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Agave
Agave nectar is half the glycemic index of sugar, with a pure natural sweetness. Photo © Douglas Stevens | Fotolia.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE.

 

 

August 2009

Product Reviews / NutriNibbles / NutriSnacks

Agave Nectar a.k.a. Agave Syrup

And Two Sweet Ice Cream Brands Made With Agave (And Without Sugar)

 

CAPSULE REPORT: Agave nectar or syrup is half the glycemic index of sugar, yet it’s even sweeter. With a pure, sweet flavor, it’s a godsend for people who can’t have sugar. This is Page 1 of a three-page article about agave and two companies—Agave Dream and Organic Nectars—that make agave-flavored frozen desserts (the latter is vegan, organic and kosher). Click on the black links below to visit other pages.

Overview Of Agave

There are ice cream lovers who are vegan and don’t eat milk products and there are ice cream lovers who can’t have sugar. Alternatives exist—soymilk ice cream and Splenda-based ice cream, for example. But two artisan lines, sweetened with low-glycemic agave, have drawn raves for widening the options of frozen delights for those on restricted diets.

What is agave? It’s a healthier sweetener, and delicious.

Agave (uh-GAH-vay) is a botanical family of succulent plant, Agavaceae, that consists of more than 400 species. It grows in Mexico and the southwestern United States. The sap of one, Agave tequilana Weber, known as the blue agave or tequila agave, is used to make tequila.

Agave is produced commercially in Mexico from several species of agave, including blue agave, green agave, grey agave, rainbow agave, salmiana agave and thorny agave. The sap from the leaves, called agave syrup or agave nectar, is a very pleasant sweetener which tastes a bit like light honey.

  Agave Farm
Lisa Protter,co-founder of Organic Nectars, second from right, with agave farmers. Photo courtesy of Organic Nectars.
  • Light agave syrup has the flavor of light honey.
  • Dark agave syrup has a deeper flavor, more like brown sugar or maple syrup.

The Glycemic Index

As a sweetener, agave nectar is the lowest qualified sweetener on the glycemic index.* Agave nectar has a glycemic index (GI) of 32; half that of sugar. Honey has a GI of 58, due to its higher ratio of glucose to fructose (agave is about 90% fructose; note that some honeys such as black sage honey have a higher fructose to glucose ratio and are lower glycemic than most others). Table sugar has a GI value of 60-65. Pure maple syrup has a GI of 54.

*Although brown rice syrup has a GI of 20, it is not recommended for diabetics, since its sweetness comes from maltose, which causes spikes in blood sugar. While the calories of brown rice syrup are similar to agave syrup, agave is almost three times as sweet, so one can use far less agave to achieve the same level of sweetness as with brown rice syrup.

Agave’s naturally-occurring fructose is an alternative for people on low-glycemic diets. Agave nectar can be purchased in any health food store. It’s less viscous than honey, so it’s easy to pour. Unlike honey, it doesn’t crystallize. It’s also sweeter than honey and sugar, so less is required—important to note when using agave in recipes.

A teaspoon of agave is 20 calories, and table sugar is 16 calories (honey has 22 calories). But since agave is 1.4 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, you don’t need as much.

Let’s take a look at the delicious frozen desserts produced with agave. Agave Dream is made with milk and cream, just like other premium ice creams, with the substitution of agave for sugar. Organic Nectars’ frozen desserts are raw vegan food.

Continue To Page 2: Agave Dream

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