An ingredient which I have used from time to time as an alternative to honey or white sugar is agave. The main reason I would do this, is that I’ve been led to believe that it’s healthier and better for me than white sugar and is vegan with respects to honey.
However, just a day or 2 ago, someone asked me why it was healthier than sugar, and I was at a loss for words. Totally befuddled, as it was just a notion I had fixated in my head but with no real reason behind it.
My first thought was ‘it’s natural’, but in essence so is white sugar. White sugar comes from the sugar cane, what makes the stuff bad for us is that it’s highly concentrated leading us to excessive portions in relation to what we would if we ate the plant and it’s also highly treated. The same would go for agave syrup. There are no laws or regulations at present which monitor what can be labelled as ‘raw’, it is a relatively new lifestyle as far as the market is concerned. So even a lot of agave syrups or nectres that are labelled as raw, may in fact not be raw. They can get away with labelling raw if the product at some stage of it’s processing, extracting etc was raw.
I then looked at the nutritional content of white sugar, vs agave syrup. Both are entirely made of carbohydrates, and both are predominantly sugary carbohydrates. THESE (i believe) are what causes weight gain. I do believe that saturated fats are also bad for health and attribute to weight gain, but I firmly believe that sugar is the main culprit.
So what are the differences? Well agave has a much lower GI level, keeping blood sugar levels lower and can be a good solution for some diabetics to get their sugar fix. Agave is also sweeter and therefore less is needed. (eatingwell.com)
From my own experience as well, i have found that agave is less addictive. Many of us have heard or read the research papers arguing that sugar is as addictive as heroin, and i support this belief. A while ago, I decided to give up refined sugar to prove to myself I wasn’t addicted, but in fact proved to myself that I had been, and have not touched the stuff since. I had huge headaches and moodswings to begin with, as well as cravings for things I haven’t had in years (i went through a week where I just wanted to binge on mcdonalds). After a week or 2 I felt the difference in myself and my body and I now don’t crave it, but instead crave things like fruits and vegetables to nourish myself with. I can honestly say I don’t often get hungry since not having refined sugar, which is also why I believe it’s one of the main culprits to weight gain (false hunger).
As for agave, I don’t crave agave, or chocolate sweetened with agave. I will eat it and then not have a craving to eat it again, which I think is the yay towards agave.
The ‘nej’, is that it is still very similar to the white stuff, nutritionally speaking. Aside from sugary carbohydrates it has no nutritional value whatsoever. For this reason, I tend to home make date syrup (just blending dates with water), if I want to sweeten something as although high in sugar they also provide me with A LOT of potassium, calcium, iron and protein. They have also not been tampered with (refined or processed) like agave and the white sugar, and are still the way nature intended them to be. This being said, I know in some countries dates can be quite costly, and agave i think is still ok to have in moderation, and it’s a lot easier to moderate when it’s not addictive!
As a disclaimer, I should add I’m not a nutritionist, doctor, dietician etc. I have based all of this information on research and my own experiences and opinions.