Sugar makes everything taste better but it’s not necessarily good for your health. Its high glycemic index may cause your glucose levels to spike, causing you to get hungrier more quickly. It's also damaging our teeth on top of that.
That’s why people are on the lookout for healthier alternatives to sugar and blue agave (agave tequilana) looks very promising.
What is blue agave?
When referring to blue agave, we actually mean the nectar of the blue agave plant. Also known as tequila agave, it’s a big succulent plant that’s at home in Mexico. And yes, it’s the same plant that tequila is made from.
The sap is harvested and then boiled down to create the so-called miel de tequila (or tequila honey in Spanish). In fact, blue agave could more accurately be called agave syrup.
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Blue agave nectar has the big benefit of having a low glycemic index (GI). Because it contains fructose, it doesn’t cause the sugar levels in your blood to spike the way glucose in sugar does.
Moreover, it doesn’t crystallize and has a very long shelf life.
This is why people who are looking for healthier alternatives to sugar turn to agave nectar. But then, the question remains: How to use it?
Rule of thumb
Since agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, you’ll have to adapt your recipes accordingly. Use 2/3 cup of agave nectar for every cup of sugar to achieve the same level of sweetness.
The second thing to pay attention to is the amount of liquid in a recipe, especially when it comes to cakes. Because sugar achieves other things than just sweetness, it can be hard to balance it out with other ingredients.
But with agave, it’s not that hard, and there are two ways to achieve the same texture of the cake as with sugar. You can either subtract the amount of liquids in a recipe (since sugar is solid and agave syrup is a liquid) by ¼ cup. Alternatively, you can add the same amount of flour to the recipe.
For cakes and cookies, you’ll only replace a part of the sugar with agave syrup so that your amazing chocolate chip cookies will taste so good that no one would notice that they don’t even contain sugar.
How to bake with agave syrup?
On top of slightly changing the proportions of the ingredients, remember to make other tweaks to your favorite cookies or cake recipes. Reduce your temperature by 50F for baking because agave nectar burns at lower temperatures than sugar does. Also, bake for a few minutes longer.
Agave syrup is also better for one kind of recipe than others - best for chewy goodies such as brownies or flapjacks.
Is blue agave really better?
But with all the benefits of agave syrup, there are some things to keep in mind.
Because of its high fructose content, blue agave is metabolized differently than table sugar, which is a mix of glucose and fructose. Of course, fruit also contains fructose but your body can handle that. While this means that your blood sugar levels won’t spike so much, but it can also put some unnecessary strain for your liver.
Moreover, large amounts of agave consumption can cause type-2 diabetes and increase your cholesterol levels.
That being said, you'd have to consume large quantities of fructose to see the effect.
In other words, while the healthiest way is not to eat sugar (or very little of it), it’s perfectly fine to satisfy your craving for a sweet treat once in a while.
And why not try blue agave while you’re at it?
Olga Mecking is a writer and translator living in the Netherlands. She writes about food, wellness, lifestyle, travel, and other topics.