The agave keto question has been around for some time. Most people are by now well aware of the fact that sugar is bad for health. For those who want to start a ketogenic diet, consuming sugar is not recommended. Such ones may, however, have no idea whether other sweeteners marketed as alternatives are any better. Agave is one of such sweeteners that is promoted as a healthier alternative to sugar but is that really the case? What really is Agave? Can it be used on a keto diet?
Agave is a syrup derived from the Agave plant, a succulent which is found in South America and Mexico. There are actually many agave species that can be used for the extract, such as agave americana and agave tequilana.
The tequilana species produces what is known as blue agave syrup, and is not suitable for people with fructose allergies.
It is only 1.5 times sweeter than table sugar, and it is marketed as a healthy sweetener, although it contains about 60 calories. Agave syrup is classified as a natural nutritive sweetener, and it has a lower glycemic index than most other sweeteners.
To get the Agave syrup from the plant, the sap is first extracted. This sap is rich in sugar and may contain fructans which have known health benefits. Further processing of the sugary sap into a syrup leads to the breakdown of the fructans into fructose. By subjecting the sap to heat and enzymes, most of the health benefits of the Agave sweetener are destroyed.
It was once believed that the Agave plant had medicinal properties, but presently it is used as a sweetener because of its low glycemic index. Like most other sweeteners used to replace sugar, Agave is much sweeter than sucrose, and only small amounts are needed in the diet to achieve a similar level of sweetness.
Fun Fact: did you know that the best tasting tequila cocktails come from the agave plant?
Foods that Contain Agave
Agave can be purchased in supermarkets and even in online food shops. Agave nectar is commonly used as a replacement for sugar and honey in breakfast cereals. This sweetener can dissolve easily; hence, it is used in smoothies and even in cocktails.
The Agave syrup will be a suitable replacement for honey in dessert recipes and as a topping for pancakes. It is also used as a drink sweetener for beverages such as iced tea. Agave nectar may also be used for baking, but it should be emphasized that since it is sweeter than sugar, one would only need a smaller amount in meals. Other uses for Agave include candies, chocolates, jams, juices, teas, and coffee. It may also be a great choice as a seasoning.
Should Agave be Used on Keto?
One thing that makes Agave nectar superior to sugar is that it has a low glycemic index. This means that when Agave is consumed, there is no need to worry about any sudden rise or fall in blood sugar level. This is also one of the reasons why Agave is marketed as being a safe product for people with diabetes to consume.
Another one of the many agave nectar benefits come from the fructans it contains. Although most of these fructans are destroyed during the process of making the syrup, a small amount may still be present. One type of fructan called inulin may be able to reduce cravings by decreasing appetite and increasing satiety. It has also been implicated in bringing about weight loss and increasing the absorption of some nutrients.
Recall that the Agave was traditionally used for healing purposes. This healing property of Agave may be attributed to the saponins which it contains. Saponins are anti-inflammatory and can prevent the growth of microbes. It is also believed that Agave has antibacterial properties, and that is why it was traditionally used to treat wounds.
Agave is also a good source of many nutrients, including iron and calcium. Iron is required to produce healthy red blood cells that are capable of transporting oxygen around the body. Calcium is necessary to develop healthy bones and teeth. By consuming Agave in moderate quantities, the body is provided with these essential nutrients, and proper body function is maintained.
Health Risks Associated With Using Agave on Keto
While it is true that Agave has a low glycemic index, it should be noted that it also contains carbohydrates. The amount of carbohydrates in Agave is the same as is in sucrose – four grams per teaspoon. People with diabetes who aim to keep their blood sugar levels within a healthy range must consider using other naturally obtained alternatives to sugar in place of Agave.
When Agave is processed and made into a syrup, the fructans are converted into fructose. Many health experts agree that consuming fructose excessively may have negative results. Similarly, when Agave is consumed in excess, several health complications may occur. The excess fructose is converted into fat by the liver, and the excess fat may accumulate around organs due to the rise in very low-density lipoproteins.
Excessive consumption of Agave may cause a person to overeat because of the fructose level. This may result in weight gain, obesity, and insulin resistance. In fact, excessive fructose will prevent a person from reaching ketosis, and the goal of starting the keto diet will not be achieved. Liver diseases may also occur with excessive fructose consumption due to overloading.
Some studies have also said that the saponins in Agave may be beneficial but are present in very high amounts. This high level of saponin is toxic and affects the functioning of the red blood cells and may even affect reproduction. Some health experts have warned that pregnant women stay away from Agave since it is capable of inducing a miscarriage.
Healthy Agave Keto-friendly Alternatives
So many health concerns have been raised about the usefulness of Agave. Keto dieters are especially worried if Agave will be a good replacement for sugar. Due to the controversy surrounding this sweetener, it may be necessary to make use of alternatives to get the best results on the keto diet.
Some healthier options to choose from include stevia, monk fruit, and sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol. These naturally obtained sweeteners are preferred because some do not have calories or carbs, and even when these are present, they do not contribute to an increase in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Although Agave is obtained from a natural plant, the side effects that come from using Agave on the keto diet should never be sidelined. Remember that Agave syrup is high in fructose and that in excess it can be detrimental to health.
While there are many adverse side effects, this does not mean that Agave is completely unhealthy. In fact, many health benefits come from using Agave, including its low glycemic index, its ability to promote weight loss, and the nutrients it contains to keep the body functioning normally.
Again, while Agave may be popularly used in certain food products, there are also other keto-friendly alternatives that are not processed and mixed with other substances that may be harmful to health. Diabetics, in particular, should speak to a health professional before consuming Agave because it can cause a rise in blood sugar. Pregnant women who want to use Agave should also consider speaking with a doctor. It may become so challenging to make use of these sweeteners since there are always conflicting opinions, and it may come to a time when the need to limit the intake of sweet foods becomes necessary