The Sugar Wars: Maple Syrup vs. Agave Nectar
Both Maple Syrup and Agave Nectar are two of the most popular alternative sweeteners on the market. At first glance, these two are the most similar in consistency and flavor but their nutritional properties and refinement processes couldn't be more different.
Maple Syrup has caramel notes along with the woodsy maple flavor that you might expect from a maple syrup product. Maple syrup can have a complex flavor with notes of vanilla, cinnamon and even hazelnut.
Agave Nectar has a bland taste making it ideal for those who don't want a large flavor difference in their recipe when choosing an alternative sweetener. Agave does have either a light or dark amber color - the darker it is the closer it tastes to honey.
The glycemic index defines foods by how quickly it causes your blood sugar to rise.
Real Maple Syrup has a glycemic index of 54. Maple syrup is defined as having a "medium" index.
Agave Nectar has a glycemic index of 30 and is defined as having a "low" index - but this is due to its high fructose concentrate. According to this article from the Huffington Post, Agave has the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener on the market. Yes, that's right, Agave Nectar beats out Table Sugar and even High Fructose Corn Syrup. Agave is a whopping 90 percent fructose, while maple syrup is about 35 percent.
Recent research has even caused Dr. Oz to publish "Agave: Why We Were Wrong" where he tells his viewers to completely remove agave from their kitchens.
While some people actively avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup which only has a fructose content of 55%, they continue to purchase Agave because of it's lower glycemic index while unknowingly consuming a product that is 90% fructose.
Real Maple Syrup is full of antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-bacterial. An article published by Livestrong.com that describes Real Maple nutrition even explains that "Researchers have also recently discovered that maple syrup is a source of phenolics, a class of antioxidants that are found in berries."
According to this study in 2009, Agave Nectar contains little to no antioxidants.
Vitamins & Minerals
Real Maple Syrup is chock-full of minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. These minerals do great work for your body including things like cell formation, maintaining healthy red blood cells, and immune support. Maple Syrup also has a number of vitamins including niacin, B5, B2, folic acid, B6, biotin and vitamin A which insist on things like energy metabolism and vision.
Agave Nectar contains trace amounts of Vitamin K, C, and E and calcium. However, it doesn't contain any minerals like iron, potassium, or zinc.
Real Maple Syrup is fairly unprocessed. The process flow is rather simple - maple farmers remove sap from trees and collect it in tanks. Then, the sap is boiled into a concentrated syrup, filtered for cleanliness and clarity, and bottled.
Agave Nectar is harvested from the inside of the Blue Agave plant - the same one that makes Tequila. The leaves of the 7-14 foot agave plant are cut off and the juice is extracted from the plant's core and then filtered. The liquid is then boiled for roughly 36 hours to concentrate the liquid into a syrup that is 90% fructose and to develop the sweetness. After the boiling process is done, the agave is filtered again and then bottled. As this Healthline.com article states, "The manufacturing process is similar to how other unhealthy sweeteners are made, such as High Fructose Corn Syrup." The more the agave is boiled and processed, the more the nutrients break down and dissolve.
Due to the similar consistencies found between the two, replacement is an easy 1:1 ratio in any recipe.
Winner: Real Maple Syrup
Real Maple wins in this head to head due to Maple Syrup's high nutritional value compared to the highly refined Agave Nectar!
Disclaimer: We are not encouraging you, the consumer, to put more sugar in your diet. Instead, we are suggesting that when you do choose sugar, choose real maple, the best alternative.
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