by Katie Cavuto-Boyle in Healthy Tips, November 17, 2012
by Toby Amidor in Healthy Tips, November 1, 2012
Added sugars in out diet have been shown to increase the risk of obesity and disease. Does this mean you can never have sweets again? The answer is no, but it is important to understand the facts. With constant media hype surrounding buzz words like high-fructose corn syrup and refined sugar, how do you know what to choose and how much is too much? And are natural sweeteners really better for you?
The truth is, all sweeteners (both refined and natural) are considered to be discretionary calories. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day for women, or about 100 calories worth. Men should aim for about 9 teaspoons a day, or 150 calories. The problem is, with so many added sugars in our diet (surveys have shown that the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day) we can achieve this quite quickly. A 12-oz soda contains 8 tsp of sugar. Many cereals, even the “healthy stuff” have 3-4 tsp of sugar per serving and the same goes for flavored oatmeal, some tomato sauces, condiments like BBQ sauce and even that granola bar you are eating. Needless to say, the teaspoon of honey you put in your tea is rarely the culprit.
This is going to be our toughest food fight yet! Two natural sweeteners pitted against each other – it’s a very difficult decision.
Most agave nectar is produced from the blue agave plant grown in desert regions like the hilly areas in Mexico. The syrup is extracted from the “honey water” found at core of the plant, filtered, heated and then processed to make it into thicker nectar you see at the store. This makes agave a good sweetener for vegans (who don’t eat honey).
Agave nectar has a dark amber color, but has a more neutral flavor than honey. One tablespoon of the sweetener has about 60 calories compared to about 45 and 60 in the same amount of granulated sugar and honey, respectively. It’s 1 ½ times sweeter than sugar and so you can use less of it. Agave easily dissolves in cold liquids like smoothies and iced tea and can be used to replace granulated sugar in baked products (see instructions below). Many food manufacturers also use agave nectar in products like energy drinks and bars because of its light flavor and over-hyped nutritional benefits.