Why Agave Nectar Isn't A Healthier Sugar Alternative

There are no shortages of sugar substitutes out there to choose from. Whether needing something for cooking or simply adding to your tea, those substitutes range from things like Stevia to honey, various syrups, and the especially popular agave nectar. The Los Angeles Times noted agave nectar's rise as a sugar substitute as far back as 2009, and it's not uncommon to read about its praises as a healthy sugar substitute (via Healthy Happy Life). 

Agave nectar, which comes from the same plant that's used to make mezcal and tequila, will certainly add a sugary dose of sweetness to your food or drink. It's by no means a miracle sugar substitute, though, and in some ways, could be even less healthy than plain old granulated sugar. Basically, agave nectar is high fructose corn syrup, and the dangers of that have been well documented and range from obesity to diabetes (via Healthline). 

To better understand why agave nectar isn't any healthier than high fructose corn syrup, let's look at its properties. 

Agave nectar's fructose levels are really high

Agave nectar is made by harvesting the sap from the agave plant, and that sap in its raw form does have benefits in maintaining insulin levels (via Healthline). However, it never remains in that raw form, and instead, heat and enzymes are used to make the sap into a marketable syrup that's around 85 percent fructose — which is way higher than granulated sugar. 

While agave nectar's low glucose content compared to regular sugar might not spike blood sugar levels as much, its fructose is the real danger. The British Dental Journal notes that if regularly consumed in large amounts, fructose can contribute to heart disease and insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes (via Nature). Then there's the impact of it on your oral health. Everyone knows that soda isn't good for teeth, and fructose is the culprit that leads to tooth decay. 

The Spruce Eats recommends that if you do decide to cast health advice aside and substitute agave nectar for sugar, use only 3/4 the amount of agave that you would use for regular sugar. Then again, considering its not-so-healthy attributes, skipping it altogether is probably a better option.