What is Agave Nectar?
Agave vs. Artificial Sweeteners
Agave vs. Granular Sugars
Agave vs. Liquid Sugars
Substituting Agave Nectar for Other Sugars
Agave Nectar Recipes
Health Benefits of Agave Nectar
Agave Nectar and the Glycemic Index
Agave Nectar has been used for centuries as a flavoring, though native populations have also been aware of its health benefits and used it medicinally. The Aztecs used a mixture of agave nectar and salt as a dressing for wounds and a balm for skin infections, and agave's use as a folk remedy persists today.
Modern medical study has confirmed agave's remedial properties. Agave nectar applied to the skin has been found effective against pyogenic (pus producing) bacteria such as Staph aureus. The tradition of adding salt to the nectar has been found to further boost its anti-microbial property. Agave nectar has also been proven effective against enteric (intestinal) bacteria.
Modern Health Food
Especially in the last century, the western diet has become increasingly dominated by refined sweeteners such as granulated sugar and corn syrup. The problem with these substances is their high glycemic index and glycemic load - both measures of the relative impact that foods have on our blood sugar. Foods that raise blood sugar quickly trigger the release of the hormone insulin. Excessive releases of insulin and, more specifically, chronically high blood sugar and insulin levels are linked to Metabolic Syndrome (also called Syndrome X), which is a complex of health disorders. Associated ailments include insulin resistance and type II diabetes, abdominal weight gain and obesity, problems with blood lipids (raised triglycerides and cholesterol) and high blood pressure.
One of the most health-promoting properties of agave nectar is its favorable glycemic profile. Its sweetness comes primarily from a complex form of fructose called inulin. Fructose is the sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. The carbohydrate in agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which provides sweetness without the unpleasant "sugar rush" and unhealthful blood sugar spike caused by many other sugars. Agave nectar is a delicious natural sweetener that can be used moderately - by dieters, some diabetics, and health conscious cooks - to replace high-glycemic and refined sugars.