Agave Syrup: Nutrition, Health Benefits, And Side Effects

Switch the sugar in your pantry with this healthy, plant-based sweetener.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Somi Igbene, PhD, ANutr Dr. Somi Igbene Dr. Somi IgbenePhD, ANutr facebook_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach Varsha Patnaik MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years
Edited by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health linkedin_icon Experience: 8 years
Fact-checked by , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach Payal Karnik MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 2.5 years
 • 

In the quest of leading a healthy lifestyle, a sizable section of people tend to cut or substitute sugar from their diets. Those who are looking for a substitute, often lean towards sweetening ingredients like maple syrup, honey, jaggery, and stevia. Agave syrup or agave nectar is one such ingredient that is rapidly gaining popularity as a substitute sweetener. If you’re wondering what is agave syrup, how it is made, and what are its health benefits, keep reading this article to find out.

protip_icon Know Your Ingredient: Agave Syrup

What Is It?
A thick and light or dark amber sweetener extracted from the agave plant.

What Are Its Benefits?
It may improve the symptoms of depression and the mother and fetus’ health during pregnancy.

Who Can Consume It?
Anyone can consume this except people with gastrointestinal issues and diabetes.

How Often?
You can use ⅓ to ⅔ of a cup of agave syrup daily.

Caution
Excess intake of agave may increase the risk of heart disease, weight gain, tooth decay, and liver damage.

What Is Agave Syrup?

Agave syrup is made from the agave plant, the same plant that is used to make tequila. It is made by heating the extracts of the agave plant or by using a process called hydrolysis. This syrup has a golden brown color and has a similar consistency as that of honey. Since this is a plant-based sweetener, it is considered to be vegan and gluten-free.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Pure agave syrup has a slightly smoky aftertaste. Dark agave has a prominent smokey taste, so it is used in baking. Light agave has a more subtle flavor and is used in salad dressings and beverages.

A blogger shared his experience with agave syrup as he was searching for a vegan alternative for honey. He wrote, “It’s not exactly like honey; it’s somewhat sweeter, and oddly slightly more… astringent, for lack of a better word, but I’ve grown to like it quite a bit (i).”

Check out the next section to find out the time it takes to grow a mature agave plant.

How Long Does Agave Take To Grow?

Agave plants typically take several years to reach maturity and flower. The exact time it takes for an agave plant to grow varies depending on multiple factors such as the species of agave, climate, and other growing conditions. In general, it can take anywhere from 8 to 30 years or even longer for an agave plant to mature and produce a flowering stalk.

But is agave healthy? What is it that really makes it a healthy sugar substitute? Let us explore some agave syrup nutritional facts to find out.

Nutritional Information

Nutritional values of agave syrup per 100g (1)

NameAmount
Water22.9g
Energy310kcal
Protein0.09g
Total Fat0.45g
Carbohydrates76.4g
Dietary Fiber0.2g
Glucose12.4g
Fructose55.6g
Potassium4mg
Selenium1.7μg
Folate30μg
Vitamin B60.234mg
Riboflavin0.165mg
Thiamin0.122mg

From this table, you can see that agave contains some essential minerals like potassium, seleniumi  An important trace mineral needed for proper body functioning and health. It prevents cell damage and infections, improves reproductive and thyroid functioning, and helps create DNA. , and folate that may be beneficial for your health. Find out how exactly these might be beneficial for you, in the next section.

& List Of Foods With Their GI”]

The Health Benefits Of Agave Syrup

There is limited research on the health benefits of consuming agave syrup. Some of its potential health benefits are as follows.

  • Has A Low Glycemic Index
Agave nectar lowers blood sugar levels
Image: Shutterstock

Research suggests that agave syrup is considered to have a low glycemic index as 90% of it is made up of fructosei  It is the sweetest naturally-obtained carb, commonly found in many fruits and hence known as ‘fruit sugar’. It is also found in sugar beets, sugar cane, and vegetables. (2). Fructose in moderation is considered safe and unlike glucose, it does not cause severe spikes in blood sugar levels (3). A study on mice fed with agave nectar revealed that they had lower chances of gaining weight and also had lower blood sugar and insulin levels (4). Given the limited number of studies, the low glycemic level of agave nectar is debatable and requires further research.

  • Might Help During Pregnancy
Agave nectar might help during pregnancy
Image: Shutterstock

Agave contains trace amounts of folate which is associated with improving the health of the mother and fetus during pregnancy. Studies suggest that consuming folate during pregnancy helps in the proper growth and development of the fetus. It may reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) that affect that fetus (5).

  • May Help With Mental Health Issues
Agave nectar may help with mental health issues
Image: Shutterstock

Studies suggest that folate and folic acid may benefit people with mental health issues like depression and dementia. An increase in the intake of food rich in vitamin B6 and folic acid might be able to help with some of these issues (6), (7), (8).

There is limited information available on the health benefits of agave syrup as studies are still being conducted.

protip_icon Trivia
Traditionally, agave sap was boiled to produce a sweetener known as miel de agave, which was believed to have medicinal properties.

Although agave is a plant-based natural sweetener, it does have a few potential side effects. Let us understand some of these side effects in the next section.

Risk Factors Of Agave

Agave nectar may lead to cardiovascular issues.
Image: Shutterstock

Fructose makes up nearly 90% of the composition of agave syrup and in excess amounts, this may cause a few health complications. Some research states that excess consumption of fructose may affect your metabolism and increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (9).

Another study also suggests that prolonged consumption of fructose may increase LDL cholesterol levels that are linked to an increased risk of heart diseases (10).

protip_icon Quick Tip
It is recommended that people with hereditary fructose intolerance should completely avoid agave syrup as they cannot metabolize fructose.

Having learned the potential benefits and risks of agave syrup, let us look at how this syrup is made and matches up against honey in terms of nutrition and benefits.

How Are Agave Nectar And Honey Made?

Harvesting honey.
Image: Shutterstock

Making agave syrup is a complicated process that requires industrial-grade equipment to process and refine the final product.

The steps to make agave syrup are as follows:

  1. Ripe agave plants are harvested and their leaves are chopped to extract the juice.
  2. This juice is then filtered and heated. During this process, it breaks down and releases fructose.
  3. The end product obtained is agave syrup.

Agave syrup can be made either by heating up the agave juice or by hydrolysis.

Honey on the other hand is made by bees who harvest nectar from a variety of flowers.

  1. Bees harvest nectar from flowers using an organ called a nectary.
  2. Inside the bee’s stomach, the nectar is broken down into simple sugars that don’t crystalize.
  3. It returns to its hive and deposits this in the hexagonal cells of the hive and covers it with a waxy substance called beeswax.
  4. They reduce the moisture content in the nectar by fluttering their wings. Once the moisture reduces to about  20%, it gets converted to honey.

If you had to pick between honey and agave syrup, or agave syrup and table sugar as a substitute sweetener, which one should you pick? Keep reading to find out the answer to this question.

Honey Vs. Agave Syrup

NutritionAgave Syrup (1)Honey (11)
Water22.9g17.1g
Energy310kcal304kcal
Protein0.09g0.03g
Total Fat0.45g0g
Carbohydrates76.4g82.4g
Dietary Fiber0.2g0.2g
Glucose12.4g35.8g
Fructose55.6g40.9g
Potassium4mg52mg
Selenium1.7μg0.8μg
Folate30μg2μg
Vitamin B60.234mg0.024mg
Riboflavin0.165mg0.038mg
Thiamin0.122mg0

In terms of calories per 100g, both honey and agave syrup are quite similar. However, honey contains higher levels of potassium and no fat when compared to agave syrup. Besides these nutrients, honey has proven health benefits that make it a better alternative to agave syrup.

Traditionally, honey has been used in numerous home remedies to treat wounds, gastrointestinal issues, and ulcers. It is also known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve cold and flu symptoms (12).

Next up, let us find out if and how agave nectar is better than table sugar.

Agave Nectar Vs. Table Sugar

NutritionTable Sugar (13)Table Sugar (13)
Water22.9g0.02g
Energy310kcal401kcal
Protein0.09g0g
Total Fat0.45g0.32g
Carbohydrates76.4g99.6g
Dietary Fiber0.2gNA
Glucose12.4g0g
Fructose55.6g0g
Potassium4mg2mg
Selenium1.7μgNA
Folate30μgNA
Vitamin B60.234mgNA
Riboflavin0.165mgNA
Thiamin0.122mgNA

From the table, it is quite evident that agave syrup is clearly better than table sugar. Apart from a high calorie and carbohydrate content, table sugar does not have any useful micro and macronutrients like that in agave syrup.

You can make a simple agave syrup at home in a few simple steps as mentioned below.

Easy Agave Syrup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup of water

How To Prepare

  1. Heat the agave nectar in a saucepan.
  2. Add water to thin it and keep stirring.
  3. When the texture thickens, cool it and store it in a container.

You can use this agave-based simple syrup for preparing beverages and cocktails.

In conclusion, agave syrup is made from agave plants that are commonly grown in South America. There are limited studies to suggest that some of the nutrients like folate present in agave syrup have potential health benefits. Since the majority of this syrup is made up of fructose, consuming this in large quantities and for prolonged durations may have health issues. If you are looking at a healthy alternative for sugar, you may consider agave syrup. However, in comparison to honey, agave nectar would be an inferior choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is healthier – honey or agave?

Honey is healthier than agave syrup due to its high antioxidant levels.

Is agave good for weight loss?

No. Agave is higher in calories and fructose than honey, which is why it is not good for weight loss.

Which is better for diabetics: honey or agave?

While agave has a low glycemic index, it is high in calories. Hence, honey is a better option for diabetes due to its antioxidants and high nutritional value.

How does agave syrup taste?

It has a similar taste to honey but it is more mild in flavor.

Is agave syrup safe for children to consume?

Yes, it is considered safe for children and babies both.

Key Takeaways

  • Agave syrup is rich in fructose, which does not increase blood sugar levels as rapidly as glucose.
  • However, prolonged high intake of fructose may increase diabetes and CVD risk. Hence, it is not diabetic-friendly in nature.
  • This alternative sweetener contains folate in trace amounts, which is said to improve the health of the fetus and the mother.
Agave Syrup nutritional benefits

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Agave syrup is seen to be a healthy alternative to sugar. Click on the video below to find out if it is actually as healthy as it is claimed to be!

Personal Experience: Source

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Sweetener Syrup Agave
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170277/nutrients
  2. Effect Of Moderate Intake Of Sweeteners On Metabolic Health In The Rat
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3258097/
  3. Fructose Consumption And Consequences For Glycation Plasma Triacylglycerol And Body Weight: Meta-Analyses And Meta-Regression Models Of Intervention Studies
    https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/88/5/1419/4648852?login=true
  4. Effects Of Agave Nectar Versus Sucrose On Weight Gain Adiposity Blood Glucose Insulin And Lipid Responses In Mice
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25011004/
  5. Folic Acid Supplementation and Pregnancy: More Than Just Neural Tube Defect Prevention
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3218540/
  6. Folic Acid Ageing Depression And Dementia
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC1123448/
  7. The Role Of Folic Acid In Psychiatric Disorders
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286411267_The_role_of_folic_acid_in_psychiatric_disorders
  8. Vitamin B12 Vitamin B6 Folic Acid and Psychosis: A Review
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329001451_Vitamin_B12_Vitamin_B6_Folic_Acid_and_Psychosis_A_Review
  9. Adverse Metabolic Effects Of Dietary Fructose: Results From The Recent Epidemiological Clinical And Mechanistic Studies
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23594708/
  10. How Bad Is Fructose?
    https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/86/4/895/4649668
  11. Honey
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169640/nutrients
  12. Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5424551/
  13. Sugars Granulated
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746784/nutrients
Was this article helpful?
thumbsupthumbsdown
Dr. Somi Igbene

Dr. Somi IgbenePhD, MSc (Human Nutrition), ANutr

Somi is a biomedical scientist, a registered nutritionist (ANutr), and a nutritional therapist. She helps her clients reverse prediabetes, lower Alc, maintain a healthy weight, and develop healthy eating habits for life. Somi is passionate about promoting health and wellness in the African community and has a keen interest in type 2 diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and weight management.  ...read full bio

Latest Articles