Honey is a naturally sweet substance that is collected by honey bees from the nectar of plants or the secretions of their living parts or the secretions of some insects that feed on their living parts, mixed with their own special substances, dehydrated and left in the honeycomb to mature. Agave, on the other hand, is a cactus-like exotic plant that grows in Mexico and America. When processed like sugar cane, it creates sweet nectar. This situation has led agave nectar to be used as an alternative to sugar. So, honey or agave? Do you know which one to choose?
Since ancient times, honey has been considered a nutrient that supports a healthy life. Medicinal uses of honey include treating burns, digestive system disorders, asthma, infected wounds, and skin ulcers. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it contains are very beneficial to the body. Agave, on the other hand, was believed to have medicinal properties. While the agave plant, like many herbs, has benefits, processed agave can be just as harmful as an artificial sweetener. The large amounts of refined fructose in agave strain the liver and can cause many problems, including metabolic syndrome.
A Natural Sweetener: Agave Syrup
Agave syrup has been one of the first choices that come to mind when it comes to natural sweeteners in recent years. Agave syrup began to be recognized and used, as those who tried to eat healthy, especially with the definitive addition of white refined sugar to the list of prohibitions, turned to alternative sweeteners. Still, most people don’t know much about agave syrup.
While searching for healthy dessert recipes on the Internet or on television, you may have come across agave syrup mentioned. Especially the sweet recipes of foreigners contain plenty of agave syrup instead of the white sugar we know. It is a fact that agave syrup, which some dietitians do not look very warmly, is loved with its aroma.
Agave syrup is produced from the Agave tequilana (blue agave) plant, whose homeland is Mexico. This plant is also one of the raw materials of tequila, which is a type of drink. The sap of the plant is fermented and used to make tequila. It has been used for centuries in Mexico. Like many herbs and herbs, it has also been used for medicinal purposes, as it is believed to have health benefits in its traditional use. It is widely used in western countries, especially in South America and Mexico.
The juice contains 85% fructose, that is, fruit sugar. Agave syrup (also known as agave nectar), which we use in our recipes, is a kind of sweetener obtained by processing the sap of this plant.
The benefits of agave syrup coincide with its nutritional values and herbal components. According to Jonny Bowden, author of The Healthiest Meals on Earth, the agave plant contains saponin compounds that help lower overall cholesterol. Bowden also states that saponins can help prevent tumor growth. However, more research is needed on this subject.
Opinions, which also refer to the high amount of dietary fiber in the agave plant, also state that agave can be good for constipation. Fibers cannot be absorbed by the human body, but they can help maintain digestive health by feeding the bacterial flora in the small intestine. Agave syrup can be a sweetening alternative for vegans who don’t use honey. You can review and buy agave sweeteners that are available in the market and that you can use in your dessert recipes.
Agave Syrup and the Glycemic Index
Foods with a low glycemic index are considered healthier. The reason for this is that these foods have a low rate of mixing sugar into the blood. If the food has a high glycemic index, it quickly increases the amount of sugar in the blood and can negatively affect health. Fructose, also known as fruit sugar, does not raise the amount of sugar and insulin in the blood like glucose. For this reason, it is considered healthy.
Agave nectar is one of the low glycemic index foods. The high fructose amount is the reason for this. However, the point of error here is that the amount of fructose in agave is forgotten. Therefore, it is necessary to be more careful when using agave syrup. In fact, agave sap contains many antioxidants, but these antioxidants lose some of these antioxidants while turning agave juice into a syrup that we can use.
The search for alternative sweeteners instead of white sugar leads us to options such as agave, maple syrup, honey, and dates. Some authorities consider agave syrup to be harmful to health. So what are the harms of agave syrup? Agave syrup, which is a delicious sweetener, can actually be beneficial to health, and excessive use causes the body to take high fructose.
It is a type of sugar that is normally considered healthy compared to fructose and glucose, but agave syrup contains a lot of fructose. Since the body can produce fructose normally, it does not actually need this nutrient much outside of natural nutrition. However, with the excessive use of agave syrup, the liver tries to balance the increased fructose amount in the body. It turns the excess fructose into fat and mixes it into the blood, which means an increase in the number of triglycerides in the blood. Researchers think that too much fructose can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol in the long term, cause fatty liver, and cause body fat.
Agave syrup is 1.4-1.6 times sweeter than white sugar. For this reason, by using less agave syrup in your food, you can achieve a more sweet flavor than white sugar. Agave syrup is most often used in desserts and pancakes. It has a light, caramel-like and intense aromas. Dark agave syrup is the most mineral-rich agave syrup.
Agave, which is mentioned in healthy dessert recipes, is not a problem as long as you stick to its usage amounts. The fructose in it does not raise your blood sugar immediately, but long-term excess use can return to your body as fat. You can continue your search for a natural sweetener with agave, if you are looking for other alternatives, you can try maple syrup, honey, stevia, and dates.
The Miraculous Invention of Bees: Honey
Honey is a very important food rich in enzymes, minerals, and amino acids that are vital for the body. This is the most important feature that distinguishes honey from sugary foods. Bees visit more than 4000 flowers to make 1 gram of honey. It carries the nutritional value and healing of various flowers. It helps to a healthy diet and energy needs to a great extent.
With these properties, honey strengthens the body’s resistance and helps maintain health. Honey is a source of nutrition and energy for children as well as adults. The beneficial substances it contains greatly contribute to bodily development. However, honey is not recommended for babies younger than 1-year-old. For humans, honey can be seen as the first source of food. Honey-making dates back to the Neolithic Age. Honey has been highly valued and even considered sacred by different religions for centuries due to its non-perishable nature and the benefits it provides to human health.
Honey is a food made up of beeswax secreted by a queen bee and tens of thousands of worker bees from their own bodies into the hive. Honey is a durable food with high nutritional value, which is formed as a result of processing the nectar collected by bees from flowers with enzymes secreted by their own bodies. First of all, we have to say that the production of honey is very difficult, requires full teamwork, and that’s why it is so valuable and useful. Bees keep the nectar they collect from flowers and buds in their stomachs and undergo chemical changes.
During this chemical change, bees turn sucrose into glucose and fructose. Then, their nectar, which undergoes a chemical change in their stomachs, is collected in the hive. Bees cover the accumulated nectar with a waxy layer and produce honey, which is a panacea. Worker bees in the hive flap their wings to ensure ventilation. In this way, the amount of water in the nectar, which is 80%, decreases to 20%. Therefore, the amount of water in honey is very low.
There are many varieties of honey, which is indispensable for breakfast tables and a panacea. There are different types of honey with different tastes and characteristics, depending on which flowers the bees collect pollen from, the characteristics and smell of the plants in that region. We have briefly mentioned the most known of them below.
All known honey varieties are; It is in the form of the flower, citrus, pine, acacia, sunflower, thyme, lavender, linden, rhododendron, chaste berry, buckwheat, carob, oak, puree, and chestnut honey.
- Sunflower Honey
This honey, which has a unique taste, has a very yellow color when taken from the hive. It is mixed with flower honey and used in halva processes. It has benefits such as strengthening the immune system, preventing cancer cells, and reducing fever.
- Chestnut Honey
It is one of the types of honey obtained from chestnut trees. While bees produce chestnut honey, they also contribute to chestnut production. It has antibiotic properties and is rich in vitamins B and C.
- Citrus Honey
It is the type of honey that contains the most intense fruit nectar. It is the most effective type in calcium phosphate and iron phosphate supplementation. Thanks to the vitamin C it contains, it helps in the recovery of liver diseases.
- Flower honey
It is the honey produced by bees from flowers grown on the plateau. The type of honey eaten in daily life is the highland flower honey variety. It is a type of honey produced in places where very different and mixed flowers spread. Flower honey, which is one of the most used species strengthens the immune system, is good for cardiovascular diseases, cures acne problems such as acne, is beneficial for cancer patients, has cholesterol-lowering properties, helps weight control, and delays aging.
- Chaste Honey
It is made from the flowers of the plant called chaste, which is native to the Mediterranean region. Its color, which is slightly red when first taken out of the hive, may darken and turn black as time goes by. It has a high protective feature against cancer. If consumed regularly, body resistance increases, and protection against diseases is provided.
- Linden Honey
As the name suggests, it is made from the nectar of the flowers of the linden plant. It has a darker consistency compared to other types. It protects against cancer, helps in the treatment of colds, has antipyretic, fear, and stress-reducing properties.
Honey contains many enzymes and amino acids, along with 15 types of sugar. Its taste, aroma, smell, and benefit vary according to the type. The most well-known benefits of honey are;
- When rubbed on cuts and burns on the skin, it can protect against germs and help the wound heal faster. You can renew honey every 12 hours until the wound heals.
- It protects against various diseases because it is rich in polyphenol, one of the most effective antioxidants found in plants. People who do not have diabetes can protect themselves against health problems such as heart diseases by consuming honey instead of sugar.
- A spoonful of honey gives the energy necessary for the body. Since it is a natural energy source, it is more suitable to be used instead of chocolate and energy drinks.
- If people with chronic cough add 2-3 teaspoons of honey to hot water and drink it, their cough complaints will decrease. However, it is suitable for adults.
- Honey is very useful for lowering bad cholesterol. It has been observed that if consumed regularly, it significantly balances cholesterol.
- A mixture of honey and vinegar can be consumed to balance stomach acid and relieve pain. It has a relaxing effect on people with reflux complaints.
- Since honey has a structure that prevents inflammation and cleans bacteria, it is used in the treatment of acne. It prevents the formation of acne and besides, it helps to heal the acne in a short time.
Benefits of Honey
Studies show that honey strengthens the immune system against winter diseases and flu, has a positive effect on the healing of wounds and inflammations and contains substances with antioxidant activity, which have become popular in recent years. Especially pine honey, with its iron and magnesium content, plays a supportive role in eliminating some problems arising from nutrition. Honey contains many vital substances such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. One tablespoon of honey provides 64 cal of energy, serving as fuel for the muscles. It is known that honey disinfects wounds and prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi, thanks to its antimicrobial and antifungal effect.
Honey also contains iron, which is useful for the circulatory system. Honey improves the immune system and makes it easier for the body to fight infections like the flu. Drinking water with honey increases the number of red blood cells in the body, which means more oxygen enters your blood. The high level of oxygen increases the efficiency of the body, repels bacteria and diseases. It also increases your energy, makes it easier to exercise, and exercise will elevates your mood. Due to its high mineral content, especially dark-colored honey (for example, pine honey) make a significant contribution to the elimination of iron deficiency in children.
Honey is sugary, but its content is different from the white sugar you add to your morning coffee. If we try to explain without going too much into its chemical structure, honey contains real sugar. Honey is antibacterial and can be used as a disinfectant. In clinical tests, it has been discovered that pure honey is good for ulcers and some other injuries. It is also used in the treatment of phlegm and asthma. Honey can be used as a prebiotic. This should not be confused with probiotics such as yogurt, which help the intestines in the digestive process and contain healthy micro bacteria. Prebiotics increase the amount of “healthy” bacteria inside your body. Honey is also effective on the health of the gastrointestinal system or gastrointestinal system in general. It helps to improve intestinal microflora, reduce complaints about ulcers and gastritis, and prevent diarrhea in children.
Honey relieves skin diseases such as dermatitis and dandruff. It has been observed that after applying honey to the affected parts of the disease, it heals. It is also claimed to be beneficial for hair loss. The syrupy honey forms a layer in the mouth, thereby soothing the irritated areas and weakening the spread of infection. It is an indispensable aid in the treatment of colds. Honey obtained by pollinating from local flowers relieves allergy symptoms such as vaccination. Instilling a small amount of an allergen into the body builds immunity to that chemical over time. Of course, locally produced honey can be used for this.
When athletes experience a decrease in energy, they eat a spoonful of honey. As we mentioned before, honey has a positive effect on red blood cells and increases the oxygen level. Of course, more oxygen means more energy. Honey consumption generally improves the body’s performance and well-being. Honey contains various flavonoids that reduce the risk of some cancers.
Potential Harms of Agave Syrup
Agave syrup is one of the most frequently researched topics recently. Although agave, which is used as a substitute for sugar in healthy nutrition, is consumed raw, cooked, or dried, the syrup form of this plant is mostly preferred. Agave syrup, which is considered healthy because it is natural, actually has more harm than good. This syrup, which contains a lot of fructose in its content, poses a great risk, especially for diabetics.
Agave is an exotic plant that grows especially in Mexico and resembles a cactus. Unlike honey, it does not crystallize and has a shelf life of 12 months. Agave syrup is obtained from the agave plant. Although low in calories, it contains a high amount of carbohydrates and is 25% sweeter than white sugar. To make agave syrup, the leaves of ten-year-old agave plants are cut and the sap is extracted from the cut leaves. Then, the sap of the plant is reached by applying the separation method. The sap of the plant is boiled, the water in it evaporates and agave syrup remains.
In particular, recent research shows that agave syrup does more harm than good. Although initially seen as a natural alternative to refined sugar for diabetics, agave syrup contains high levels of fructose. Since the body cannot metabolize fructose, liver functions deteriorate as a result of excess fructose, and obesity is triggered. That’s why you need to consume small amounts of fructose for your health.
Agave syrup contains more fructose than even the most dangerous-looking corn syrup in terms of fructose. This invites diabetes and fatty liver. Also, since fructose turns into fat even faster than glucose, it leads to fat deposits, especially in the abdomen. Agave syrup is also very high in calories. 1 teaspoon of regular sugar is 40 calories, while 1 teaspoon of agave syrup is 60 calories. The harms of agave syrup can be listed as follows:
- By damaging the liver, it causes liver disease even in someone who does not drink alcohol.
- It activates the appetite-regulating hormones in the body and causes obesity by causing excessive weight gain.
- It brings many health problems due to the presence of synthetic fructose in its content.
- It negatively affects heart health.
So, what can be used as a natural sweetener instead of sugar and agave? The first alternative might be maple syrup. Maple syrup is rich in antioxidants and minerals. It is also very beneficial for the digestive and immune systems. Honey is one of the natural sweeteners that can be used instead of sugar. It has anti-bacterial properties by containing many types of antioxidants. Finally, palm sugar contains all the vitamins and is rich in fiber, magnesium, and iron.
Best Agave Products That You Can Buy Online
- Kirkland Signature Organic Blue Agave All Purpose Sweetener, 36oz Bottle (Pack Of 2, Total of 72 Oz)