The Great Agave Debate: Is Agave Nectar All That Bad?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you heard it before. Sugar is the devil. But sometimes your sweet tooth just has a mind of its own. So you pick up a bottle of agave nectar because everyone, including your mom and Sarah Palin, is raving about how healthy it is. But then you start hearing some confusing rumors that it's not all it's cracked up to be. Before you send it packing, here's the lowdown.

What is agave nectar? It comes from the same cactus-like plant from which tequila is made, but it won't give you a hangover. The sap is extracted, filtered, and then heated at a low temperature, which turns it into a sugary syrup. You can find it in several varieties: light, amber, dark, and raw varieties. Light agave has the flavor of honey, while dark has a deeper flavor like maple syrup - some say the former is better because it isn't as processed.

Is It Healthy? Depending on how it is processed, agave has a lower glycemic index than most sweeteners, making it less likely to raise your blood sugar or insulin levels (and therefore suitable for diabetics). That also means you won't experience a sugar crash, or the fatigue and hunger that go along with it.

Agave Nectar vs. Honey. Aside from being plant based, agave is sweeter than honey (so you don't have to use as much), lighter in taste, thinner and therefore easier to pour. It also has a longer shelf life and will not crystallize.

So, What's the Problemo? Mainly, it is over-hyped by marketing companies, who overuse terms like "pure," "natural," and "good for you." (The number of agave products on the market more than tripled between 2003 and 2007.) While it may be easier on the body than other sweeteners, don't be fooled − it has the same amount of calories as table sugar (but you don't need to use as much). It consists primarily of fructose and partially glucose, yet often the same percentages as high-fructose corn syrup. Most agave is quite processed, so it doesn't contain the original nutrients or enzymes.

The Bottom Line. Like soy or anything sweet, agave is a-okay to have in moderation. If you can, buy it organic and raw so you know you're getting the best quality. Overall, it's not significantly healthier than other sugars, but it's a great bee-free alternative to honey.

Yummy Products with Agave

Oogavé. Natural soda sweetened with organic agave.

Coconut Bliss. A delicious non-dairy ice cream sweetened with

Pure Bars. Raw, organic food

Wholemato Organic Agave Ketchup. A sweet, healthy ketchup that rates only seven on the glycemic index.

Authored by Whitney Lauritsen for Healthy b---- Daily. For more tips like these visit