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Agave vs. honey: Is one better

6-29-10 Ê** FOR JULY 7 FOOD COVER **owner Bronwyn Weaver with beehives Heritage Prairie Farm some honey being produced; The

6-29-10 Ê** FOR JULY 7 FOOD COVER **owner Bronwyn Weaver with beehives at Heritage Prairie Farm, and some of the honey being produced; The farm is maintaining the hives for Chicago chefs this summer, part of its new adopt-a-hive program.....Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Updated: February 17, 2013 6:01AM

Q. Is agave better than honey?

A. This is going to be our toughest food fight yet! Two natural sweeteners pitted against each other. Here we go:


Most agave nectar is produced from the blue agave plant grown in desert regions. The syrup is extracted from the “honey water” found at the core of the plant, filtered, heated and then processed to make it into the thicker nectar you see at the store. This makes agave a good sweetener for vegans who don’t eat honey.

Agave nectar has a dark amber color, but has a more neutral flavor than honey. One tablespoon of the sweetener has about 60 calories compared to about 45 and 60 in the same amount of granulated sugar and honey, respectively. It’s 11/2 times sweeter than sugar and so you can use less of it.

The media has hyped up agave because of its low glycemic index (GI of 17) compared with regular sugar (GI of 68) or even honey (GI between 60-74 depending on variety). This low-glycemic index has made agave a favorite among many diabetics. However, according to the American Diabetes Association, agave should be treated just like any sweetener and be consumed in limited amounts.


One tablespoon of honey has about 64 calories. The flavor of honey depends on where the bee collected its nectar. The darker the color, the more robust the flavor and the more antioxidants present. You also can find a variety of minerals like iron, copper, niacin, riboflavin, potassium and zinc.

Honey is sweeter than sugar so you don’t need as much when using it in a recipe. When substituting for granulated sugar, use lighter-colored (and milder-flavored) honey so it won’t overpower your recipe.

There’s also been some belief that eating local honey can help alleviate seasonal allergies. The theory stems from the facts that bees collect local pollen spores and that if we consume around a tablespoon a day, it could help build up immunity through gradual exposure.

This food-fight winner is honey. Agave is a bit more processed and has been over-hyped by the media and built up to be a super-sweetener, but it’s like all the others; use moderately.

Courtesy Toby Amidor

Scripps Howard

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