Organic Blue Agave is a syrup (or nectar) that is all-natural and plant-derived. This sweetener is produced from organic agave plants, a native plant of the Mexicans. Many diabetes patients who want to replace table sugar may want to use agave instead. But then, some other people who do not have diabetes may want to replace sugars for other reasons. Agave nectar has its advantages but it also has downsides too. Agave plants are very succulent and they come in different varieties. If you ferment blue agave, you can make tequila. The process of making agave nectar involves the use of enzymes. The FDA affirms that this process is “generally recognized as safe”.
Agave nectar became more popular because it has a low GI (glycemic index) in comparison with other sweeteners. Can you imagine that the GI of Agave is just about 20-25? The GI of table sugar, on the other hand, is usually as high as 60-65. What does this mean? When the GI of a food is low, it means that it will raise your blood sugars very slowly. As such, people generally believe that sweeteners with lower GIs are better choices in dealing with diabetes. Is GI ranking enough to rate the healthfulness of a sweetener? How is agave sweetener made? We will talk about these in this article.
How is Organic Blue Agave Made?
It takes about 5-7 years for blue agave to grow into maturity. At maturity, this plant will stand at about 6-8 feet tall. The sweetness usually peaks at this stage. And that’s the best time to harvest it and use it for making the nectar.
The sweetness treasure of blue agave resides in the plant’s core (or what experts call the piña). Do you know the reason why they call it the piña? It looks like a pineapple when you trim the leaves away. The bluish color of the species comes from the wax present in the plant’s long leaves.
To harvest blue agave plants, farmers typically hand-cut it using simple razor-sharp blades. If the farmer is very skilled, he can trim and cut a 100-pound size of blue agave within only 5 minutes. Farmers leave the field trimmings behind on the farmland to reduce erosion and revitalize the soil.
After cutting the piñas of blue agave, farmers will take them for pressing at the mill. This is where the inulin-rich juice of the plant will be extracted and cleaned. The natural inulin of Agave is a fiber with complex carbs.
Naturally, this inulin does not have a sweet taste. But when you heat it (or hydrolyze it, as experts would say), it becomes sweet nectar. So then, producers will often heat the inulin-rich juice to about 72 degrees Celsius (or 161 degrees Fahrenheit).
This heat level is for making light agave nectars. But when making raw agave nectar, producers use lower heat and the process would be much slower. They will warm the juice slowly under low heat. The process takes nearly two times as long in duration.
When you heat inulin, it becomes sweet because it becomes fructose. Fructose is a simple sugar that metabolizes slowly. You can often find it in veggies and fruits. After heating the juice, it becomes sweet, but that’s not the end of the process.
Producers will proceed to filter the juice after hydrolysis. This filtering process determines the nectar’s color and flavor.
We have talked about two types of organic agave – the light variety and the raw variety. Light Blue Agave would enhance your food’s natural flavor. Raw Blue Agave, on the other hand, will impart a rich and complex sweetness to your food.
Whether Raw or Light, we get the same result. Your sweetener will be sweet with a low GI. This sweetener is perfect for your baking recipes, beverages, table-top use, and fresh fruit.
Is This Sweetener Indeed Healthier for Diabetes?
The reason why lots of people believe that Agave nectar is healthier is its low GI. But experts have warned that GI is not the sole determining factor of a food’s healthfulness when it comes to managing diabetes.
Come to think of it, the GI of ice cream is lower than that of watermelon. But that doesn’t mean that Ice creams are healthier than watermelons.
Experts did a study in 2014 where they had people in 4 groups with different diets. The first group ate high-carb, high-GI foods while the second group ate high-carb, low-GI foods. The other two groups ate low-carb groups with varying GI levels. One ate low-carb, high-GI foods while the other ate low-carb, low-GI foods.
For the two high-carb groups, the people who ate high-GI foods had lower insulin sensitivity and higher LDL levels than those who ate low-GI foods. But for the low-carb groups, GI ranking made no difference to the insulin sensitivity. It did not also affect their blood pressure.
The findings of this study seem to suggest that limiting your overall carbs is an important factor for managing diabetes. The twist is that Agave has more fructose (carbs) than regular sugar. But it also has a low GI.
This means that agave will increase your blood sugar levels more slowly. However, it will keep your blood sugar higher for longer. So while agave is a little better than regular sugar, it doesn’t mean it is healthy.
If you are managing diabetes, it would be better to reduce your overall sugar intake. Switching from a sugar type to another will not help much.
Agave is a better alternative to regular sugar. It is more natural and less harmful, but it has quite some downsides too. The most important downside is its fructose content. Experts say men should not eat more than 150 calories of sugar (including fructose) daily while women should eat no more than 100 calories. So you should watch your intake even if you’re using organic agave.
The process of making organic blue agave involves planting, harvesting, milling, juicing, heating, and filtering. The FDA recognizes this process to be generally safe.