Is Honey Or Agave Better For You
Honey is the clear winner. But both honey and agave nectar are caloric sweeteners and offer little added nutritional value. Honey is better than agave nectar because it is: higher in antioxidants.
When you’re trying to lose weight, there’s a lot of buzz about using “natural” sugars like fructose or sucrose instead of white sugar. The reasoning goes that these natural alternatives have less calories per gram, so they’ll help you eat fewer calories overall while still enjoying your favorite foods. One popular alternative is agave nectar, which is made from the sap of the agave plant (a cactus with long spines).
Agave nectar has become increasingly popular as a healthy replacement for high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in soft drinks, processed baked goods and other products. It tastes very similar to regular table sugar, but contains no cholesterol or sodium, and most health experts recommend its use over HFCS. Agave does contain carbs, though, so keep this in mind if you’re counting carbs.
The latest addition to the low carb party is honey. Like agave, honey is a type of carbohydrate, but unlike agave, honey isn’t really pure sugar. Most honey on grocery store shelves is actually more like 10 percent glucose (the same stuff found in sugar), but some varieties can be up to 70 percent. That means honey is almost entirely fructose. Honey is sweeter than agave, however, so manufacturers usually add a small amount of maltose — another form of sugar — to balance out the sweetness for taste. Maltose doesn’t contribute any additional calories, but fructose is metabolized differently by our bodies, and may cause problems for people who already have an imbalance between their blood sugar levels and how much food they consume at one time.
So what makes honey superior to agave? Is it just marketing hype by beekeepers looking to make money off of healthy consumers? Read on to find out.
Health Benefits Of Honey
It’s not all marketing hype when we talk about honey being healthier than agave. In fact, honey is becoming more accepted as a healthier choice than agave. According to the USDA’s Food Composition Database, honey provides 3.2 grams of protein per serving compared to 1.5 grams of protein per serving for agave. In terms of calories, honey provides 8.3 calories per serving compared to 4.6 for agave. And according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, honey is a great source of antioxidants.
Antioxidants fight free radicals that damage cells, and honey is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavonoids come in many forms, including quercetin, kaemferol, myricetin, rutin, bioflavonoid, xanthohumol and others. These compounds work together to protect us against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and even age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s. They also reduce inflammation throughout the body. While agave has been touted as a good source of antioxidants, honey offers far greater antioxidant power. Researchers believe that honey is the best way to get antioxidants into the bloodstream. Agave only releases 0.1 milligrams of antioxidants per 100 grams of juice, compared to 2.4 milligrams of antioxidants per 100 grams of honey.
While researchers are studying why honey might provide better protection against chronic diseases, studies show that honey could potentially benefit those suffering from conditions such as obesity, asthma, eczema, psoriasis and arthritis. Some scientific evidence suggests that honey might even help prevent colds and flu viruses. A double-blind study conducted at Tel Aviv University showed that women who ate three tablespoons of honey each day had significantly lower incidences of vaginal yeast infections than did a control group of women who took placebo pills daily. Other research indicates that honey can improve wound healing and reduce scarring caused by burns.
But perhaps the most important reason honey is a better choice than agave is its ability to regulate blood sugar. Fructose, which is present in large amounts in agave, causes rapid spikes in blood-glucose levels after eating. This can result in fatigue, headaches and digestive issues. On the other hand, honey triggers insulin production slowly, keeping blood sugar levels balanced. Insulin helps the body process carbohydrates and prevents them from causing hypoglycemia. If used consistently, this effect reduces the risk of Type II Diabetes. Even diabetics can enjoy honey without worrying about blood sugar regulation.
In summary, honey is a better option for regulating blood sugar than agave. However, honey is still primarily a type of carbohydrate, and should be consumed along with meals rather than eaten alone. Agave is a great substitute for refined sugar, but should still be consumed with meals to avoid excess consumption.
For more information on honey, read How Much Should I Eat At Once?: Tips To Manage Your Blood Sugar Effectively.
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