With sugar becoming an increasing problem in the world, many people have turned to other – hopefully healthier – sweeteners. Agave syrup and stevia are two of the most popular. These alternative sweeteners are frequently perceived as more natural, or less extremely processed, than table sugar and sugar substitutes. Both agave syrup and stevia are based on multistep processing methods.
Short on time? This is our pick for the best agave syrup.
Agave syrup comes through the same plant that makes tequila, the blue agave plant that grows mainly in Mexico. The core of the plant includes aguamiel, the sweet material used to make agave syrup.
While processing methods can differ, most involve enzymes, compounds and heat to convert aguamiel into agave syrup. Organic manufacturing companies use low heat and no substances. Agave syrup has a dark or light amber color and it is slightly thinner in consistency than honey.
It features 60 calories per tablespoon – compared to 48 for table sugar – but since it is about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, you may use less of it. Nutritionally, agave syrup is comparable to high fructose corn syrup.
Dependent upon processing, it can contain anyplace from 55 to 97 percent fructose. Its fructose content leads to a sweetener with a glycemic index less than plain sugar.
The truth that agave syrup does not spike your blood glucose and insulin has led several producers to market it as diabetic friendly. According to lots of experts, agave’s high fructose concentration causes it to be labeled an unhealthy sweetener.
That is because studies have linked high-fructose sweeteners to obesity, diabetes mellitus, high triglycerides, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver. Nonetheless, agave syrup should be safe in moderation.
Of all the choices on the market, this is our pick for the best agave syrup.
Short on time? This is our pick for the best stevia.
Stevia is a no calorie sweetener which is made from the leaves of the plant, Stevia rebaudiana, native to South America. Stevia leaves get their sweet flavor – about 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar – from organic compounds called steviol glycosides.
Stevia leaves and stevia extracts can be purchased as tabletop sweeteners in natural food stores. They’ve not been approved to be used as food additives in Canada, because animal studies have indicated stevia may cause genetic variations and male infertility.
Health Canada considers the accessible safety information on these items inadequate. A extremely purified stevia extract – sold under the brand name Truvia and PureVia – has been found safe and given the green light to sweeten foods in Canada, along with the U.S., including breakfast cereals, salad dressings, gum and beverages.
This purified stevia extract is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so it takes only a minuscule amount to sweeten foods. It is an extremely refined extract, which may perpetuate the desire for sweet tasting foods and drinks.
Of all the choices on the market, this is our pick for the best stevia.
Both of these alternative sweeteners should be relatively safe to use, with a slight edge going to stevia. Although remember – any sweet taste may lead you to eat too much. So – as with most things – practice moderation!
There are many options, if you are looking to get off of sugar. While there are many choices, look for products that are high in quality, non-GMO, and organic if possible.