Agave Syrup and Diabetes: New Things to Know

Some PWDs report that they do enjoy and benefit from agave. Jeff Cohen, a type 2, shared in an online forum: “I’ve had great success with agave. I also like the appealing taste, something most other sweeteners don’t provide.” He points out that most of the warnings he’s seen were for a few particular brands of agave — Volcanic Nectar — accused of adding “fillers” like maltose, which have their own long list of ill effects. Jeff believes that “not all agave should be written off.”

Yet many others disagree. Brian Cohen, a type 2 known in the Diabetes Community for his healthy cooking skills and enthusiasm, says he’s definitely not a fan. “My understanding is that agave syrup and nectar are different, agave syrup is closer to table sugar while agave nectar can be nearly 90% fructose. I suspect that out in the real world, agave syrup would have about the same effect on blood sugars as table sugar… Personally I never buy or use anything with a high fructose content like agave syrup/nectar.”

“I have found that other sweeteners such as stevia, sugar alcohols (my favorites are Xylitol and Erythritol) or even sucralose (Splenda) can sometimes have a different, slightly bitter taste, but I don’t think it noticeably affects dishes,” he adds.

Still, one noted advantage of agave is that it is extremely concentrated, so you can use a fraction of the amount in a recipe as you would with other sweeteners.

The AADE’s Rinker agrees: “What’s most important is how much of any sweetener we are consuming.We should be limiting them to no more than 4-9 tsp per day (less than 10% of total calories). This includes agave, sugar, brown sugar, etc.”

She provides some helpful details on how PWDs should think about agave:

“Agave is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar so the idea is that a person who chooses this may be able to use less to get the desired sweetness then they would with regular sugar. If this helps a person cut back from 6 tsp to 4 tsp, for example, then this may be a great alternative. But, if a person assumes that if they choose this sweetener they can have a larger portion then that is not the case, as it will still affect blood sugar.”

“Agave nectar has 5g of carbohydrate and 15 calories per teaspoon and that is actually higher than regular sugar, which is 4g and 16 calories. Agave syrup is processed, it is higher in calories and it still contains carbohydrates and needs to be counted just like any other carbohydrate. The benefit may be that you can use less for the same desired sweetness. That may make it ‘better’ than some alternatives, but it would come down to personal preference.“

We also asked celebrity chef Sam Talbot, who lives with type 1 diabetes himself, and he tells us:

“Agave is lower GI but high in fructose, and it does have a unique taste that chefs can desire for flavor. I tend to use different natural sweeteners in my cooking — coconut sugar, honey etc. — depending on desired texture and flavor layers.”

— Update: 30-12-2022 — found an additional article The Truth About Agave Nectar and Diabetes from the website for the keyword is agave good for diabetics.

Agave nectar, also called agave syrup, is a sweetener often recommended for people with diabetes. It is made either by heating extracts of the succulent Agave salmiana plant or by breaking them down with water in a process called hydrolysis. The resulting liquid is processed with enzymes derived from a mold called Aspergillus niger.

It's easy to see why agave nectar appears to be a smart alternative to table sugar, as it's lower on the glycemic index (GI)—one indication of how a given carbohydrate is likely to affect the levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

However, this assessment isn't as cut-and-dried as it may seem. If you have diabetes, you'll want to understand how agave sugar really stacks up to sugar before working it into your diet or that of someone with the disease you care for.

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Agave Nectar vs. Table Sugar

The differences between agave nectar and table sugar are negligible when it comes to calories, carbs and total grams of sugar. They diverge in terms of type of sugar and where each ranks of the glycemic index. It is these two factors that make agave nectar a questionable alternative to sugar.


Fructose is a simple sugar (monosaccharide) found naturally in fruits and vegetables. It is relatively low on the glycemic index. However, when fructose is highly processed—as is the case with agave nectar—it can become problematic if consumed in excessive amounts.

What's more, although agave is one and a half times sweeter than table sugar—meaning you may be able to use less of it—some researchers believe it's easy to eat too much fructose as it seems to bypass the body's satiety signals. Agave contains more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, and fruit.

Glycemic Index

Foods and beverages that are low on the glycemic index, typically defined as those with a score of less than 55, are less likely than higher-ranking foods and beverages to cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

Agave's ranking of 20 to 30 certainly places it in the category of low glycemic foods. However, there is some controversy regarding the usefulness of the GI for controlling blood sugar. This is because the index doesn't account for portion sizes of foods. What's more, many of the factors that determine a food's GI score (how the food is prepared, for example, or the laboratory in which it is measured) can be inconsistent.

In other words, the fact that agave nectar is a highly processed sweetener containing a high percentage of fructose, paired with the possible inaccuracy of the Gi for determining a foods true potential affects on glucose levels, makes it a less viable alternative sweetener for people with diabetes than it appears to be at first glance.

A Word From Verywell

If you have diabetes, it is advisable to reduce your intake of all types of sugar, including agave. If you really want to use a sweetener, try honey or maple syrup, which contain beneficial vitamins and minerals, or no- or low-calorie natural alternatives, such as stevia or monk fruit.

— Update: 30-12-2022 — found an additional article Agave Syrup for Diabetics: Benefits and Alternatives from the website for the keyword is agave good for diabetics.

Is agave good for diabetics

As someone with Diabetes, the main dietary element you are trying to control is your sugar intake. While other health factors like weight gain can play a role in how well you manage your Diabetes, watching your glucose levels is a daily battle.

Just because your sugar content has to be restricted does not mean you can never have something sweet again. The name of the game is moderation and knowing what foods to choose or avoid is crucial in managing your Diabetes.

One health trend we are seeing in the industry is the growing use of Agave syrup. Agave syrup is a natural sweetener that is cruelty-free and a great substitute for honey, sugar, and other sweeteners. While many are flocking to Agave syrup because of its subtle and unique flavors while also being vegan, people with Diabetes may want to approach it with caution. Let us break down what Agave is and how you should use this sweetener, if at all.

What is the Agave Plant?

Is agave good for diabetics

The agave plant is grown in deserts mainly in the South of the U.S. and throughout Latin America.

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Agave has been a staple in indigenous cultures throughout Latin America, especially in Mexico, for hundreds if not, thousands of years. The agave plant is believed to have been used for its medicinal properties as well as the basis for alcoholic drinks like Mezcal and Tequila. Along with these other uses, a common use for agave has always been to boil down its sap to create a syrup.

While agave has a long cultural history of being used in cooking and medical practices, experts say the modern-day processing and refining practices can strip the health benefits from the original plant. This leads many to believe that not all the hype is well-earned.

How is Agave Syrup Made?

Is agave good for diabetics

While some brands try to get away from the sugary label by calling agave syrup, “Agave Nectar”, make no mistake, this is a syrup. To make agave syrup, the plant is first cut and pressed to extract the sugary sap. This part of the process is identical to the traditional ways of harvesting the plant.

The raw sap that is collected contains healthy fiber like fructans , which have been shown to be beneficial for a person’s metabolism and insulin levels. However, these effects are minimal to the impact sugar has on diabetics.

From this point, the agave sap enters a less traditional processing phase. The raw sap is treated with enzymes and heated to a point where the fructans are broken down into fructose. This process is quite similar to how other sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup are made because all of the health-promoting properties of the raw agave sap are destroyed.

While not as common as agave syrup, raw unprocessed agave syrup (similar to raw unfiltered honey) is arguably better for you but harder to find.

At the end of the day, agave syrup is essentially another sugary syrup with the modern version being stripped of any health benefits. While it is still a great alternative if you’re vegan or looking for a more natural and organic product, the manufacturer claims about agave syrup’s health benefits are likely just a marketing ploy.

Agave Syrup and Blood Sugar Levels

Is agave good for diabetics

One important metric to consider with food is the Glycemic Index (GI). The GI measures how fast the sugar from a certain food or drink enters the bloodstream.

For Diabetics, avoiding foods with a higher GI is the safe choice, unless it’s a special treat or you need to get sugar into your bloodstream fast. The reason being is that foods with a greater GI cause greater blood sugar spikes and can impact your health in a negative way.

One place that agave syrup shows benefits for Diabetics is that agave syrup is high in fructose and not glucose. While both are common sweetening agents in food, fructose has been shown to have a lower GI than glucose. This means that in the short-term, fructose will raise your blood sugar levels at a lower rate.

When you see diabetic or healthy sweeteners, it’s usually because they contain fructose and not glucose. So, while the effect on your blood sugar content is about the same, your blood sugar levels are more easily maintained when eating sweet treats with fructose in them.

Agave sap is high in fructose and low in glucose, meaning that agave syrup and agave products have a lower GI than glucose-sweetened products. When agave syrup is compared to regular sugar, there is little doubt that it is better for diabetics in the short term due to its lower GI.

While this might be counted as a small win, the high amounts of fructose can lead to other issues. However, if you’re main concern is managing your blood sugar levels in the near term, then agave syrup is a good alternative to start with.

What the High Levels of Fructose in Agave Syrup Mean

Is agave good for diabetics

As outlined above, agave syrup is often described as a healthier or diabetic-friendly sweetener because of its low GI levels due to its prevalence of fructose rather than glucose. While glucose and fructose are both sweetening agents in food, their effects on the human body are somewhat different.

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Glucose is an essential molecule for a healthy body. That is why glucose is naturally found in all sorts of healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables. It is also why your body naturally produces glucose. In the human body, all living cells are known to harbor glucose for energy because it is vital to life.

While every human cell is essentially trained to break down glucose, only the liver in the human body can break down fructose in significant amounts. When you consume high amounts of fructose, your liver is put into overdrive, which can wreak havoc on your system. Over-consuming fructose can lead to problems as insulin resistance, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.

These negative health effects can happen because when the liver is overworked, the fructose turns into fat, which in turn raises the level of blood triglycerides. Many researchers believe that some of this fat can become stuck in your liver, leading to fatty liver disease.

These effects can lead to major increases in long-term blood sugar and insulin levels, raising the risk of metabolic syndrome and worsening the effects of diabetes. Further, consuming large amounts of fructose can increase your levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lead to weight gain.

So, when it comes to Agave Syrup, it is advisable to approach this sugary sweetener with some caution. About 85% of agave syrup is made of fructose, which is much higher than regular table sugar.

Like many sugary treats for diabetics, the key is going to be moderation. Agave syrup offers some real advantages in the short term. However, because of the harm that high fructose consumption can have with prolonged use, we urge that diabetics remain cautious with its use.

Should Diabetics Use Agave Syrup?

Is agave good for diabetics

While every person’s body is unique, and their relationship with diabetes is different as well, diabetics should treat agave syrup like any other sweetener, with caution.

In the short term, agave syrup can have a milder effect on blood sugar levels due to its lower GI measures. So, if you’re worried about your blood sugar levels that day and still want something sweet, a little agave syrup might be a good alternative.

However, agave syrup is incredibly high in fructose. This fact alone leads many experts to worry about its prolonged use, especially with diabetics. The increased risks of weight gain, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes for those who don’t already have diabetes, are concerning.

When it comes to using agave syrup, use it in moderation, especially at first. When consuming new sugary foods, it’s always best for diabetics to keep a close eye on their blood sugar levels and monitor their health.

Is agave good for diabetics

What are some Agave Syrup Alternatives?

Is agave good for diabetics

There are plenty of sweetener alternatives for agave syrup. Many people flock to agave syrup because it is less processed and cruelty-free. While artificial sweeteners by their nature are not natural or organic, there are some great alternatives that are vegan, unlike honey.

Some basic artificial sweeteners to try are erythritol, xylitol, and stevia. These sweeteners are much healthier and don’t have nearly the same impacts that agave syrup or regular table sugar have.

The great thing about these sweeteners is that you can find them in multiple forms. For instance, stevia comes in a raw form, refined form, and liquid form. This means that you can replace the sugar in everything from baked goods to coffee drinks with a form of stevia.

While the taste of artificial sweeteners can take some getting used to, making the switch is worth it. Although the long-term effects of using artificial sweeteners are still unknown, we know that for people watching their blood sugar levels, there is no better sugar replacement than these sweeteners.


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About the Author: Tung Chi