Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Tonight I was asked about agave and admittedly while agave is a popular go to in the natural foods space I don't know much about it. Largely because I bought some agave syrup years ago and didn't like the taste and that was the end for me. Especially after discovering my love for honey.
So what is the truth about agave? Is it a healthy sugar substitute? I know I have seen some contrary opinions about it but again, since I'm not eating it I haven't paid attention. So I did a little research and here's what I found. Agave is a plant used to make tequila among others. It is also used to make a syrup that many believe to be a great alternative to sugar because of its low glucose. Low glucose sweeteners have a lower glycemic index. This means it doesn't spike your blood sugar and often recommended to diabetics as a safer alternative to sugar.
The truth is however, while it is a naturally derived sugar the problem is in the processing. The processing strips the fiber from the plant and extracts the fluid or juice. That juice is then heated and filtered and boiled down into a syrup. What's left is a syrup that is very low in glucose, but very high in fructose.
The high fructose is the problem. Now while we know fructose is also found in fruit and sounds ok, when there is no fiber present, the high fructose can be taxing for your liver. It is hard to process especially if your liver is already overtaxed and can contribute to liver and metabolic diseases.
All this made me curious to the ratio of glucose and fructose in honey. Most tests I found cited about 40% glucose to 50% Fructose or 50/50 ratio. Honey therefor will effect your blood sugar but still has a slower glycemic response than sugar.
But is it similar to agave in that it can stress the liver? The answer is no. In fact the high antibacterial and antioxidant properties in honey are shown to have a positive effect on the body by reducing liver enzymes and possibly helping to prevent liver damage.
As with all foods, eating it as close to how you find things in nature is best. Honey doesn't require any additional processing. So once again, honey is the answer and the best choice as a sweetener in my opinion. And that's the skinny on agave and honey. As always choose wisely and bee well, stay well.