Q. Is there any health benefit when using agave nectar or syrup versus honey? The agave my husband bought has 16 grams of sugar per tablespoon; I think that is awfully high. J.J. Stover MO
A. Agave is a trendy sweetener that is being promoted as healthier than other sweeteners. It is called “natural”, but that term is meaningless when used on food labels (there is no legal definition). Natural means whatever the seller and the buyer wants it to mean.
It turns out that agave syrup is derived from an agave plant, but the plant liquid goes through a heat and enzyme treatment to turn it into syrup. Agave syrup or nectar has a varying amount of fructose (from 55 to 90 percent) depending on the process used, which makes it similar to corn syrup.
(If you’d like to read more about the pros and cons of agave syrup, check out this WebMD article.)
There are claims that agave syrup is better for your blood sugar, but you are taking a risk if you believe this claim without testing how the syrup affect your own blood sugar. Typically, checking your blood glucose two hours after starting to eat a meal or a particular food will show you how high that food has made your blood sugar climb compared to the starting value.
Bottom line: If you look at the calories and carbohydrate content of agave syrup compared to other syrups, honey, white or brown sugar, it’s a toss-up which one is better or worse for you. Calories are calories and sugars are sugars.
Remember, you never can go wrong by being moderate with whichever sweetener you choose to use.