TALK TO ME TUESDAYS- WHAT IS AGAVE NECTAR?
Welcome to this edition of Talk to Me Tuesdays! Today's question is, "What is Agave Nectar?" This sweetener has steadily grown in popularity and I recently got asked about it, so let's take a closer look!
Sometimes referred to as agave syrup, it is most often produced from the Blue Agaves cultivated in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico. Agaves are large, spikey plants that resemble cactus or yuccas in both form and habitat.
HOW IT'S MADE:
When the agave is 7-10 years old, the leaves are cut off, revealing the core of the plant,called "pina". The pina resembles a giant pineapple and can weigh in at 50 to 150 pounds.
To prepare agave nectar, sap is extracted from the pina, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, breaking down the carbohydrates into sugars. Lighter and darker varieties of agave nectar are made from the same plants. The taste of agave nectar is similiar, but not the same as honey. Those who do not like honey find agave a more palatable choice. Agave nectar is said to be 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar. Agave nectars can be found in light, amber, dark, and raw varieties.
Now that you have a little background on this sweetener, I want to delve a little further into it as it compares to regular sugar. Recently, there has been a lot of chatter about this nectar not being the best to use healthwise.
On ehow.com, Jennifer D. Melville uncovers some interesting information:
The Weston A. Price Foundation sent a press release in 2009 stating that agave nectar contains dangerously high levels of fructose, which can be hazardous to your health. It naturally contains even more synthetic fructose than dangerous high fructose corn syrup, the body is unable to use this fructose isomer for energy. The body accumulates this as body fat rather than absorbs it.
Agave nectar is not a miracle replacement for sugar and can do more harm than good. It can damage your health because of the high levels of fructose and there are few quality controls in Mexico to ensure that you're receiving a safe product. She states that the best bet is to stick with honey, a natural sweetener.
There is a lot of information out there on Agave Nectar, a lot of it you will find conflicting, just like with high fructose corn syrup. I always advise doing your own research and going with your instinct based on what you find. We all know that processed sweeteners in any form are not the best for us, so that is the main thing to keep in mind. I did post a recipe on Saturday that called for the use of Agave Nectar or brown rice syrup. You will have to make the determination on that one. I intend to keep researching sweeteners and bring this information to you to compare. Knowledge is power!
SOURCES: allaboutagave.com, ehow.com, wikipedia.org