Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Kalyn's Kitchen Picks: Agave Nectar

Agave NectarIt's been a long time since I discovered a new product that rocked my world in the way agave nectar has done, so it seemed like a natural to be featured for Kalyn's Kitchen Picks, where I tell you about products I love. If you've somehow missed me raving about it, agave nectar is a 100% natural sweetener that's low on the glycemic index. It's South Beach Diet friendly, vegan, and reported to be safe for diabetics as well.   (Edit 2011:  I am told that not all sources agree that this is safe for diabetics; if you're diabetic, I would recommend following the advice of your doctor.)

The sweet taste in agave nectar comes from natural fructose, the same sweetener found in fruit, not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup which has chemically produced fructose.  In recent years concerns have arisen concerning chemically produced agave nectar.  I still believe the brand mentioned in this post is safe for most people, particuarly in the small amounts in which I use it.  You may want to read Agave Myth Buster and Is Agave Nectar Safe, both of which speak specifically to this brand.  Also food expert Ellie Krieger says moderate amounts of agave nectar are not harmful.

Agave nectar comes in two types, light and amber. The light variety tastes like sugar and the amber one tastes more like honey. I've tried both types and think they both taste great, with no aftertaste or "too sweet" taste like some artificial sweeteners have. Agave is sweeter than sugar or honey and also more liquid, so recipes will need to be adjusted, but more and more food bloggers are reporting good results substituting this ingredient in recipes. Agave nectar is available online if you can't find it where you live, although I think it's pretty widely available. In Salt Lake I can find it at Whole Foods as well as my regular grocery store. Keep reading to see ways I've used agave nectar, and recipes from other bloggers who are using it.

South Beach Suggestions:
I looked up fructose in The South Beach Diet Good Fats, Good Carbs Guide, my favorite little book to check ingredients, and it's considered "good." However since fructose is found in fruit, and fruit isn't allowed on phase one, I'd limit use of agave nectar to phase two and three. Agave does have carbs, and a small amount of glucose, so it needs to be counted in the daily amount of carbs you're eating if you're a South Beach Dieter, especially for phase two.

Recipes where I've Used Agave Nectar:
Greek Yogurt with Agave Nectar and Pecans
Sweet and Sour Broccoli Salad
Sugar-Free Coleslaw with Agave Nectar
Greek Yogurt Dessert with Hazelnut Agave Nectar and Shaved Dark Chocolate 
Agave-Sweetened 100% Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread 
Roasted Carrots with Agave-Balsamic Glaze 
Low-Sugar Double Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

More About Agave Nectar on the Web
The Awesome Agave from Shake off the Sugar
I write about Agave at Blogher (and recipe links)
About Agave from Friends of Animals
Agave Nectar from Wikipedia

More Bloggers Cooking with Agave Nectar:
(Recipes from other blogs may or may not be South Beach Diet friendly, check ingredients.)
Oil and Agave Dressing for Salad from A Veggie Venture
Cranberry Orange Muffins from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Vegan Coconut Bars from Karina's Kitchen
Grilled Chicken and Pepper Tamales from Eddybles
Kiwi Gelato from Coconut and Lime
Three ways to use agave nectar from Nika's Culinaria
Gluten-Free, Sugar Free Hamantaschen by Gluten Free Bay
Agave Sweetened Ice Cream from David Lebovitz
counter customizable free hit

24 comments:

  1. This is good stuff! But thanks for the reminder - I just forwarded the link to everyone I know with diabetes.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for this post! I've just got to get some of this and try it out, especially if I can get it with the consistency of honey!

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm gonna head out today to see if I can find some of this stuff. I finally picked up Heidi's cookbook (Super Natural Cooking) when I was in New York and I was reading a section about agave nectar yesterday. I also remember you had mentioned in Chicago that it's good on yogurt (I am off to search your blog to find that particular post now). Thanks for more great information!

    ReplyDelete
  4. i dicovered tis recently and add it to everything.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have never tried using Agave Nectar. I will look for it at Wild Oats. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey we have that out here! Tequila is made exclusively out of blue agave and a popular drink is a tequila shot with a prickly pear fruit chaser.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for the link to my muffins, Kalyn!

    Like most vegans, I've been using agave nectar for years as a honey substitute. Recently our local natural food store has started carrying the raw agave (tastes even better than the regular) in bulk, so now I can refill my agave bottle rather than recycling it. It is MUCH cheaper to buy it in bulk, so it's really worth it to look around and see if it's available in your area.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Alanna, thanks. It would be a great alternative for those folks, used in moderation.

    Dianne, it's not quite as thick as honey, but the taste of the amber type is very similar.

    Nicole, interesting. I'll have to look for Heidi's book. I really love the flavor of it.

    Bee, it's good isn't it!

    Maria, I think you'll like it.

    Kelly, I've been reading about how tequila is made from that plant!

    Susan, you're welcome for the link and thanks for the tip about buying it in bulk. I'll have to check on that.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This sounds wonderful! I'm so glad it's available online so I can get some here. Thanks for letting us know. It's always exciting having something new to try.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm an agave fan, too. Especially since I discovered I am allergic to the sweetener stevia [in the aster family!].

    I love that it has no funny aftertaste.

    xoxo

    Karina

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've been seeing this pop up a few times now. Thanks for the great info, I'll have to pick some up!

    ReplyDelete
  12. thanks for the idea!
    have a lot of diabetic relatives.
    this might be a good alternative.

    ReplyDelete
  13. How cool- my husband is a diabetic, and frankly I have never heard of this! Thanks for the tip Kalyn!

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is great news. I've been looking for a substitute for honey with my hot tea.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi there! I love your blog. In the interest of "lively debate" though, I was curious about your comment that high fructose corn syrup is chemically produced. I'm reading Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, and by his investigation, it seems that this is naturally occurring fructose, though it is artificially extracted. Also, I've been reading a bit on how fructose is not actually good for you. This link http://www.living-foods.com/articles/agave.html
    seems to suggest that it's not. Just some things to consider.

    I am interested in the agave, but I first would like to know if it's just another miracle product with negative effects in the long-term. Thanks for introducing me to it, though!

    ReplyDelete
  16. P.S. For an even more in-depth discussion of the health hazards of a diet high in fructose, see

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Jen,
    Lively discussion is always welcome. I personally think Agave nectar is healthy in the amounts I'm using it. It's not something I've researched extensively by any means, but I think when I said "chemically produced" I was referring to the same process he's calling "artificially extracted."
    Regarding the Wikipedia entry, I'n not advocating a diet "high in fructose." This is a product I use for only a few things, and personally I'm sold on it.

    I also think you can find things on the web to support any point of view you want to take, so everyone has to make up their own mind about these things. Thanks for weighing in.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I just discovered this amazing product and love it - We just used it in a dip that we submitted to Noble Pigs "Ho" Down and it was amazing - At my store they only had the light version now that I know there are 2 different ones out there I will keep my eyes open.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I've recently started using Agave Nectar instead of Maple Syrup. The cost of "real" Maple Syrup is so astronomical (even at Costco) compared to the cost of Agave bought in bulk at Sunflower Market, it's a no-brainer. My husband and son didn't really notice a difference although the Agave doesn't have that maple flavor.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Kalyn, I am wondering if you can use agave nectar as a substitute for sugar in jams, jellies, preserves. I have not run across any recipes for that yet. Seems to me that should not be a problem. Any suggestions?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Cheryl, I can't think of any reason why it wouldn't work, and I just entered "jam with agave nectar" into Food Blog Search and I see there are some food bloggers trying it. That would be a good place to look for recipes.

    ReplyDelete
  22. After you open the Agave Nectar, must you store it in the refrigerator or is a kitchen cupboard ok?

    Thanks for all your great information!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Agave doesn't need to be refrigerated. Glad you're enjoying the blog.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for joining the conversation! I love hearing from readers and even though I can't always reply to every comment, I will always answer specific questions on a recipe as soon as possible.

Comments don't appear on the blog until they're approved by me, so no need to try again if you don't see it! Feel free make your signature a link to your site if you're a blogger, but links posted within the body of the comment will never be published.

Blogging tips