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Agave nectar

You may have noticed bottles of Agave Nectar popping up on the supermarket shelves next to the honey and strawberry jam. Marketed as a healthy natural sweetener, could this be the best way to get your sugar kick?

Agave has been used for thousands of years as an ingredient in food. It was good enough for the Aztecs so it must be good enough for us, right? The taste of agave nectar is very similar to honey and it may be used to replace sugar in baking. It is also 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, which means you may need less of it to sweeten food and drink.

Advocates of agave nectar claim that the sweetener is a healthier choice for diabetics than sugar because of its relatively low glycaemic index value. The reason for this is its high concentration of fructose that does not have the same effect on blood sugar. However, it still contains the same number of carbohydrates as sugar and is so highly processed that it’s not too dissimilar to high-fructose corn syrup.

If you’re left thinking that perhaps agave nectar is more nutritious than sugar or honey, then let me put you straight. The vitamin and mineral content is essentially the same! Ultimately, whether you chose to use sugar, honey or agave nectar comes down to personal preference and cost rather than comparable health benefits.

The bottom line is, sugar is bad for health – regardless of its form. Agave nectar is still high in calories and can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay. It should therefore not be considered as a health food and its use, along with honey and sugar, should be heavily moderated. That said, there is no harm in keeping a bottle in the cupboard for the few occasions you fancy a sweet treat!