It has become fashionable and many naturopaths and homeopaths prescribe it recommending it as the sole sweetener, but also many people who follow a raw diet or want to follow a natural diet consume it regularly. Today we are going to know where it comes from, how it is used in our kitchen and if it really has as many benefits as we have been told so far. Agave syrup, a powerful sweetener with its lights and shadows.
Agave syrup also known as agave nectar or agave honey is the sweet vegetable juice that It is extracted from the leaves or stalks of the agave, plant that looks similar to a yucca or cactus but is actually a succulent similar to aloe vera. Native to tropical and subtropical America and the Caribbean, there are more than a hundred species of plants, but for the production of syrup, the blue agave and the agave maguey.
For its preparation, the plant is cut when it has grown between seven and ten years and the sap is extracted, this in its first extraction is called mead, and is consumed by the natives as a refreshing drink. If the sap is fermented, we obtain pulque, a traditional alcoholic drink in Mexico, but it is for a enzymatic process that breaks down carbohydrates, mainly fructans, in simple sugars and it is later filtered and concentrated when we obtain agave syrup, a liquid with a texture similar to honey.
Agave syrup is characterized by its powerful sweetening power, twice that of common sugar thanks to its composition mainly fructose in 70% and glucose in 25%, having more calories than common sugar. Considered an excellent flavor and aroma enhancer, we need to add less amount to our food to obtain the same sweet taste, so it can apparently be valued as a healthier alternative to sweeten our food than common sugar.
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But is it as healthy as they say?
Nutritionally they are quite similar but the differential characteristic with common sugar is that agave syrup has a low glycemic indexIn other words, it does not cause such a drastic increase in glucose levels as does common sugar. This having such a high glycemic index tends to make us feel hungry earlier since it is digested quickly, which is why those prepared with agave syrup make us feel full for longer, which can translate into eating less.
The truth is that agave syrup has its followers but also its detractors, as I mentioned before To obtain it, it must undergo processing with a series of chemical reactions which will determine the quality of the agave syrup, depending on how the process is, since some are so excessively processed that it ends up equating to high fructose corn syrup.
That is, there is some agave syrups so highly refined that their composition ends up being 100% fructose, so these could not be attributed the richness and benefits of fructooligosaccharides, very abundant in the plant and with prebiotic properties that help improve intestinal transit and strengthen the immune system.
These fructooligosaccharides would be modified in the transformation into syrup, simply generating fructose, with the consequent health consequences that this compound can cause, such as increased triglycerides, fatty liver, diabetes and high blood pressure among others, so a moderate and responsible consumption as with any type of carbohydrate.
How to use it in our kitchen
When cooking with a new ingredient we must take into account a series of considerations to obtain good results:
Agave syrup when baked can cause a light greasy layer or crust on top of our preparations, to avoid this the ideal is always add it to the liquids that the recipe calls for or to fats like butter, oil, or margarine, making sure to bake the preparation quickly so that the syrup stays in the mixture and doesn’t separate.
It is convenient reduce the oven temperature by about 30 degrees in relation to the baking temperature recommended by the original recipe with sugar, thus preventing the preparations from being excessively toasted.
When you bake cookies, muffins, and cupcakes, always cover your tray or mold with parchment paperThis will prevent them from sticking when unmolding them since the agave syrup is quite sticky and can make it difficult to remove the food once it is baked.
If you do not have problems with the consumption of sugar try that part of the recipe continues to carry it in a small proportion for best results. Thus, for sponge cakes, replace only half the sugar with agave and in cookies, substitute a third of the sugar for the syrup.
Adapting our recipes to use agave syrup
When we want to substitute sugar for agave nectar in our sweet preparations, we must know that this one does not behave in the same way and understand how to work with it to get good results in our sweets.
It is easy to substitute it in drinks, as a sweetener for yogurts or smoothies because dissolves easily in cold liquids But when it comes to preparing something fried or baked, the situation is a bit more complicated. And is that sugar apart from sweetening is also part of a series of important enzymatic reactions in our baked goods. So here are some tips in case you want to substitute agave for sugar in your elaborations.
Replacement with agave can be in two ways, reducing the liquid in the recipe or adding more flour. The times that I have cooked with it, it seems easier to reduce the liquid that they ask for in the ingredients and only add flour when the liquid cannot be reduced to the recipe because it is what would give personality to said preparation, as in the case of juices or liqueurs.
The most common substitution guidelines would be the following:
- Honey, is replaced by the same amount of agave syrup
- White sugarFor every 225 grams you must make these proportions, change it for 150 milliliters of syrup and subtract 60 milliliters from the liquid part that your recipe asks for.
- Brown sugarFor every 225 grams that they ask you, you must make these proportions, use 150 milliliters of agave syrup and subtract 30 milliliters of the liquid that the recipe asks for.
Making some simple rules of three we can adapt our favorite recipes to prepare them from time to time with agave syrup.
As a summary, tell you no excess sweetener is good. The ideal if there are no health problems, is to vary and consume a little of everything in small measures and not limit yourself exclusively to a single type of sweetener in order to take advantage of the benefits of each one and not saturate our body with a single product.
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