In Praise of Agave Nectar

May 11, 2009
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Most processed foods have sugar as an ingredient. Refined processed sugars and artificial substitutes, mostly devoid of nutrients, tax the health of people and the planet. The cultivation an processing of sugar (from sugar cane and sugar beets) produce environmental impacts through the loss of natural habitats, intensive use of water, heavy use of agro-chemicals, discharge and runoff of polluted effluent and air pollution. This leads to the degradation of wildlife, soil, air and water where sugar is produced and of downstream ecosystems.

The U.S. imports more than 16% of its sugar needs – mainly from developing nations, where laws can be lax or poorly enforced when it comes to pay, injuries, child labor and hazardous pesticides. This is another situation where voting with your dollars can make a world of difference. No labeling is required for genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified organisms (GMO) ingredients. GMO high-fructose corn syrup is already in our food supply. The only way to protect yourself is buying Organic.

Choosing sweeteners derived from natural sources that are either minimally processed without unfavorable chemicals or not processed at all is a way to lessen our negative impact on the planet. Possibilities include: barley malt, date sugar, fruit juice concentrate, honey, maltose (from sprouted grains), maple syrup, molasses, rice syrup, sorghum syrup, and sucunat. Of all sweeteners, agave nectar is the only that has no shortcomings. It is easy to use, has a delicious taste and texture, and no after-effects.

Agave nectar is produced from several species of agave, desert plants native to the Americas, known as “maguey” in Mexico. Agave nectar comes in different grades, of varying color and flavor, and unlike honey, agave is 100% vegan. Light agave is more neutral and adds sweetness, but no flavor of its own. Amber and Dark agaves add sweetness with varying degrees of caramel notes. Premium “Blue Weber” agave probably tastes best. This syrupy organic sweetener can be used in a wide variety of delectable baked goodies using only a fraction of the amount of sugar needed to gain the same level of sweetness.

Due to its high fructose to glucose ratio, agave nectar is low glycemic (19-39). Compared this with honey (35-64), pure maple syrup (54), and table sugar (60-65). There is a consensus that agave is safe and suitable for most diabetics and for people with metabolic disorders, but as a sweetener should still be used in moderation. Give it a try!

© 2009 – 2015, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

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