Agaves come in many sizes and colors — well over 100 species. Due to the Blue Agave’s high carbohydrate content (which results in a high percentage of fructose in the final nectar), Blue Agave is the preferred species for producing nectar. Though there are other species used to produce agave nectars, such as the Maguey Agave, the premium nectars are produced from 100% Weber Blue Agave.
All of Blue Green Organics products are made from hand-harvested certified organic premium Weber Blue Agave, which is organically grown and sustainably farmed, and contains no chemicals, enzymes, or additives.
It can be a challenge for even experienced cooks to substitute artificial sweeteners for sugars without compromising food quality or palatability. Artificial sweeteners may be suitable for reducing the caloric content and glycemic index of dishes, but they lose their usefulness in many other culinary applications where a sugar is needed for more than its ability to sweeten.
In many regards, agave nectar bridges the gap between real and artificial sweeteners. While it has all the useful properties of real sugars, its lower glycemic index helps protect against health risks associated with higher glycemic sweeteners.
Agave nectar can be used in many more applications than artificial sweeteners, while also producing more palatable results. Since it is composed of real sugars (fructose and glucose), agave nectar performs admirably in the kitchen and bakery. It matches refined sugars in all the qualities mentioned above, serving as a browning agent, a humectant, a softener, and a preservative.
Agave nectar is most easily used as a substitute for liquid sugars, since it is already in liquid form and the difference in moisture will usually be negligible. Because of its lower glycemic index, it makes an excellent substitute for many natural and refined liquid sugars, including: honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup and corn syrup.
When the agave has grown to 7-10 years old, the leaves of the plant are cut off, revealing the core of the plant (called “piña”). When harvested, the piña resembles a giant pineapple and can weigh in at 50 to 150 pounds. To make the agave nectar, sap is extracted from the piña, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars. Lighter and darker varieties of agave nectar are made from the same plants. Because of the low temperatures used in processing many varieties (under 118°F) raw foods enthusiasts generally regard agave nectar as a raw food.
Modern medical studies have confirmed agave’s remedial properties. Agave nectar applied to the skin has been found effective against pyogenic (pus-producing) bacteria such as Staph aureus. The tradition of adding salt to the nectar has been found to further boost its anti-microbial property. Agave nectar has also been proven effective against enteric (intestinal) bacteria.
Agave may be used as a substitute for part or all of the sugars or liquid sweeteners in many recipes. Drinks, salad dressings, sauces and many desserts are among the easiest substitutions. More experimentation may be necessary when substituting for sugars in recipes containing precise chemistry – for example, cooked candies and some baked goods.
Similarly, recipes for baked goods containing white sugar may be too sensitive to changes in the moisture level of ingredients. If replacing all the sugar in a recipe (while reducing liquids) does not produce good results, try replacing only half the sugar with agave nectar.
The taste of agave nectar is comparable, though not identical, to honey. Many people who do not like the taste of honey find agave a more palatable choice. It also has none of the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners. Though some purveyors offer a half dozen varieties of agave nectar based on different plant varieties and varied preparation methods, most brands offer two types: a light and a dark. The lighter syrups undergo less heating and a more thorough filtration to produce a more mildly flavored product that is neutral enough to be used in many culinary applications. The darker syrups are filtered less, and the solids left in the syrup make for a stronger nectar with a flavor sometimes compared to maple syrup.
Though agave nectar is more calorie-dense than brown or white sugar, it is about 40% sweeter, so the amount of agave can be reduced. It may take some adjustment of recipes to substitute agave nectar for granulated sugars, but it’s much easier than using an artificial sweetener to substitute for sugar. Artificial sweeteners provide sweetness, but few of the functional properties of real sugars. Agave provides the same variety of functions (including browning, moisture retention, softening and food preservation) as processed sugars.
Foods with few to no carbohydrates, like meats, cheeses and fats, will likely result in a glycemic index close to zero. The fewer easily-digested sugars and starches a food contains, the less likely it is to create a spike in blood sugar. Dietary fiber, while classified as a carbohydrate, passes through the system undigested, so it has no impact on blood sugar. In fact, fiber works to help slow the absorption of digestible carbohydrates.
Agave nectar ranks low on the glycemic index scale, has a low glycemic load, and is the perfect substitute of other sweeteners.