Tuesday, 8 March 2011

AGAVE NECTAR: My favorite sweetener!

I LOVE sweets. It is obvious. Chocolate chip cookies to angel food cake to strawberry gelato...I crave it. In fact, sugar is the only food we are naturally crave. Daily, I need a little "sweetness" in my life.

The basic sweeteners I use:
-White refined sugar: Sucrose, from cane or beet. It is used to add any type of sweet flavoring to an item.
-Brown sugar: Sucrose plus molasses. Light brown sugar will contain less molasses than dark brown sugar. It adds more of a "deeper" sweetness than white sugar.

My favorite sweetener: agave nectar!

What is agave nectar?
It is a LIQUID sweetener from Mexico, made from several spieces of agave. It is primary made up of glucose and fructose. It is vegan, thus used in many vegan baked goods! (FYI: During the refining process, some sucrose is processed with animal bone char. It is not actually in the sugar, but used process. Some may consider white sugar non-vegan.) Agave nectar comes in light, amber, dark, and raw varities. I like the amber and dark agaves because they have a deeper and more complex flavor.

Can I subsitute it for white or brown sugar in recipes?
Agave is about 1.5x sweeter than refined sugar. You can use slightly less agave for sugars always. (For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup sugar, you can use 3/4 cup agave.) Remember, since agave has a different composition than white sugar, the final product may be slightly different than normal. You can always sub agave for honey is recipes.

I heard gave has a "low G.I. index number." What does that mean?
The "G.I Index" is the "Low Gylcemic" Index. The "low G.I." diet is slowly spreading its way to the USA because it focuses on healthy foods, gluten-free carbs, and lots of fresh produce. The "G.I. index" was created in the 90's by two Canadian scientist. Thus, you will see many G.I. recipes in the metric system.
When a food is "bad" or unhealthy, it will have a high number. When a food is healthy, it will have a low number.
Low GI Foods: 55 and under
Medium GI Foods: 56-69
High GI Foods: 70 and above.
Agave nectar has a GI number, between 10-19 (depending on the brand)
White sugar has a GI number of 30-40.

Why is it healthier?
Agave is better than white sugar because it won't give you the sugar "rush" refined sugar does since it is natural and low GI. If you are trying to add better foods to your diet, cut out white sugar and add agave in replace.

What are other ways I can use agave?
Straight out of the bottle! Use it instead of maple syrup over pancakes and waffles. Sweetened your iced or hot tea with it, too. Or my favorite: drizzle some over a piece of whole wheat toast and sprinkle with cinnamon! Yum!

Why not try agave? It is becoming more and more popular and common. Find it at your natural health store (like Whole foods) or in the organic food section of your local grocery store!
Happy Baking!

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