Here is the agave nectar question posted on Dr. Weil’s website:
Is Agave Nectar Any Good? Have you ever used agave nectar instead of honey? I recently discovered it in our health food store. It has a lower glycemic index than honey and works just as well. I have used it in place of honey in your recipes.
And this is Dr. Weil’s reply:
Agave (pronounced ‘uh-GAH-vay’) nectar is produced from several species of agave, desert plants native to the Americas, known as “maguey” in Mexico. (The blue maguey is used to make both tequila and mescal.) Not surprisingly, agave is an important crop in Mexico. Just before they send up their huge flower stalks, these plants store a lot of energy in their cores in the form of a sweet-tasting carbohydrate called inulin. Agave nectar is produced by expressing the juice from the agave core, then filtering and heating it and treating it with enzymes to convert the inulin to sugars.
As you’ve noted, agave nectar is a natural sweetener that ranks relatively low on the glycemic load scale. It is sold in health food stores and online and has been growing in popularity in recent years. Although it provides as many calories as sucrose (table sugar), it is sweeter, so you can use less of it – say one-quarter of a cup to substitute for one cup of sugar in recipes. I like the taste of agave nectar and have started using it in my kitchen, as well as trying products that contain it.
A 2006 review of the scientific literature on agave published in HerbClip™, on the Web site of the American Botanical Council, concluded that it is safe to use agave in the amounts usually found in foods and beverages, but the reviewers cautioned that pregnant women should avoid it because some species (more than 200 have been identified) contain anordin and dinordin, steroids with contraceptive effects that could lead to miscarriage. I think this is a very low risk. I am more concerned about the sustainability of agave as a food source, because demand may soon exceed supply.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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