Medical review by Natalie Butler, R.D., L.D.
People have been asking one and the same question for some time which happens to be – “Is Agave keto-friendly?”. Currently, the majority of people understand that sugar is not good for health. It is also not recommended for people who are on a ketogenic diet. At the same time, they may not know that there are some alternatives for sugar in the market. Although they are sweet, the substitutes do not make your blood sugar go up. Most of them happen to be free of calories and carbohydrates which explains why they are perfect for a keto diet.
It is still to be taken into account that there are sweeteners that hide lots of carbs, so it is a challenge for some people to figure out which substitutes to consume and which ones should be avoided.
Agave is introduced as one of these sugar substitutes. This natural sweetener can be found in a great variety of health products. Some time ago people even believed that this sugar substitute had medical properties. These days they use it to sweeten things as its glycemic index is low. Sweeteners applied to substitute sugar tend to be significantly sweeter in comparison with sucrose. The same goes for Agave; consequently, you will need a tiny amount of the substitute to make things as sweet as they would be with sugar.
What is Agave?
Agave is nothing but a syrup received from the Agave plant. It comes from Mexico and South America. There are around 200 hundred species of this plant, and each is used for different purposes. Cantala, for example, happens to be an important source of fiber and is potential bioenergy crops. Blue Agave is utilized to produce tequila and syrup.
The plant has been used by people for centuries. The usage was a bit different in the past, though. In Mexico, for example, people utilized the Agave leaves to make nets, ropes, sleeping mats, sandals, and other things. Some of the plant`s species were eaten. They just removed the stem and roasted it.
Agave is about one and a half times sweeter than ordinary sugar. Everybody knows it as a healthy sweetener, in spite of the fact that it has about sixty calories. They classify Agave syrup as a natural sweetener which is also nutritious. Moreover, its glycemic index is much lower if comparing to the majority of other sugar substitutes.
To make this sweetener, the manufacturers cut the Agave plant and press it to receive the sugary sap. The extract contains a lot of sugar along with a healthy fiber such as fructans which are, in turn, connected with advantageous effects on insulin and metabolism. During the further process, though, which aims to make a syrup, leads to the extraction and breakdown of the fructans into fructose. This happens as they are exposed to enzymes or heat. That is how all the benefits of Agave syrup which can be beneficial for health are destroyed.
Foods that Contain Agave
These days people can buy Agave not only in stores but in online shops as well. This sweetener is usually applied as a sugar substitute in breakfast cereals. Agave can dissolve quickly, so they widely add it to cocktails and smoothies. The syrup can also be used to prepare desserts or as pancakes` topping. The manufacturers of sweetening drinks make use of this substitute too. People can apply Agave syrup for baking, but they have to remember that it is much sweeter than sugar. Hence, they are going to need only a small amount. Agave is widely used in chocolates, candies, juices, jams coffee and teas.
Macros and Carbs In Agave
A teaspoon of this sugar substitute obtains the following value:
- 25 calories;
- Six grams of carbohydrates;
- Six grams of sugars.
The same amount of sugar will include:
- 15 calories;
- Four grams of carbohydrates;
- Four grams of sugars.
As you can see, there are more carbohydrates in Agave syrup, but you will need a much smaller amount of it as the nectar is much sweeter. This explains why you need to use a significantly smaller amount of Agave syrup.
Pros and Cons of Agave
As it was mentioned above, the syrup obtains a low glycemic index. This is important because this index happens to be a measure of how quickly sugar gets into the bloodstream. A food that has a high GI can cause an increase in blood sugar levels and tend to be regarded as bad for human health.
During processing, the Agave syrup`s fructans become fructose when they expose heat on them. The glycemic index of fructose is low; consequently, it cannot increase the levels of insulin and blood sugar. This differs from glucose. For this reason, they usually claim that this sweetener is healthier.
Despite that, the consumer should keep in mind that high amounts of fructose may also deliver negative effects on health. Moreover, when the extract is exposed to heat, every potentially advantageous health effect of the plant is destroyed. As a result, we receive an unhealthy syrup which is also heavily refined.
As a matter of fact, the Agave syrup may be similar to high-fructose corn syrup. If you consume too much fructose, it can be very bad for metabolic health. This is because the liver, that is that organ of the human body, which is responsible for metabolizing big amounts of fructose, can be overloaded. As soon as it happens, the body will start turning the fructose into fat. This way, blood triglycerides levels will grow and become the reason for fatty liver disease. Moreover, insulin resistance can be caused by high levels of fructose. That is why the Agave syrup must be consumed in reasonable amounts due to it having around 85 percent of fructose.
Should Agave be Used on Keto?
In the beginning, it seems that Agave syrup is a wonderful substitute to sugar thanks to its low glycemic index. But is Agave nectar keto indeed? In fact, it is not the best option that can be used by the keto dieters. This is because there is around 85 percent of fructose in the Agave syrup. This can make the human body`s insulin sensitivity and cause metabolic syndrome. Hence, it can make it harder for the body to control blood glucose levels and this is what no keto dieter wants.
Besides, this syrup is heavily processed, so people lose out potential fiber and proteins. This can make this sugar substitute stand out among other sweeteners but thanks to the way it is produced, it does not differ much from ordinary sugar.
The manufacturers of the Agave syrup have done a great job at promoting it as low-calorie, low-carbohydrate and healthy substitute for sugar. In spite of that, the product can damage your liver which will lead to more health issues. Especially, if you consume it in high amounts.
Health Risks Associated With Using Agave on Keto
There are several health risks which are associated with the Agave syrup. The following are some of them:
- The high content of fructose. As mentioned above, this is a real hazard to your health. The content is really high, so even if you decide to consume the Agave syrup, you should be careful. There is no need to risk, so never eat too much Agave nectar.
- High in carbs. The worst thing about the Agave syrup is that it contains a lot of carbohydrates. One teaspoon of this sugar substitute contains six grams of carbs and they do not include fiber. As a matter of fact, if you ever compare the Agave syrup with regular sugar, you will see that some kinds of nectar contain more carbohydrates. This is because of extra additives which are meant to improve the sweet flavor and preserve shelf life.
- It is heavily processed, hence nutritional value is not significant. The Agave plant does not provide lots of nectar at once, so the manufacturers process and extract it heavily to receive a consumable syrup. The outcome of this is a very small nutritional value. If you use processed Agave, you do not receive many anti-inflammatory or anti-microbial properties. In fact, you will mostly receive fructose. One of the reasons why the Agave syrup does not provide the majority of its health benefits is the way it is manufactured. Due to great levels of fructose and insignificant nutritional value, it is obvious that there are many other sugar substitutes that are more helpful.
Healthy Agave Keto-friendly Alternatives:
Instead of going for the Agave syrup as a sugar substitute to stay in ketosis, people are offered a lot of other options which include the following:
- Monk Fruit. A natural sweetener received from the monk fruit happens to be from 100 to 250 times sweeter than regular sugar. In addition to that, it does not contain calories and carbohydrates. Thus, it is a good option for keto dieters.
- Sucralose. This one is not a natural sugar substitute, but it still does not include calories and carbs. This is because the human body does not digest thus sweetener. Although it can be not suitable for baking, sucralose can be successfully applied to sweeten foods and beverages by just adding the sweetener and mixing it.
- Xylitol. This is a kind of sugar alcohol that makes up only four grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon. At the same time, they do not usually regard these carbs as net carbs. This is because they do not boost blood sugar levels. Moreover, they are not digested by the human body.
- Stevia. This one is a natural sugar substitute which happens to be significantly sweeter than table sugar. At the same time, it obtains very few calories and carbohydrates. The sweetener is regarded as a healthy sugar substitute as it can be helpful in lowering the level of blood sugar.
- Erythritol. this kind of sugar substitute is almost as sweet as regular sugar. In spite of that, it is still good because it has only a part of the calories. According to the researches. The carbohydrates which are found in erythritol cannot influence the blood sugar levels like ordinary sugar impacts. This fact makes the substitute a good option for the keto dieters.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Despite the fact that the Agave syrup is derived from a natural plant, the negative effects which are due to its consumption should not be underestimated. The consumers should remember that this sugar substitute happens to be high in fructose the excess of which can be dangerous for health.
Although there are lots of side effects, it does not mean that this substitute is not healthy. The truth is that a lot of health benefits can be received from utilizing the Agave syrup. This includes the ability to induce weight reduction, low glycemic index, and nutrients which it includes.
The keto dieters should keep in mind that the Agave syrup is applied for certain kinds of food. At the same time, there are more keto-friendly sugar substitutes which can also be dangerous for health. That is why the consumers, especially diabetics, are advised to talk to a health professional before they start using the Agave syrup. Pregnant women who are willing to consume this sugar substitute should also talk to a doctor first. It can be challenging to utilize these sugar substitutes as there are always people who think differently. That is why it may be better to limit the consumption of sweet products.