Honey vs Agave: Which One Is Better?
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As we learn more about refined sugars and the health issues associated with them, the more we turn to natural alternatives like coconut sugar, date syrup and blackstrap molasses. These natural alternatives are very different from one another and are pretty hard to get mixed up. But when it comes to honey and agave, the two are so similar that they can be used interchangeably. We’ve put together a guide on the differences between the two and their health benefits.
Honey starts off as a flower nectar which is collected by bees. It’s then taken to the hive where it’s broken down into simple sugars by the bees and stored in the honeycomb. The shape of the honeycomb plus the vibration from the bees’ wings cause evaporation, which in turn creates liquid honey. Beekeepers then extract the honey and strain it to remove any particles.
The agave plant is a succulent native to the hot and arid regions of the Americas. The plant has large, sword-like leaves which are cut off when harvested for its syrup. The sweet sap is extracted from the agave’s core and then heated to concentrate the sugars. The end product is a sweet, golden liquid much like honey.
As far back as 2100 B.C. honey was being used for its health benefits. Its antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties are so effective that this sweet syrup is still widely used today as a natural remedy.
Honey contains many nutrients including minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. It’s particularly useful when consumed during the winter as it boosts the immune system which fights off seasonal allergies, as well as treats and soothes a sore throat.
For people with diabetes, honey is a great alternative sweetener as it controls insulin spikes and blood sugar. It has a glycemic index (GI) of 55. However, one tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories which is a little bit higher than a tablespoon of sugar.
Agave has a low glycemic index of 17, so it’s a great option which allows people to lose weight while controlling their blood sugar and insulin levels.
Agave syrup is also completely plant-based, suitable for vegans who can’t have honey. It’s also free from common allergens, making it a good option when cooking for people with food allergies. It’s also gluten-free and nut free.
In terms of calories, agave has 63 calories per tablespoon — very similar to honey. It also contains phytonutrients which have antioxidant effects.
Honey is the much healthier choice between the two. Although agave syrup has a lower glycemic index and is much healthier than table sugar, honey’s additional health benefits make it the better option. Who knew that enjoying a sweet mouthful could actually be healthy for you?
Having said that, it’s important to remember that even natural sweeteners are still sugars. Be aware of how much you’re consuming — use them in moderation.