When you decide to be on the keto diet, sugar and sweeteners are the first things that you give up. However, that is not as easy as you think. So, people find ways to make ketogenic diet natural sweeteners to satisfy their sweet tooth.
But, the keto and the low-carb diet is all about food and sweeteners that are natural. We try to avoid artificial sweeteners as much as we can.
A sweetener marketed as “natural” that is rising in popularity in recent years is agave syrup or nectar. Its golden color and sweet taste are what drew people to love it. However, if you are following a keto or a low-carb diet you need to track the carbs in everything you consume – and carbs include sugar alcohol.
So, is this tasty, sweet agave nectar keto-friendly? Can you have agave on the keto or a low-carb diet?
Keep on reading to find out everything you need to know!
What Is Agave Nectar?
Agave nectar, syrup, or maguey syrup is a natural sweetener that people make from a few types of agave plants. The most commonly used types of plants are A. tequilana and A. Americana.
Traditionally, Mexican people first started using it. They mostly used it for culinary purposes, but also as a folk medicine for thousands of years. Although, the most popular use for it is the creation of tequila- Mexico’s most known export. They make tequila by fermenting the juice of the agave plant.
The color of this syrup can vary from light yellow to amber and dark brown. With its colors and consistency, its taste slightly changes. However, it still has a mild, neutral flavor, and it has a thinner consistency when we compare it to honey.
People use light agave syrup to sweeten dishes and beverages that have a more delicate flavor. They use amber syrup or dishes and beverages with a stronger flavor. This type has slight caramel notes.
It is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than table sugar, so it can be used in recipes instead of sugar. It is mostly used by people who are avoiding honey-like vegans or those allergic to it.
How is agave made?
The nectar that people make both from A. tequilana and A. Americana is made the same way. The plant needs to be seven to fourteen years old to be used for syrup. They first cut all the leaves from the plant. Then they extract the sap from the core of the agave plant, called the piña.
After that, they filter the sap, and then they heat it to break down complex sugars into simple sugars and sugar alcohols. The main polysaccharide in the juice is fructan, and by heating, it breaks down to fructose. Then they concentrate the filtered sap into a syrup with a slightly thinner consistency than honey. In most cases, darker nectar is more processed.
Agave Syrup Nutrition Facts
Below, we have the nutritional information on 100 grams of agave nectar sweetener. (*)
Net Carbs in Agave
There are 76.4 grams of carbs and 0.2 gram of fiber in agave syrup per 100 gram. Therefore, agave syrup has 76.2 grams of net carbs. One table spoon of agave has 15 grams of net carbs.
Is agave syrup healthy?
The syrup that we consume today is probably different from how people in Mexico made it thousands of years ago. Since it comes from a plant, there are some health benefits that it has. However, the production process may destroy some or even all the beneficial nutrients.
The sap of this plant contains fructans, which are the beneficial fiber that is linked to improving metabolism and insulin response. However, in the process of concentrating and filtering it, they are broken into smaller sugar molecules- fructose. (*)
Agave is mostly made of fructose. Fructose comes low on the glycemic index scale. A glycemic index is a number assigned to food that compares how much they raise blood sugar in 2 hours when compared to pure glucose. The GI of pure glucose is 100 and elevates insulin and blood levels fast.
Fructose being low on the GI scale means that it does not spike blood sugar, but raises it slowly during a longer period of time. In one animal study, researchers discovered that mice that consumed agave nectar experienced less weight gain and had lower blood sugar and insulin levels than those who consumed sucrose. (*)
However, the glycemic index is not the only thing we consider when we try to see if a sweetener is healthy or not. Although fructose has a low glycemic index, this syrup has so much of it. Researchers have concluded that a diet high in fructose could increase the risk for many chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes type 2, other types of metabolic disease and contribute to a higher BMI. (*)
So, to answer the question. This type of processed syrup that is high in fructose may not be the healthiest option to go for if you want to add sweetness to your food.
Can You Eat Agave Nectar On Keto Diet?
If you look into the table of the nutritional information you can see that it mainly contains carbs. Per 100 grams of syrup, there are 310 calories, 76.4 grams of total carbs, 0.2 grams of fiber, and 76.2 grams of net carbs.
Still, you would argue that nobody uses that much agave syrup. However, even in just one tablespoon or 20 grams, there are more than 15 grams of net carbs per. That is almost all of the daily carbs of a strict ketogenic dieter. It is safe to say that this nectar is hard to incorporate into this lifestyle.
The carbs in it are fructose. While it has a low glycemic index, it can still affect blood sugar and insulin. Additionally, scientists have linked a diet high in fructose to increased risks for many diseases.
So, let’s summarize and answer the question. Can you consume agave syrup on the keto diet? The answer is NO. It is high in sugars, so it is hard to incorporate into the keto or a low-carb diet. Even consuming small amounts can potentially kick you out of ketosis. It is also highly processed. And, some manufacturers may add preservatives and other additives to their products to enhance taste and shelf life.
Even if you are on a low-carb diet and not on a strict ketogenic diet, you would still need to consume extremely small amounts if you want to stay within your carb and sugar consumption limit.
No, it is not keto-friendly.
There are 76 grams of net carbs per 100 grams of this syrup.
People make this syrup from the agave plant. Traditionally, Mexican people have used its sap to make this delicious syrup and to make the famous Mexican tequila. The process of getting the juice of the planet is the same to this day. However, now people are heating it to break down complex sugars into simple sugars and create syrup. In that process, the polysaccharide fructan is broken down into fructose. Then they concentrate the juice and make a syrup.
Fructose is what is the main component of this popular natural sweetener. Fructose is a low GI sugar, which means that it does not let the blood sugar spike, but it raises it slower over a longer period of time. Still, studies show that consuming too much can have adverse effects. Those who consume it have a higher chance to develop many chronic diseases.
Regarding consuming this sweetener on the keto diet- it is unfortunately not advised. Agave is not ketogenic, as it is mainly made of fructose which can kick you out of ketosis. It is also highly processed and some brands may add additives and preservatives to prolong shelf life. Even if you are not on a strict keto or you are on a low-carb diet, it still has too many carbs to easily include in your dishes. Keep your sugar consumption low by introducing monk fruit sweetener or other low carb sweeteners.
*image by Imagesto/depositphotos