Have you given up your honey for agave nectar yet? Because if you listen to the hype, you really should have by now.
After all, it’s the 21st century and honey is just so 1980s.
Except that – it’s not. In a head to head show down, you might be surprised.
Round One: The truth about agave nectar
Agave nectar, the new kid on the block, is all the rage these days and it comes out swinging. Agave is being heralded as an all-natural, healthy sweetener and it looks like a contender for the title.
But is it?
The sweet, syrupy liquid that ends up in your pantry starts as the “water” in the core of the blue agave plant.
- Then it’s filtered – good.
- Heated – okay.
- And processed – wait a minute.
As it turns out, agave nectar is so highly processed, it’s been compared to high fructose corn syrup! In fact some experts say it’s WORSE.
Sure, the word “nectar” makes it sound as if it comes straight out of the center of the plant into your teacup or cookie recipe, when in reality, it’s a highly processed syrup. So much for all-natural.
No points for agave.
Agave nectar better than white sugar for blood sugar spikes
Still, agave nectar is less refined than white sugar, so there is a bit of good news.
Agave nectar is low on the glycemic index, coming in at 17. For some perspective, refined white sugar has a glycemic index rating of 68, and honey only goes as low as 60.
However, the reason agave nectar has such a low number on the glycemic index is that it can have up to 90 percent fructose, and far lower levels of glucose. Which is where the problem starts.
In fact, high levels of fructose may actually cause insulin resistance, which can lead to obesity and eventually diabetes – the very thing most people are trying to avoid by cutting back on refined sugars in the first place!
Agave lands some low blows and loses two more points for unsportsmanlike behavior.
And unfortunately, we’re not done yet.
Agave builds up dangerous belly fat
Those same high levels of fructose still cause more problems. Fructose is processed in the liver. When the body has more fructose than it needs for energy, the liver doesn’t process it as efficiently. This screws up the way the liver is able to metabolize the fructose and it gets converted into fat.
While too much glucose also creates fat, it’s not the more dangerous belly fat variety.
Agave nectar has hit the canvas but is saved by the bell.
Round Two: Can honey go the distance?
First and foremost, honey actually is as unprocessed and all-natural as it’s marketed to be, so right off the mark, it’s looking like a better choice for people who want to live naturally.
Honey lands an uppercut and scores a point.
Honey leads to fewer blood sugar spikes than refined sugar
But as we mentioned earlier honey’s glycemic index is higher than agave nectar, coming in around 60. But that’s still lower than refined sugar.
Plus, because honey is 25-50 sweeter than refined sugar, you naturally use far less of it – which means fewer blood sugar spikes, too!
Honey took a hit, but came back with a one-two combo that saved the point.
Lower fructose may mean less belly fat
Plus, since it does have less fructose than agave nectar, honey is less likely to lead to the belly fat that can hurt your heart and threaten your entire cardiovascular system!
Another point for all natural honey.
Rich in disease-fighting antioxidants
Finally, not only is honey safer for your heart, thanks to antioxidant power, it protects it too! In fact, the antioxidants that occur naturally in honey have been linked to protection against heart disease and cancer.
Honey delivers the final blow.
Food Fight Results: And the winner is… Honey!
We’ll admit it – if the only thing you’re thinking about is glycemic index, then agave nectar would win this food fight.
But let’s be honest, even when you’re worried about blood sugar, there’s more than just the glycemic index to take into consideration. Especially when high levels of fructose, like you find in agave nectar, is still linked to diabetes and obesity.
Limiting any kind of added sweetener is a good idea. But if you’re going to use one and still want to live more naturally—while protecting your health for years to come—reach for the honey.
The choice is clear, even if the honey isn’t!