Just because you’ve adopted a vegan diet and lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to cast aside your sweet cravings. In the health and fitness world, the quintessential buzzwords for alternative sweeteners are maple sugar, monk fruit, stevia, and agave. Notice that white sugar and honey aren’t on this list, but agave is – so what is agave? And is it vegan?
What Is Agave?
If you are a tequila connoisseur, chances are you’re already familiar with agave. For centuries, the indigenous people of South America have used this spiny succulent plant for food, drinks, and even medicine. Food historians believe that it wasn’t until the Spanish explorers reached the South American shores that agave nectar was turned into an alcoholic drink called: tequila.
In the early 17th century, tequila began mass production and has been an iconic staple of liquor cabinets ever since. To be officially recognized as tequila, the drink must be manufactured by the Mexican blue agave plant.
Agave closely resembles its similar cousin – aloe vera. Both are slightly spiny plants that grown in a mound of thick, pointed leaves. When you cut into the thin skin of an agave leaf, it is filled with gel-like nectar, like aloe.
Some people claim that agave nectar is sweeter than white sugar and tastes a little like honey, although it isn’t as thick. The leaves of this beneficial desert plant are also delicious to eat raw, cooked, or dried. Speaking of raw – we even used agave in our healthy 5 ingredient vegan raw apple pie recipe! There are also some tremendous health benefits of agave.
Health Benefits of Agave
White sugar has negligible nutritional value and has been shown to have terrible health consequences. By switching to agave nectar, you’ll have a sweetener that’s kinder to nature and to your body. Both the plant and its nectar provide numerous vitamins and minerals.
Many dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, are significant sources of plant-based calcium like agave. Your body requires calcium to build and maintain healthy teeth and bones.
Many dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, are significant sources of plant-based calcium. Your body requires calcium to build and maintain healthy teeth and bones.
Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough calcium in their diets. Insufficient calcium intake can lead to osteoporosis and brittle bone disease, especially in women. When vegans fortify their diets with plenty of these delicious veggies and agave, they don’t need to rely on animal-based dairy food for calcium. Fortunately – agave is packed with calcium and can be a great supplement to your diet.
Anti Inflammatory in Agave
Did you know that agave nectar has anti-inflammatory properties? Some of the agave plant’s natural components may help reduce inflammation, which may minimize the symptoms of inflammatory disorders.
When your body is sick or injured, it channels a rush of blood to the area to fight it with antibodies and white blood cells. As a result, the area becomes swollen and inflamed. Chronic inflammation can cause a multitude of diseases, such as arthritis, gastrointestinal conditions, and certain cancers. Your body can have internal inflammation without you being aware of it. Add some agave to your vegan diet to help fight inflammation.
Antioxidants in Agave
The many cells in your body must battle invading microbes, but they must also fight against free radicals, a by-product of oxidation. When your lungs replenish oxygen in your bloodstream, it carries this vital gas throughout your system. Free radicals are produced when the oxygen atoms split and leave orphan electrons that search for other atoms to bond.
As free radicals try to bond with other cells in your body, it causes cell damage, leading to sickness, disease, and premature aging. Fortunately the antioxidants in food like agave nectar can destroy these rogue free radicals, and leave your body happier and healthier.
Does Agave Nectar Have a High Glycemic Index?
Not all foods or natural sweeteners are created equal when it comes to affecting your blood sugar levels. Scientists measure these levels on a scale called the glycemic index. Foods high on this index include starchy foods like grains and bread and fruit like bananas and grapes. White sugar and honey will also drive up your blood sugar levels.
To be considered a low glycemic food, it must measure within the range of 1-55. Medium levels are from 56-69, while 70 and above are considered high. White sugar measures between 50-84 and agave nectar is a mere 17. If you have diabetes or you’re searching for the best tasting sweetener with a low glycemic index, you may consider agave nectar.
Is Agave Nectar Vegan?
Yes, agave nectar is vegan. Because agave nectar is completely plant-based and has no ties to animal products, it is considered vegan. However, be sure that the agave nectar you buy is labeled 100 percent pure and organic. As part of your kinder lifestyle, only buy agave and other products that are also labeled fair-trade and responsibly sourced – the environment will thank you!