Agave nectar is one of the most popular plant-based alternatives to honey out there today. Sweeter than honey, and, on average, 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, agave nectar also has a lower glycemic index (in other words, it raises blood glucose more slowly) than many sweeteners (source). Due to this, there have been discussions about whether or not agave nectar is safe for diabetics to consume. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics can consume agave nectar as a sweetener, however, it should be treated the same as sugar and corn syrup (source).
Agave nectar is commonly derived from the Agave Americana and Agave Tequiliana plants, the latter being the same plant used to make tequila. Agave is produced by first removing the leaves and extracting juice from the core of aged plants, then filtering, heating and concentrating the juice into a syrup-like consistency (source). In some forms of production, this sweetener can be produced with little to no heat, making it acceptable to consume in raw food diets. Agave nectar varies in color from light to dark amber, ranging from mild to strong flavors, respectively. Some varieties are even enhanced with amaretto, berry, caramel, cinnamon, hazelnut, maple and vanilla flavorings.
There has, however, been some controversy surrounding this sweetener. The production process of agave nectar is nearly identical to that of corn syrup, and the nutritional value is said to be very similar as well, with both containing glucose and fructose (source). In addition, while agave nectar does provide trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, this doesn’t mean that it should be considered healthy, as often toted. It is often a highly processed food item.
If you are an agave nectar connoisseur and can’t live without it, I suggest choosing a certified organic, unrefined variety.