Is Agave an OK Sugar Substitute?

Is Agave an OK Sugar Substitute?

Video | What is Agave? | Problem with Agave | Takeaway

Agave is a liquid sweetener extracted from a plant. It has a low glycemic index, which means it doesn’t spike your blood sugar, so why would I say it is not an acceptable sugar substitute? I explain in this blog post. 

Agave At-A-Glance

  • Agave (a.k.a. agave nectar or agave syrup) comes from the agave plant.
  • It has a low glycemic index, but is not ideal for dieters due to its high fructose content.
  • Your liver converts the majority of the fructose in agave into fat.

Is Agave an OK Sugar Substitute? [Video]

In this video, you’ll learn…

  • Whether agave is ok to use as a sugar substitute
  • How agave became popular among dieters.
  • Agave and it’s relationship to fructose.

What is Agave? 

Agave is an abbreviated name, so you might have heard of it referred to as agave nectar or agave syrup. 

This syrupy liquid is extracted from the agave plant, but not very easily.

The extraction requires heat and processing. That processing produces the sweet liquid but also kills most of the beneficial compounds from the original plant. Therefore, you are not getting a lot of nutrient value from processed agave nectar. 

What is agave syrup

Agave has a Low Glycemic Index

Despite the low nutrient value, agave has gained favor with dieters who are looking for alternatives for sugar because it has a low glycemic index. 

The glycemic index is a scale that ranks foods according to how much they impact your blood sugar.

Basically, the higher the glycemic index, the worse the food is for your waistline. A high glycemic index equals a big rise in your blood sugar, which equals a rise in insulin, putting your body in a fat-storing mode. 

Agave is Not a Dieter’s Friend

Since agave has a lower glycemic index than sugar, it should be better for dieters. Unfortunately, that is not the case because of the blend of sugars found in agave syrup. 

Most of agave’s sweetness comes from fructose, not glucose. Glucose and fructose are molecules that look very similar on paper, but your body looks at them very differently. 

Most of agave's sweetness comes from fructose.

Glucose is a primary source of energy. Virtually every cell in your body can take in glucose and burn it as fuel. That is not the case for fructose. The only organ that can metabolize fructose is the liver. 

Your liver can turn a bit of that fructose into glycogen (i.e., stored glucose), but it turns most of it into fat. That fat either stays in the liver and contributes to a fatty liver, or it is packaged up and sent out into the blood which increases blood triglycerides.

Concentrated fructose like we see in agave is not a friend to your health or your weight. 

Agave is High in Fructose

To give you an idea of the fructose content, depending on the brand, agave syrup can be as high as 90 percent fructose. In comparison, the fructose content of high fructose corn syrup is around 55 percent. 

fructose in agave syrup

In other words, agave is a more concentrated source of fructose than high fructose corn syrup, which is a sweetener that is widely recognized as a health hazard. 

Are you curious about using honey on your diet? See my post on using honey on a low carb diet.


If your goal is weight loss, my advice about using agave or other sweeteners is that you’ll be happiest with your results if you limit or avoid them. Relying on sugar substitutes makes it hard for your taste buds and brain to move away from their need for sweetness and that makes it harder to stick with your diet. 

There is life on the other side of sugar. If you need help, I encourage you to watch my free video series and learn my 0,1,2,3 strategy. The series contains four videos and over 40 minutes of content that is not available on YouTube.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!

About the Author:

Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.

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