Frequently Asked Questions
Where does Agave come from? How is it made? What is glycemic index?
Agave Syrup comes from?
Agave Syrup (also called Agave Nectar) is most often produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico. Agave plants have been an integral part of the local agriculture for centuries, traditionally planted in rows between the fields that grow the staple foods of the region: beans and corn. They thus provide a natural barrier against erosion by wind and water and held the soil.
Agaves are large, spiky plants that resemble cactus or yuccas in both form and habitat, but they are actually succulents similar to Aloe Vera. Agave plants come in many sizes and colours — there are well over 100 species. Because of it’s high carbohydrate content (which results in a high percentage of fructose in the final nectar) Blue Agave is the preferred species for producing nectar. Though there are other species used to produce Agave Syrups, such as the Maguey Agave, the premium nectars are produced from 100% Weber Blue Agave.
Agave Syrup tastes like?
The taste of Agave Syrup is comparable, though not identical, to honey, though many who do not like the taste of honey find Agave more palatable. It has none of the bitter after-taste often associated with artificial sweeteners.
Though some brands offer a half dozen varieties of Agave Syrup based on different plant varieties and varied preparation methods, most offer two types: a light and a dark. The lighter syrups undergo less heating and a more thorough filtration producing a mildly flavoured product that is neutral enough to be used in many culinary applications. The darker syrups are filtered less, and the solids left in the syrup create a stronger nectar with a flavour that can be compared to maple syrup.
What is glycemic index?
Glycemic index is a way of measuring the relative impact of foods on blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic index have carbohydrates that the body can quickly convert to sugar, which makes them more likely to cause a quick rise in blood sugar. Many popular diets include food choices based on the glycemic index.
To determine the glycemic index of a food, human testers are given a portion of a single food and their blood sugar is tested at regular intervals. The resulting response curve is compared to a control substance (either glucose or white bread) and assigned a numerical value. Glucose (or white bread) is given an arbitrary rating of 100, and all other foods are measured relative to that. Foods that rate above 100 are foods whose carbohydrates digest very quickly and are likely to raise the blood sugar immediately, while those with an index lower than 100 have less impact on the blood sugar. Depending on the variety, Agave Syrup can vary from 17 to 38 in the glycemic index.
Combining high and low glycemic foods
The glycemic index of individual foods can be used as a guideline for meal preparation, but since we seldom make an entire meal of one food, the interaction of foods in the stomach needs to be taken into consideration.
Some foods help to reduce the overall glycemic level of a meal. Similar to the effect of dietary fiber, fats consumed with a higher glycemic food can also help to curb its blood-sugar-raising property. Vinegar has been found to inhibit the digestion of starches in the stomach. Starting a dinner with a salad dressed in italian dressing (fiber + fat + vinegar) for example, can lessen the impact of high glycemic foods in the meal.
How is Agave Syrup made?
When an Agave plant has grown to 7-10 years old, the leaves are cut off, revealing the core of the plant (called the “pina”). When harvested, this pina resembles a giant pineapple and can weigh 25 to 75 kilograms.
To make Agave Syrup, sap is extracted from the pina, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, breaking down the carbohydrates into sugars. Lighter and darker varieties of Agave Syrup are made from the same plants. Because of the low temperatures used in processing many varieties (under 118°F) Agave Syrup can be recognized as a raw food.
What makes a food low glycemic?
Foods with few to no carbohydrates, like meats, cheeses and fats, usually result in a glycemic index close to zero. The fewer easily-digested sugars and starches a food contains, the less likely it is to create a spike in blood sugar. Dietary fiber, while classified as a carbohydrate, passes through the system undigested, with no impact on blood sugar levels. In fact, fiber works to help slow the absorption of digestible carbohydrates.
What is glycemic load?
Like the glycemic index, the glycemic load of a food is used to characterize its potential effect on blood sugar levels. A food may have a high glycemic index, meaning the carbohydrate it contains will quickly convert to sugar, but if that food does not contain much carbohydrate per average serving, it will a smaller impact on the blood sugar.
The glycemic load of a food can be calculated by multiplying its glycemic index by the number of digestible (non-fiber) carbohydrates in a single serving, then dividing this by 100. The number may be interpreted as follows:
- 20 and above = high glycemic load
- 10 to 19 = medium glycemic load
- less than 10 = low glycemic load
How does Agave Syrup compare?
The table below shows that even though an apple has fewer carbohydrates, the glycemic load of Agave Syrup is actually lower.
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