Agave Nectar: Not as Healthy as We Thought?

Flickr photo by kretyen
Sad news my friends: Agave nectar is not the dream sugar substitute we've been led to believe it is. In fact, it's actually higher in fructose than table sugar. I know, shocking, right? HIGHER IN FRUCTOSE THAN TABLE SUGAR! And that natural-sounding "nectar" bit? It would be more accurate to call it agave syrup. Turns out agave is just as highly processed as the dreaded HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).

Maybe you're saying, "Oh, but if it's sweeter than sugar, I'll use less of it!" Sweetie, let's talk about this.


NYU Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health Professor and author Marion Nestle breaks it down this way in her Food Politics blog:

" ... agave contains inulin, a polymer of fructose, which must be hydrolyzed (broken down by heat or enzymes) to fructose to make the sweetener. It’s a processed sweetener requiring one hydrolysis step, requiring more processing than honey and less than high fructose corn syrup. It has the same number of calories as any other sugar, about 4 per gram or 16 per teaspoon."

True, agave has a lower glycemic index than table sugar. But that only matters if you're diabetic. Otherwise, for the rest of us, sugar is sugar. And Nestle's advice for dealing with all sweeteners is very old-school and un-fun: Exercise moderation. Well, what did you expect? She's a nutritionist, not your fairy godmother.

PS: I still use agave nectar in place of simple syrup in cocktails. I figure the cocktail is already unhealthy.

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