Agave has been used as an ingredient in food for thousands of years. The Aztecs used to use the liquid from its core in order to flavor food and drinks… and the nectar from the agave plant is known in Mexico as “honey water.” Agave is commonly known for its role in making tequila.
So what actually is agave? It’s a large, spiky plant that has four edible parts, including its flowers, leaves, stalks and sap. Often found in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico, agave plants look like cactus or yuccas– but they’re actually succulents. If you find agave nectar (aka agave syrup) in your local grocery store, it probably comes from the Blue Agaves found in Mexico.
Basically, health conscious people like agave nectar because it’s a way to sweeten food and drinks. It’s extremely sweet– sweeter than table sugar, for instance– and with its thin consistency it’s soluble. It’s a vegan alternative to honey. It’s often used as a substitute for honey, sugar or maple syrup. And agave is gluten free, organic, and offers a low-glycemic value.
Keep in mind that most people don’t consume raw nectar when they buy agave at their local store. Instead, they’re getting nectar that’s processed. That said, it’s popular with many American consumers who like the unique, sweet flavor. Interestingly, because it’s so “strong,” less is more– so people use less of it, which saves on calories.
For those with diabetes, agave seems like a better option that raw sugar though research isn’t conclusive. Meanwhile, The American Heart Association recommends limiting sweeteners to no more than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men, per day, and that includes agave, as well as sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.
If you’re trying to lose weight, here’s something interesting: research on mice showed that those ingesting agave nectar versus plain sugar actually gained less weight and had lower blood sugar/insulin levels after 34 days. So, sugar found in the agave plant could conceivably aid in weight loss as well as lower a person’s blood sugar.
All in all, taken in moderation, agave nectar/syrup is a “sweet” alternative to other options. Why not try it and see if you like it?