Hi Dan, Is agave syrup really better for me than sugar?
I’m not sure when we started seeing agave syrup in every clean eating (but don’t call it clean eating because that’s not very in anymore) recipe, blog and social media account, all I remember is there was a time before agave syrup and a time after it. This naturally occurring sweetener has been touted as being able to reduce depressive symptoms to being rich in antioxidants.
Agave syrup is made from the sap of the agave plant, which you can also make tequila from. It has a lower glycaemic index than sugar, which means it takes the body longer to digest and absorb, resulting in a lower rise in blood sugar levels. This doesn’t necessarily make agave syrup healthier, but the glycaemic index can be used alongside several other indicators.
You may have heard that agave syrup is high in vitamins and other micronutrients, which is false. The plant might be high in certain nutrients but after processing to create the syrup these are mostly lost. Plus who cares when agave syrup is mostly made up of simple carbohydrates?
When I say mostly, I mean agave syrup is nearly 70 percent sugar, with the rest being mainly water. To get appreciable amounts of micronutrients from agave syrup you’d have to glug the stuff, and there are far better foods to hit your vitamin and mineral needs for the day.
This begs the question, if science can’t explain why agave syrup is perceived as a healthier sugar alternative, what can? It comes down to perceived healthfulness. More “natural” foods are seen as healthier than more “artificial” foods.
I’ve put these two words into quotation marks because sugar is no more artificial than agave syrup. On top of that, agave syrup is more expensive and with that higher cost comes the idea that it’s healthier, giving people (I’m looking at you drastically unqualified influencers) the ability to set themselves apart from others who can’t afford these foods.
Overall, agave syrup is no healthier than plain old table sugar. Treat them the same way, eat in moderation, and use whichever you prefer.
No it’s not and it’s no worse for you either. Time to explain what’s going on with this bougie honey-like substance.
Dan Clarke, RNutr
Lead sustainable nutrition executive
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