Agave nectar may provide a pretty confusing question if you’re not familiar with what it is, and how the body processes it. Here we’ll break it down and see if it’s something your little one should eat.
We are consuming sugar and fructose at the highest rates ever seen. Obesity and diet related disease are on the rise and society is more conscious of the sweetener choices we make. One of the leading alternatives for table sugar is the agave nectar which is extracted from the same plant used to make tequila.
Can I Give My Baby Agave Nectar? Answer: Not Recommended
Agave is considered a “healthier” choice of sugar since it is generated from a plant. What health-conscious people do not know is that agave nectar purchased in your local market nowadays is also processed. That makes it no better than processed table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Since the US food and drug regulators have no given guideline as to what “natural” foods are, manufacturers can easily name their products “natural” if they want to.
What is Agave nectar?
It is a processed liquid sugar alternative that comes from the agave plant. Agave nectar has a delicate caramel flavor and is commonly substituted for maple syrup and sugar in the family home. It is also colored like maple syrup, ranging from dark amber to a light honey shade.
How is Agave Nectar Made?
Agave nectar comes from the agave plant, and the juice which is extracted is the basis for agave nectar as we know it. This juice is known as aguamiel or “honey water” to Mexican natives and has been used in its natural state for hundreds of years as a sweetener.After it has been extracted, the aguamiel goes through a centrifuge multiple times until the juice is the desired color and any impurities have been removed. In between bouts with the centrifuge it is placed into a holding tank. Once the aguamiel is the correct color, it goes into another heated centrifuge. An enzyme is added to convert the original sugars into high fructose and dextrose.
To prevent the sugars from crystallizing, the aguamiel is sent through a filter by another centrifuge pump. To achieve the consistency we are familiar with, the aguamiel is sent to an evaporator to reduce the water content and increase the sugar content of the product. This final product is what we know as agave nectar.
Fructose in Agave Nectar.
The process of manufacturing agave nectar changes the original sugar in the aguamiel. It then concentrates the sugar and evaporates the water content. The original natural sugars in the nectar have been significantly altered with the end result containing high levels of fructose. Depending on the processing, agave nectar can have between 50 – 90% fructose present.
Is Agave Sweetener a Healthier Choice?
Refined natural sweeteners such as Agave nectar cannot be considered a much healthier choice. Scientists have discovered that they are similar to table sugar, high fructose syrup, honey and other sweeteners you can find in grocery stores. Agave nectar contains very small amounts of magnesium, potassium, and calcium but they are not enough to contribute to the health of an individual.
On a study made by the Journal of Clinical Investigation, they found out that consuming fructose may be less healthy than consuming the same amount of glucose. The participants in the study gained more unhealthy visceral fats when they consume fructose. They are also more likely to develop diabetes and other heart-related diseases.
Glycemic Index of Agave
Though Agave sweeteners are similar to table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, they have the lowest glycemic index among all processed sugars in the market. Glycemic index is the measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels in a human body. While the glycemic index may be a consideration for adults and those with health conditions such as diabetes, it is not a factor in deciding whether to give agave nectar to your baby.
It is not necessary to add sweeteners to your baby’s food. Your little one will happily eat their cereal, fruit and vegetables without adding sugars or sugar alternatives to their meal. Help your child avoid obesity and other diet related illness as they age by ensuring that they start out with a processed sugar free diet.