Friday, September 11, 2009
A Natural Low Glycemic Index Sweetener
I have been doing some research lately on a natural sweetener called Agave. The Blue Agave is a type of cactus and is actually the same one used to make tequila. Agave is usually referred to as a syrup or nectar and can be found in the health food aisle of your local grocery store. It is an organic product, which is a very nice plus, although it is not considered to be a raw product due to the heating process of production contrary to its raw labeling. Agave comes in two types, light and dark. The light is generally used for baking or sweetening drinks and the dark, which has a rich, deep caramel like taste, is good for savories. Agave has a thick consistency and is fairly viscous and sticky. It has a very intense sweet taste with no aftertaste, is highly soluble and can be easily dissolved into either cold or hot liquids.
What is interesting about Agave is that it is an 11 on the Glycemic Index, which is low and tests have shown that it does not usually spike blood sugar. This is because Agave is comprised of about 90% fructose and 10% glucose. The fructose in Agave is an inulin, which is a naturally occurring polysaccharides and is easily digested in the body like a starch. Because the inulin is not broken down into simple sugars in the body it does not elevate blood sugar. This is not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup, which is completely different and can easily spike blood glucose levels. Agave does however contain carbohydrates and they must be taken into consideration and counted as any other carbohydrate would be. There are 16 grams of carbohydrate and 60 calories per tablespoon of Agave.
Now, I am not talking about using this as a replacement sweetener in your morning cup of coffee or tea, although you certainly could, but rather as a valuable ingredient for cooking and baking. Agave is unaffected by heat as many sugar substitute products are and can be substituted in any recipe. It is thick and can even replace sweeteners like Karo syrup, molasses or honey in a recipe. There are certain adjustments that have to be made when baking with Agave though. First, the oven temperature must be reduced by 25' from what is called for in your recipe as Agave can easily burn. Next, because Agave is a liquid you must reduce the amount of other liquids in your recipe. Finally, due to its intense sweetness you must also reduce the volume of Agave replacing the sugar by about 25% or more. Agave is intensely sweet and clean tasting with no discernible aftertaste. I have also read that if you do use Splenda in baking and combine both Agave and Splenda instead, you will negate the aftertaste that Splenda can often leave.
Well, the experiments have officially begun and of course my first choice was reinventing chocolate. I am very close to a final product akin to milk chocolate and will let you know just as soon as it is ready. It hopefully will be an excellent replacement for baking chocolate cookies, brownies and cakes as well as making frosting and ice cream and it may even be used for dipping fruit. The possibilities with Agave are endless and I can't wait to explore what can be done with it for the upcoming holiday season. I think I can see pecan, pumpkin and apple pies in the future, not to mention candied sweet potatoes!
Thanks for visiting and I will have more delicious lunch and dinner recipes posted shortly. I have received good feedback about my articles on low carbohydrate foods that I have found and will make this a continuing part of the blog. Visit often and remember, eat, live and enjoy life!