After posting about Chocolate Covered Coconut Bites, my Aunt brought to my attention the real health risks of using Agave as a sweetener, which I had already done a little research here and there, but was not truly aware of the actual risks of the so called good for you" sweetener. By reading more and more, I realize this is not as good of an option as it's been hyped up to be. Continue reading to find out more about the health risks of Agave, as well as learn about better options for a whole food and healthier way to sweeten your food.
Agave is thought to be natural, but in actuality it is processed just like any other sugar. Most agave comes from the blue agave plant as a natural "honey" and when fermented used to make tequila, but when bought has been completely processed into a nectar.
As Agave is higher in calories, about 60 per tablespoon, at the same time it is sweeter than sugar, 40 calories, so you can use less which then equates to about the same amount of calories.
Here is the real situation, agave sweetener is not necessarily healthier than sugar, honey, corn syrup, or high-fructose even because it acts similar to high-fructose. The amount of fructose ("a simple sugar that occurs naturally in fruit") ranges from 55-90% and the remaining is glucose. Although Agave does contain some nutritional benefits, it is not enough to make them matter.
Some studies have shown that consuming fructose may be less healthy than eating same amounts of glucose. As it is known that fructose causes increase an appetite leading to gaining unhealthy fat, and instead of your body processing the sugar as a glucose, but as blood fats, but doesn't increase you blood pressure to it seemed as though a better choice. However, now it is believed that it actually contributes to insulin-resistance, causing your body to to be less sensitive to insulin and making it hard to control blood sugar levels and puts you in a greater risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. [source]
Honey is a rich liquid produced from honey bees and is naturally a great alternative to table sugar. Be sure to buy raw honey (not filtered) as it gives the most nutritional value as well as safety. Some people might place the container of honey in the microwave to make it less thick, but that alters the taste as well as increases the HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) content. [source]
Raw honey contains ingredients similar to those found in fruits, which help the digestive system. Actually, when mixed with ginger and lemon juices, it can relieve nausea, as well as supply energy. "It promotes body and digestive health, is a powerful antioxidant, strengthens the immune system, eliminates allergies, and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and all types of infections. Raw honey can also stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, relieve pain, calm nerves, and it has been used to treat ulcers. Raw honey is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory and has been known to effectively treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma." [source]
Maple syrup is an amber color with a rather earthy yet sweet taste and made from the sap of black or red maple trees. Maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese and zinc. As both these are great in boosting your health, fighting against colds and admirable source is of antioxidants which help against many other diseases and acts a natural anti-age. The quality of the syrup varies by its color, taste and consistency. The lighter the color, the less intense of flavor. However, all maple syrups are labeled with a grade based by the official USDA grading system. [source]
Dates are rich in several vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, folate, vitamin B-6, and the list continues on. And benefits oneself in a number of ways, for example, weight gain, help maintain a healthy heart, intestinal disorders, and even fight against abdominal cancers. [source]
Dates can be soaked and turned into a syrup, which is considered a whole food having just one ingredient, itself. It looks similar to molasses, but less sweet than honey. It is a perfect substitute to table sugar, cooking, baking, and topping foods. [source]
Coming next week I will share a recipe on how to make your own date syrup at home! As well as other ways to use them to sweeten your food.