Forget the sugar blues. With all the goodness but none of the downsides of table sugar, agave nectar is proof positive that nature holds the key to eating well-and taking care of yourself at the same time. "Agave nectar is a very versatile sweetener that anyone can use with ease," says Ania Catalano, a natural foods chef and author of Baking with Agave Nectar. "It is one of the best, low-glycemic, whole-food sweeteners that works wonderfully as a refined-sugar substitute with no strong, distinct flavor or aftertaste."
Agave's Sweet Rewards
Made with enzyme-rich raw apples, this pie is fat-, dairy-,
egg-, sugar-, wheat-, and guilt-free. Recipe from Baking with Agave Nectar by Ania Catalano.
2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups unsweetened apple juice
¼ cup light agave nectar
4 Tbs. quick-cooking granulated tapioca
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Sliced toasted almonds, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.
- To make Crust, mix oats, applesauce, and salt in large bowl. Press into prepared pie pan, and bake 30 minutes, until lightly golden.
- To make Filling, combine apple juice, agave nectar, and tapioca in saucepan. Let sit for 5 minutes, then bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat, and cook until tapioca thickens and becomes clear. Add apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and mix well. Pour into Crust, and chill until set, about 2 hours. Sprinkle top with almonds, if using.
PER SERVING: 150 CAL; 3 G PROT; 1 G TOTAL FAT (0 G SAT FAT); 34 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 50 MG SOD; 3 G FIBER; 20 G SUGARS
The indigenous people of Mexico traditionally gathered the sweet organic juice-aguamiel-from the blue agave plant. Thanks to high levels of polyfructose, the plant yields a simple fructose and dextrose syrup, which, before bottling, is converted via an enzymatic process to something sweeter than sugar. "You need less to achieve the same level of sweetness," says Catalano, "usually ¾ cup of agave, for 1 cup of sugar." And forget pulling out the container to find a crystallized mass-with a shelf life of one year at room temperature, agave pours easily and dissolves quickly. However, Catalano cautions: "One must bake at a lower temperature when using agave, since things tend to brown quicker. Set oven temperatures 25 degrees lower to achieve optimal results."
With only 45 calories and 11 g of carbohydrates per tablespoon, agave helps those who want-or need-to slash their sugar intake. "Agave nectars are low-glycemic sweeteners, therefore producing much less dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels," says Catalano. "Health experts agree that controlling these levels is a critical component in lowering the risks for heart disease and diabetes, as well as reducing cholesterol levels and managing weight." Agave also contains minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
Agave nectar is an all-natural ticket to moist, flavorful muffins, cakes, and cookies. Many bakers believe agave yields a silkier, smoother texture to baked goods. This sweetener also works great in coffee, tea, lemonade, or other beverages, and can be added to salad dressings and barbecue sauces. Any way you look at it, agave is a win-win.
Light or Dark?
Agave nectar comes in light and dark varieties. Here's a look at both:
- Light: A mild, neutral flavor that does not change the taste of foods; ideal for sweetening coffee, tea, fruit smoothies, etc.
- Dark/Amber: Compared to maple syrup and caramel; great for baking.
Did You Know?
You can substitute agave nectar for honey or maple syrup in most recipes, depending on your preference: Replace each cup of honey or maple syrup with 1 cup of agave nectar.