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Is Agave Nectar Healthier Than Sugar?

Recently I asked FitSugar readers to share their tips on how to cut down on their sugar intake, and it sparked a whole discussion in the comment section about using agave nectar. Some said it's a natural sweetener which makes it healthier than sugar, and others debated against that idea, saying it is highly processed and just as bad as high fructose corn syrup. So what's the truth?

As you can see from the chart below, they're pretty similar nutrition-wise. What you can't tell from the comparison is how the body processes and reacts to each. Agave is praised for being low on the glycemic index (GI) rating, which means it won't cause a spike in your blood sugar levels the way sugar does. High-GI foods like white sugar tend to make us feel hungry sooner since they are digested quickly. So foods made with agave nectar may keep you feeling fuller longer than foods made with the white stuff, which translates to eating less.

One tbsp sugar One tbsp. agave nectar
Calories 46 60
Total Fat 0 0
Carbs 12 16
Fiber 0 1
Sugar 12 15
Protein 0 0

But many brands of agave nectar are highly refined, containing almost 100 percent fructose, which is a higher percentage than that found in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Fructose is a sweetener known to raise triglycerides, promote belly fat, and contribute to fatty liver, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Another thing to note is that some distributors of agave nectar have been labeling HFCS as agave nectar, so the FDA recommends looking for labels that say "hydrolyzed inulin syrup," which means it's real agave.

Although both sugar and agave nectar come from plants, both are sweeteners and provide little to no nutrition value. I know it's not what you want to hear, but sweeteners like these should be used sparingly in your diet. If you're having a sugar craving, you're better off reaching for a piece of fruit since the fiber will help with digestion and satiate your hunger.

Image Source: Getty
SaraNoH SaraNoH 6 years
maybe I'll just stick to my 1 tsp of sugar in my tea than trying this..... :/
cipriana cipriana 7 years
I love agave, of course it's better than sugar :)
GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 7 years
Wait, I'm confused - this article contains information that says Agave Nectar may be just as bad, if not worse in some cases, than sugar just with some trade-off (low on the glycemic index, makes you feel fuller a little longer).... yet most of the comments are "Wow! I should try Agave Nectar!" Are we reading the same article? Did anybody else even click on the link behind 100% Fructose?
commonsense102 commonsense102 7 years
I'll stick with sugar and continue the battle of reducing my intake...
ticamorena ticamorena 7 years
for the most part, i've eliminated all added sugars to my diet, as in none in my hot or cold drinks, and if i'm craving something sweet, natural honey or raising are my go-to; however, when it comes to cooking/baking, how would you use an ingredient like agave nectar and how does it compare in taste to either sugar or honey?
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
Spectra, I used it in coffee a while ago, but I found that 1 teaspoon of agave nectar didn't make it noticeably sweeter (which is weird because if you taste agave nectar plain, it's very sweet). So then I gave up on using it because it's higher in calories than sugar and it seemed like I would have to add a lot in order to notice the taste . . . Now I use a little bit of Truvia (which I don't love the taste of, but it works in small amounts) and cinnamon, and I find that the cinnamon makes me think my coffee is sweeter than it actually is.
cnyc1a cnyc1a 8 years
I've been using this for 3 years now. I kicked the splenda habit. They also have a darker formula called Blue Agave.
fordhamgirl fordhamgirl 8 years
awesome! i'll definitely have to try this sometime.
tropicalsiren tropicalsiren 8 years
Im going to try this.
MartiniLush MartiniLush 8 years
I will definitely try this!
mem952 mem952 8 years
i've been wanting to try this for a while.... i'm trying to focus on cutting out sugar in my diet for a while but i have a super sweet tooth.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I wouldn't say agave nectar is necessarily "healthier" than sugar; just different. It's like honey; the sugar makeup is a little different, but it all gets broken down into glucose, just like sugar, HFCS, etc. The GI of the agave nectar doesn't mean a whole lot unless you're eating it plain or using it to sweeten non-caloric beverages. If you're using it in a recipe, the GI number is pretty useless. Curious...does anyone use this in coffee? If so, does it impart a weird flavor to the coffee? I've used honey in my coffee before and I really thought it tasted bizarre; does agave nectar taste like that as well?
Kimpossible Kimpossible 8 years
I get mine at Whole Foods. michiny - I can't answer your question in a technical sense but I can say that for me personally, stevia has a weird aftertaste (similar to artificial sweeteners) to me and I don't get that with the agave nectar.
ImJessica ImJessica 8 years
Fit, could you do a post about substituting agave nectar for sugar in recipes? Or maybe just a post about healthy baking substitutions?
michlny michlny 8 years
What's the benefit of using agave over Stevia?
cocoacrispie cocoacrispie 8 years
It's defintely something I'll try, but where can I get it? Whole Foods?
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