Is Agave Nectar Really a Healthier Option?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Agave syrup has become a popular natural sweetener especially by vegans as a honey alternative. More and more people are becoming drawn to it because of the claims that it is "diabetic friendly" because of the low glycemic impact.

Here is some information that may help you see beyond the marketing hype as we debunk the agave myth.

Sugars from table sugar to honey contain a combination of fructose and glucose. Table sugar is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose while HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. When it comes to agave nectar, it is 90 percent fructose.

The Blue Agave is found in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico and is widely used to make tequila. To make agave nectar, the Blue Agave plant grows for 7 – 10 years and then sap, with its high carbohydrate content, is extracted from the core of the plant. The sap is filtered and heated at low temperatures to break down the carbohydrates into sugars, which results in a product that is approximately 90 percent fructose. The high fructose content is where the problems come in if we are consuming too much of this "natural" sweetener.

Both glucose and fructose have the same chemical formula (C6H12O6) but the atoms in fructose are arranged slightly differently. This slight difference requires the liver to convert fructose to glucose if it is going to be used as energy. Because glucose and fructose are metabolized differently, fructose isn't converted unless it is needed for energy so in many cases the body ends up converting the fructose to body fat.

When high levels of synthesized fructose are consumed it creates not only an increased risk of weight gain but also that the weight gained will be around the abdominal area. There is also a correlation with increases in blood triglyceride levels, heart disease, and insulin resistance. Another caution for pregnant women who consume large amounts of agave nectar is the presence of saponins. This steroid derivative has been linked to diarrhea and vomiting as well as some cases of miscarriage so it is important for pregnant women to limit intake of agave nectar.

The Bottom Line

Agave nectar provides a lower glycemic sweetener option that is suitable for vegans. Since agave is a highly concentrated sugar whether more "natural" or not, it should only be consumed in moderation.

Do you use agave nectar instead of honey or other sweeteners? Were you aware of its high fructose content and the health concerns it carries?

Photo Source: (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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CECELW 5/8/2021
I never really thought about it. I've seen it in the store, I just never bought it Report
PATRICIAAK 3/14/2021
:) Report
Thanks Report
Good info. Report
Thanks for sharing this information. Report
Some times trying to put a drop or two in your drinks can help you drink & enjoy it more gradually. Report
I have tried Agave, but really didn't like it. I prefer real sugar in much smaller amounts. Report
I learned the hard way I'm allergic to agave... agave nectar, agave syrup, etc., as well as tequila. Thankfully I don't like the taste anyway. Report
kind of funny tasting Report
Love the Agave nectar Report
Excellent Report
Interesting. Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
I tend to only use sugar in baking so not very often. I did get a small squeezie bottle to find out what it's like but personally I prefer to use the darker less refined raw sugars or honey as I think they taste better. Agave just seems to add sweetness and nothing more. To me it's all refined sugar and should be used very sparingly. Report
I have been debating about using this product. Now, I know more about it. Report
I bought a bottle while back. It had low glycemic printed on the bottle. I used it in place of honey or sugar. Which really isn't often. I'll just use it up for now. But save myself the money next time. Report
I've always been suspicious of agave nectar--too much hype. Report
Glad I didn't like the flavor...because that fructose amount would have wrecked havoc with my Gout! I'll stick to just a bit of honey or sugar in my tea! Report
I avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague, and I noticed I did not have good reaction to the agave. I was not entirely surprised to learn later, after my reaction and researching it, that it was actually higher in fructose than the HFCS! So these days it's stevia, raw local honey, or unprocessed sugar. Report
My husband is deathly allergic to agave, and I know others who are. There is a minor protein in the agave plant that can be an allergen. If you have any problems with tequila, you probably have a problem with agave nectar too. Be careful!

Also, agave has about the same caloric range as high fructose corn syrup, and the reason it's so popular right now is as it's a replacement for that. If you avoid HFCS, try avoiding agave too. Simple cane sugar is lower-calorie and less-refined than agave is (yes, even when it's bleached white -- agave takes a LOT of processing!). Report
I haven't read all the comments here but I do know that Agave affects the liver and when you are losing weight it can stop you cold. Not a good choice for weight loss. I was very disappointed when I learned this too! Thought I had finally found something... just use sparingly is all I can say about this. Report
I use agave because I discovered a couple of years ago that I'm extremely sensitive to sugars of all kinds. I used to think it was only aspartame, but turns out regular sugar gives me headaches and migraines as well. I was/am aware that all sweeteners should be used carefully and in small amounts, and I only have about half a teaspoon on a normal day (in my coffee).

The other benefit of agave for me is that it doesn't cause cravings for sweets and sweet things like sugar did. Report
I bought some Agave nectar thinking it was a better option, but the calorie amounts are very similar to regular sugar and while GI is important to me, not so much for baked goods (which is where I would use agave) simply because if I'm going to eat a baked product I'm going to accept that it's not likely to be healthy for me haha. Report
This was very helpful to me. I will now be monitoring my high fructose intake Report
Wow-every time I find something new I read a report about the cons of it. I am going to gleam the good in the article and continue to use (in moderation) what I like. Glad to know the info. Spark On! Report
At the risk of being repetitious, let me say that a small amount of any natural sweetener, including agave syrup is not going to hurt you or make you get fat. No one compared the amount of fructose in a teaspoon of agave syrup to the amount of fructose in a large juicy peach or a bunch of grapes. Wouldn't that be interesting? Someone did say sugar is sugar is sugar. A couple of years ago, it was corn syrup that was 'the enemy." Now it's agave. let's just agree that refined sugar, honey, agave are ok in small quantities. Artificial sweeteners are never okay. Everytime the chemists introduce a new one, it takes years for the bad effects to surface. It's withdrawn fromt he market and a new one replaces it. Come on people, learn to drink your coffee and tea straight, and give up the baked goods that you shouldn't be eating anyway. Then this dilemma becomes a moot point. Report
You forgot to mention that because agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, you use less. Also, when I consume sugar, it triggers carb cravings. However, when I use agave nectar instead, I do not get those carb cravings. So, thanks for the info, but I will continue to use agave nectar. It's a good alternative to artificial sweeteners, which I despise for their chemical aftertaste - and I've tried them all. I've even tried 2 different types of stevia products, and I can taste that chemical flavor with them. Report
I prefer honey and Sugar in the Raw. First, I've heard about issue with Agave. Good to know. Report
I have used Agave in the past, & still have some on hand for the occasional time I want something sweet in my tea, as I don't like the taste of honey. I also use stevia, it does have a bit of a green taste, but if what you're adding it to has a strong enough flavour you can't really taste it. Report
I bought a botle of Agave Nector yesterday since I'd heard what a great sugar sub it was and I'm always looking for little changes that make a big difference. I didn't really love the taste and after reading the nutritional info I decided that maybe I'd stick to regular sugar for the few times I use sweetener! Report
It's pretty funny that I came across this article today- I just tried Organic Blue Agave Nectar for the first time this morning in my tea and I didn't love it. I have not used regualr sugar in years and have been a splenda user for a long time. As I embark on a new lifestyle of trying to lose weight and get healthier I found for the first time ever I am more concerned with the processed foods and unnatural ingrediants I have been consuming for years. I will not use Splenda anymore- I do not liek Stevias aftertaste and I really do not want to use the Agave Nectar now that I read this. So, for baking and for other recipes that call for sugar I am going to use natural raw sugar. As for my tea (gave up coffee, years ago). I found that drinking flaovred teas is the answer for me- they are naturally sweet and flavorful so they don't require extra sweetner or milk. Report
Wow, I did not know this about Agave Necter. I use this as well as organic raw sugar. I agree with one of the posters that moderation is key. Report
I use Stevia. I don't have an issue with the taste/after taste. Unless you are a Diabetic, sugar is sugar in my opinion. Report
I use the old products the new one's has just as many negatives or worse.. In the least I don't feel ill using the old and tried.. The food gets too sweet to eat and has to be thrown away.. The new sugar alcohols wreck intestine fuction and make them lazy.. As long as my blood tests return 100% super no one will convince me the new stuff is any safer than the old..
I use what my husband diabetes diatitian suggested and last half my body weight and kept it off.. I will not be sucked into the new crap..
I also don't confuse natural with healthy in light of the issue with high fructose is serious.. Report
I like agave nectar for its lower GI as I watch my sugars as well (pre diabetic) I have not tried the stevia but I am willing to. I thought Splenda was the answer, but now I don't use to much of that, with all the hype. I do bake with it once in awhile, as well as Agave Nectar. Report
I usually eat my Fage greek yogurt plain, but tonight decided to add a little agave that I saw at Costco and thought I would try after hearing about it on SP. Now I'm eating my new concoction as I read the article and thinking - as good as it tastes, I probably best go back to plain yogurt again! Thanks for the info. Report
I don't use HONEY, since I read that most all of what is sold in America comes from CHINA and it has pesticides since they have so much pollution there. I don't use Agave as it is just another sugar and so I don't use it, either. Report
I use agave nectar because I don't like honey and rarely use it anyway. I don't have a problem with guzzling it so used in moderation is fine for me. Report
I just love Blue Agave Nectar. Therefore I don't keep any in the house because I lose control. I learned to take my tea and coffee black a long time ago and now I cannot stand it with cream or any sweetener. Report
I think the lesson here is to be informed and make the choice that is best for your body. Certainly anyone with liver problems should not consume agave. And people who are obese and have a lot of abdominal fat may do well to use honey and not agave. No one sweetener fits all cases. Thank you SP for providing this informative article. I have had agave before, never bought it myself, and I will stick with honey for occassional use. As for the artificial ones - I have heard they increase carb cravings and cravings for sweets - so again - I will stick with honey for a natural choice. But every person and every situation is unique - I think SP was just trying to inform so that people don't hear rumors that this is so good for the body and then some innocent person just trying to make some healthy changes finds themselves with fatty liver disease due to over consumption of something they assumed was a better choice. Report
Well, yeah, don't overdo any sugar. I don't think anyone is going hog wild consuming agave nectar because it's natural. Common sense. But there are times that you will use sugar and I happen to really like RAW agave nectar. When I want liquid sweetener, this fits the bill. It doesn't come from animals, isn't refined through charred animal bones like sugar, and really does have a nice taste. I even use it in place of maple syrup on waffles. Report
I just heard about Agave. I thought that it was a nectar like a fruit nectar. I am so confused. I like my coffee, tea and hot cereal sweet and am looking for an alternative to sugar. Yes, Knowledge is power but at this point I am just confused and frustrated. Report
I had tried stevia, but didn't care for the aftertaste. I found KAL stevia available at health food stores & online has NO aftertaste at all. I can't tell any difference from sugar. I'm not sure how it reacts in cooking tho. I only use it for coffee. Report
It's interesting to see there can be so many opinions about what seems a simple issue. Moderation is key for all sweeteners, and I agree that the less processed, the better. Chemical processing=bad in most cases. Raw, local honey is soooo good in tea. However, I've found that as I use less sweetener my taste for sweets has decreased (except chocolate!). Perhaps the goal should be to decrease sweetener use of any kind, except for special occasions, and grow to love the natural tastes in food. Great thread! Report
Sugar is sugar and we don't need it even in moderation. Like "raw organic" sugar (or agave in this instance) is sooo much better? It suppresses the immune system. Has anyone comparison checked their blood glucose? My bg raises quite a bit. Never understood the claims it's "low glycemic" as it wasn't the case for me.

I learned to not depend on sweet taste; salt? Another matter. :P Report
A lot of useful information in both the article and the comments. Thanks for all the info! I use Agave only to sweeten my tea, and possibly my oatmeal as I don't notice an aftertaste with it as I do with Stevia. Report
....... agave is the only sweetener I use, and I use it in EVERYTHING. This is the most useful article I've read in a LOOOONG time. Thank you. Report
I use agave nectar but only occasionally. I was not aware of the information this blog presents and I'm glad to know it. I will continue to use agave nectar in the limited ways I do now. Report
For COOLMAMA11: You can find Stevia in the organic section of Publix. You can also find it at and other places online that have reasonable shipping. As for the topic, I don't know too much about Agave except for what I have read. --- Agave syrup comes from the agave plant and is also a great sweetener alternative to sugar. It contains 90% fructose (the type of sugar naturally occurring in fruits) and is much lower on the glycemic index than sugar. It is also much sweeter than sugar, so less can be used to achieve the same desired sweetness. Agave syrup still contains calories and is classified as a carbohydrate. 1 TBSP (or 3 tsps) of agave syrup is equivalent to 1 carb serving. As with any sweetener, moderation is key. Report
I use both dark lite agave as substitutes for sugar in baking and instead of maple syrup. I wasn't aware of the impact of its high fructose content and will re-evaluate. Report