Agave: Nutritional Facts and Health Benefits

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Western diet comprises of sweeteners. Most sweeteners however, comprise of a high level of glucose. The rise of glucose level triggers excessive release of insulin. High sugar level together with excess insulin is linked to causing metabolic syndrome. It also leads to fatal rise of blood sugar in people with diabetics. However, agave nectar sweetener provides a solution to this problem as it has a lower level of glycemic level. Lately, healthy food has been attracting a lot of interest. Too much attention has been directed to fixing up our diet. With increased number of patients being diagnosed with diabetes, cancer and heart diseases, this is indeed necessary. Thus, there have been concerns on how healthy agave nectar really is.

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Agave nectar or rather agave syrup, is a natural sweetener which is extracted from agave. It is sweeter than honey though it is less viscous. Mexico and South Africa are the main producing countries. However, other countries such as South Western U.S, and Northern Part of South America.

 

The Agave plant

Agave plants are usually succulent with thick, fleshy leaves that end in a sharp terminal at the spine. The best part about planting your own agave plants is that they do not require to be watered constantly as they can survive on very little water. This is mainly because they are mostly found in hot and dry areas.

They grow slowly and only blossom once each year. After the development of the fruit, the original plant dies and suckers that can be found at the root of the new plant develop and grow to become the new plant. There are several advantages you can gain from planting several agave plants in your yard.

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Advantage

The first and most obvious benefit of the agave plant is the fact that there are a lot of fruits to be enjoyed. During the flowering season, you can enjoy several edible flowers. The stalks during summer are also as sweet as sugar cane. You may also enjoy eating the leaves during spring and winter when they are filled with sap. With the right procedure, you may extract your own agave syrup.  You can also collect agua miel which is a sweet liquid collected when the plant is close to bearing flowers. Once you ferment this liquid you have a great juice rich in provitamin A, and vitamins B2, B1, D, K and C.

 

Disadvantage

It contains more fructose than glucose. Agaves main advantage is that it has less glucose. However this nectar has a high level of fructose which is not good either. Too much fructose in the body makes one insulin resistant and thereby increasing triglyceride levels, hence a risk factor to the heart.

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Insulin resistance can greatly contribute to long term blood sugars and type 2 diabetes. High fructose level also raise incidence of diabetes type 2, due to insulin resistance and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Generally fructose increase, overloads the liver as it tries to convert it to fat. Unfortunately the end particles are shaped out as VLDL and raises blood triglycerides. Some of the fat clogs the liver leading to fatty liver disease. Large consumption of fructose increases small, dense LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and oxidized LDL which greatly contributes to belly fat.

 

Production

Agave is primarily extracted from agave Americana and agave Tequila. There are two processes used in the extraction of agave honey:

The leaves are cut from the agave plant which is 7-14 years, from its core the juice is extracted. It is filtered and then heated to convert complex sugars into simple sugars that is fructose and some glucose. The juice which is filtered is then dissolved in syrup liquid which is somewhat thinner than honey. Depending on the amount of processing, agave syrup varies from light, dark or amber.

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The other method used to extract agave syrup involves, cutting off a stalk that normally grow on the plant as it develops. This exposes the liquid at the midsection of the plant where the hole is. This sap is then collected and heated in order to break the complex sugars into the desired simple sugars. Alternatively the conversion of complex sugars to simple sugars in United States industries is done using enzymes. The enzyme, Aspergillus niger is the fungus deployed in industrial fermentation.

 

Uses

Since agave nectar is sweeter than honey and sugar, it is often used as their substitutes in recipes. For example, it is mainly used by vegans as a honey alternative. Since agave nectar dissolves quite fast, it is commonly used in iced tea as a sweetener. It can also act as a binding agent in most cereals eaten for breakfast. Frequently, people who consume green tea prefer to use it as a sweetener to make the tea taste much better. It can also be used as a substitute for sugar when baking. This helps make foods tastier and a lot healthier. With a glucose level of 32, this sweetener has a low sugar level than most sweeteners used today.

Agave syrup uses varies with how they come. The light agave is mild and has a neutral flavor hence it is commonly used in beverages and delicate-tasting dishes. Amber agave nectar has a light flavor thus used in strong flavored dishes. The stronger caramel notes of the dark agave syrup makes it to be commonly used to impart a unique flavor to dishes such as poultry, desserts and meat and sea dishes deep yellow and dark agave nectar are often time used  as French toasts toppings, pancakes and waffles. Raw agave syrup has a moderate and neutral taste. Since it is manufactured at temperatures below 48 degrees Celsius, it contains most of the natural occurring enzymes hence considered suitable additive for uncooked foodist.

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Health Benefits

Agave syrup has numerous health benefits to the body

  1. It is rich in calcium

Calcium is very important for our body, it aids in strengthening the bones. In most cases we get calcium from milk and yoghurt, however agave nectar now presents us with an interesting alternative. Part from strengthening the bones, calcium helps in regulating blood pressure, prevents PMS and maintaining healthy body weight. Recent studies show that calcium also prevents development of certain cancers. This is why it is important to consume lots of calcium. Luckily, this succulent nectar provides a great way of getting more of it.

  1. It has low calories level

We are all watching our calories intake levels. The problem that arises is that the sweeter a food is the more calories it contains. However agave nectar as sweet as it is,  is much lower in calories.

  1. It is organic

To be healthier, organic food and drinks is the only way to go. This days, not all foods even fruit and vegetables are labeled organic. This is because somewhere in the production line chemical contamination has occurred. It is true to say that agave nectar is natural as it comes from natural desert vegetation. Therefore, the natural sweetener, agave nectar, found in supermarkets is 100% natural with no chemical contamination. Agave nectar is a natural sweetener which is unrefined and free from additives.

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  1. Glycemic index level

Due to its low glycemic levels, diabetes patients are advised to use it in place of sugar and honey. Glycemic index measures the effect of carbohydrates in foods to your system. Diabetes is a condition where you have too much high blood sugar. However diabetics are not advised to cut their glucose intake level but rather to reduce on the intake. Therefore, it will be helpful for a diabetic patient to swap sugar and reach for a healthier and more natural alternative, for example the agave nectar. Due to its lower glycemic level, agave nectar is a better choice for the diabetic. Although agave nectar is rich in a form of simple sugars called fructose, this form of sugars does not massively influence the blood sugar levels. Take advantage of the low glycemic levels in sugar by replacing sugar with agave syrup.

  1. It is healthier than sugar

The truth is agave syrup is sweeter than sugar. This may leave you wondering why it is termed as healthier than sugar. The sweeter tooth we have the more sugar we put in our beverage. Since agave nectar is sweeter than honey, we end up putting less of it in the beverages. This leads to lower calories intake hence agave nectar is very healthy.

  1. It contains saponins and fructans

Recent studies show that agave nectar contains saponins and fructans, which have anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties such as, antimicrobial capability. Infect Aztecs used agave nectars in wound treatment due to its antibacterial properties. Since fructans are not destroyed in the stomach they are a cure to colon diseases such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.

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  1. High inulin fiber content

There are numerous health benefits attached to inulin type of fiber or fructan. According to studies, inulin aids in weight loss due to its low impact on blood sugar. Since it is a fiber it gives satiety resulting in low appetite hence, helping in weight loss. Inulin also lowers cholesterol thus, heart diseases are put at bay. It aids in absorption of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and isoflavones.

  1. It helps in cancer prevention

In addition to high calcium level which helps in prevention of cancer, agave nectar has less sugar. Sugars usually make the defense system to shut for several hours while at the same time stimulating cancer development. Since agave nectar contains less sugar, the risk of cancer is lowered.

 

Conclusion

Agave nectar is a sweetener made from the plant that is used in the making of tequila. It is an ideal sweetener from being a natural sweetener to aiding in weight loss to even healing wounds. It has numerous health benefits that under lie to them not having a high sugar level. It goes above all sweeteners by being lower in sugar content, and also containing calcium which helps in preventing cancer and strengthening of the bones. However, just as everything good has its negatives; agave syrup has a high level of fructose which contributes to it being a health hazard. For instance, it can lead to obesity, insulin resistance and fatty liver diseases if consumed in excess. However, agave’s negative influence should not overcome its health benefits, sweetness and versatility. If interested in losing weight or are diabetic the right sweetener is agave nectar.

 

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