have you actually tried your method successfully or whas that a typo?
i love agave and have been considering using it more in my baking instead of the white beet sugar i currently use so i'd love to know how your substitution changes the texture of your cakes, cookies, muffins, etc.

thanks :)
7/9/09 4:31 PM
Kathy says:


How would dry sugar be considered a liquid? I very often use agave in place of dry white sugar for recipes such as muffins and cookies. For 1 cup of sugar I will usually replace it with 2/3-3/4 cup of agave syrup. Then I will either add less water or soy milk. Or add a bit more flour to even out the consistency. Does that make sense? To me, agave is a liquid and dry white sugar and flour are dry ingredients.

I hope I can clear this up for you, but if all else fails: experiment with agave syrup in your next baking recipe. A test kitchen trial is the best way to learn any new baking technique.

7/9/09 4:55 PM
Caitlin says:

Kathy (and anyone else who knows),

I'm curious about the high percentage of fructose in agave syrup - some say higher than that of high fructose corn syrup. I know that health experts disagree on how much that matters (according to Wikipedia). What do you think?
7/9/09 5:13 PM
Kathy says:


Great question. I am very familiar with the fructose in agave syrup. However, I find it interesting that you automatically label fructose as 'bad'. Fructose is a simple sugar, and it is the sweetness found in most fruits and veggies. It's not that fructose is bad, it is that too much fructose at one time is bad.

When I am talking about sugar I add to my diet, it may be a teaspoon in my tea that I drink when I eat high fiber, healthy foods at breakfast. Or maybe it is added to my tofu saute recipe at dinnertime. It's not good to eat gobs of sugar at once-no matter what variety you use.

Agave critics say this: "Agave, unlike glucose, is processed by the liver. And when too much is eaten at once, the liver can't process it quickly enough." The key phrase I see there is "too much at once".

Agave Syrup is not a bad-for-you chemical poison. It is like all sweeteners (natural or not) you should eat them in moderation.

So to answer your question, agave is a plant-derived sweetener that should be eaten in moderation. Too much at one time is not a healthy thing.

Morning tea time sweetener: bone-char white sugar, chemical zero calorie packets, bee-derived honey or light plant-derived agave syrup? You decide.

Thanks for your great question!

7/9/09 5:29 PM
Ms. Monica says:

Oddly enough last night I was contemplating how you could sub white sugar for agave in a cake recipe. I started using it about two months ago after reading about it in a book. I have been hooked ever since. Even my mom who's a DB (who accidentally poured half my bottle I had just bought from Whole Foods into a smoothy trying to sneak a taste) has started using it. Its a no non sense easy change to make to replace white sugar. Your taste buds don't even need to adjust because its sweeter than sugar. My husband and I use it in everything and I mean everything. Iced Tea, Coffee, Oatmeal. And now that I have found out how to sub for sugar I really won't need to buy any of that white stuff anymore. I buy mine from Fresh and Easy. But I do like the Mohave brand at Whole Foods because they have original and flavors like almond and hazelnut which would be great for coffee or oatmeal. I've even contemplated buying it by the case off of Amazon instead of paying almost 12 for the two bottles at F&E. On Amazon you can get a case of 12 bottles for 32 bucks.
7/9/09 6:24 PM
ginger says:

thanks kathy. believe it or not, sugar is considered a liquid ingredient in baking because it's so soluble. that's why it always goes in with the wet ingredients and doesn't get sifted with the dry. and since baking relies of formulary recipes, i'm wondering if you notice that your baked good turn out slightly little dry...or maybe they just cook a little faster.

i'm just asking for my inner pastry chef. :) i'll try it in a a cake recipe that i use a lot and see if there's a noticeable difference.

thanks again!!
7/9/09 11:23 PM
ginger says:

by the way, GW brand sugar is beet sugar and is not processed using bone char.
7/9/09 11:24 PM
2am says:

I've definitely sifted sugar with other dry ingredients while baking...

Anywho, thanks for posting that conversion chart, Kathy. I've been dying to replace white sugar with agave, especially since my mom's diabetic, and I'm trying to bake healthier for her. I already bake vegan, and baking without the white stuff will be even better.
7/10/09 9:16 PM
cashmere cheesecake says:

I live in Australia so I heard about agave syrup from your site and I think i'll go out and buy some soon
7/10/09 9:20 PM


L.Howerter said...

I think this is a great option for anyone who buys their sugar from the grocery store. Thank you for the info!

yodasmith said...

I'll stick with my SweetLeaf Stevia. It retains the natural properties of the stevia leaf--0 calories, 0 carbs, and a 0 glycemic index, and I don't detect a metallic taste!

Thanks anyway!

Denbeath said...