just a spoonful of agave nectar…

tequilla_agave08.jpgI was talking with one of my dear friends who loves cooking, and he was looking for a sugar substitute, which reminded me of the wonders of agave nectar. I was first introduced by one of my roommates, who brought it home as a substitute for honey during those long winter months when we drank buckets of tea. Interestingly, agave nectar (or syrup), no matter what brand you buy, comes from Jalisco, Mexico, and is made (fittingly) from the agave plant.

Agave is lauded for having a low glycemic index and marketing towards diabetics. However, I personally wouldn’t drink buckets of it, rawagave23.jpgnot even diluted by tea. I found this fairly extreme article by a raw foodist, which lists the pitfalls of agave for raw food purists and and points out that you should check the label and make sure your agave syrup isn’t diluted with corn syrup, like everything else in America, including, apparently, your fingernails (best to stop biting pronto).

Still, I think agave nectar provides a great alternative to sugar, especially for sauces and stir-fry. I personally have felt a difference with agave: you don’t get the sugar high and crash, but still satisfy your sweet tooth. Agave nectar can be substituted for sugar in most recipes, with a little fiddling. It is quite a bit sweeter than sugar (at least to me) and the substitution is 1/3 cup agave nectar for every cup of sugar. You will also have to adjust the moisture in your recipe, depending on what you’re making.

I recently discovered Baby Cakes, a delicious Lower East Side Bakery that caters to people who can’t eat wheat, dairy, eggs or gluten (hallelujah, I had not had a cupcake for something like three years! Thank you, Baby Cakes) . Notably, they don’t use an ounce of refined sugar. They use (drumroll…) agave nectar! …and the result is incredible. Everyone I know who has tried it has agreedtoplogo_white.gif that it is some of the best confections they’ve had, hands down, and not just in the living without category. They’re known for their cupcakes, but I think the chocolate banana bread is slammin’.

*It would be interesting to know if there are any specific nutritional benefits to agave. Anyone?

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10 responses to “just a spoonful of agave nectar…

  1. I’m going to try it! All of my stir-fried things lately have been tasting the same, and I realized that the two things I should throw into the mix to vary it up are vinegar and some kind of sweetener. I hate the thought of refined sugar, so I’m going to give agave a shot. Thanks!

  2. It’s interesting… Just yesterday I was considering buying a product with agave in it. I had remembered having a bad reaction to it a few years back (I tend to be hypersensitive to most things). Thought maybe I’d give it another try — I liked another of this certain company’s products. Then I thought, maybe not. And coming upon this article this morning (at another blog) seems like a synchronous response from the Universe. That is, an answer, if you will, to my wondering if it was okay for me to eat. I’m taking this as a “no.”

    I think the guy in the article has some good points. Especially this one…

    ——–
    Agave Syrup and other concentrated sweeteners are addictive, so you end up trading a cooked addiction (eating candy bars or cookies) for a “raw” addiction which is not much better. Eating concentrated sweeteners makes it harder to enjoy the sweet foods we should be eating – whole fresh fruit since they don’t seem as sweet by comparison.
    ————————

    I’ve long kicked my sugar addiction per my blood sugar issues…to such a degree that the thought of eating things like birthday cake or ice cream makes me almost have a gag reaction. Seriously. The thought of something so sweet, sickeningly sweet — unnaturally sweet, ick.

    And this is coming from someone who used to crave sweets, could not eat a meal (always a huge one) without something sweet at the end of it…

    That was a lot of years ago. I never eat any type of sugar now…except for what is in fruit and the rice syrup in my almond milk…admittedly, that “milk” is my treat 🙂 But the wonderful thing is that I don’t crave it.

    In fact, I don’t crave anything, and I rarely feel “hunger pangs.” And I attribute that to eating almost no “refined” foods, and eating balanced (pro/carbs/fat) every 2 to 3 hours, which I believe to be a more normal way of eating — as opposed to gorging 2 or 3 times per day. Again, note, I never get hungry, never crave anything, have no problem maintaining my weight, feel so much more control over my body.

    Many (in denial) will say that I’m not “enjoying life” without all these sweet treats. My response to that (besides telling them to see the last statement in the previous paragraph) would be that many heroine addicts might say the same thing to me per their heroine addiction 🙂

    We invariably pay for our addictions one way or another, sooner or later. Going against Nature (overdoing, pulverizing, “refining” … or otherwise screwing with) is never a wise thing to do. The fact that we dramatically age and die long before we actually should is a testament to that.

    Peace,
    Dove

  3. Dove, thanks so much for your comment — I have also noticed a huge drop in craving sweet things since I cut out most refined sugar. I also think my appreciation for flavors has increased, which may be part of a general trend I’ve noticed that the less I have of anything (within reason) the more I love what I have.

    I think you make a great point because any diet or lifestyle change is almost impossible to maintain if it interferes with enjoying life. Experiencing cravings (especially those created by refined sugar and artificial sweetener) was a block on living an easily healthy for me for a long time. Part of the reason I’m so thrilled about my health right now is it is no longer a daily struggle.

    Thanks again!

  4. Awesome, GH 🙂 I totally agree with your “less” statement. As a former material girl (more overdoing) and now rapidly up-and-coming minimalist, it is so true. I initially resisted this process, but the Universe encouraged it strongly…and I’m so grateful for that. Life is so much “lighter” without all that crap. Now I look around my apartment almost daily thinking what can I get rid of next? 🙂 Consolidating, minimizing, paring down…it feels so good. Ya’ start to be able to really breathe again…freedom. And just like with the sugar, ya’ simply don’t want it anymore. It loses its appeal, and ya’ begin to see/experience what’s truly a rush in this amazing life 🙂

  5. I just used agave nectar for the first time the other day, per Sarah’s recommendation. I loved what I made, so here is the recipe for anyone who is interested. Thanks to Molly and her mom for introducing me to the world of…

    RED AND GREEN COLE SLAW!

    The Salad

    1 head green cabbage
    1 medium-size red onion
    1 head red cabbage
    1 cup dried cranberries

    The Dressing

    3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
    2 1/4 Tbs. agave nectar (recipe called for 3 Tbs. sugar, which I sub’d w/ agave)
    3 Tbs. vegetable oil
    1 tsp celery seed
    3/4 tsp salt

    Cut strips of cabbage to make 3 cups of each color.
    Peel and slice 1/2 of the onion into thin slices.
    Add dried cranberries to cabbages and onion in a large bowl.

    Put dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously.
    Or use a wisk.

    Dress the salad. Keeps in fridge for 3 days

  6. babycakes…so delicious. and you feel really good afterwards, too. no post-cupcake crash out.

  7. i only purchased the agave nectar because it was on sale at whole foods. i like to try one new thing a week. i’m pleasantly surprised. i really like it. now it’s just figuring out how to bake with it. i attempted it on banana bread and yeiled less than desireable results.
    i will continue to use it in my coffee and on my pancakes or waffles.

  8. I have a history of allergies [food, air borne. and medications]. I have recently been introduced to the agave nectar and love it [I’m a dibectic} Is there any know allergies to agave, if so could you let me know, by e-mail. cnforman@centex.net
    Thanks, Nell Forman

  9. Guerrilla Health

    Hi Nell — You’re going to have to ask a doctor about that one, I’m just a writer with some opinions. I have heard that agave is okay for diabetics, but I’d do some research to make sure. Good luck!

  10. My younger brother ( 27) gave up sugar (added sugar, and anything with HFCS) a little over a year ago. He was not fat by any means before, but since then he has become so trim! I asked him what exercise hes does… NONE! How many calories does he consume a day… AS MUCH AS HE WANTS! What changed? Just gave up sugars. Wow, so now I’m going to try the same thing, but its hard.

    So hearing things like this Agave nectar, might help to cut the cravings, especially if it is low on the GI.

    Thanks!

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