What Do You Know About Agave?

Agave

People are talking about agave. I never heard of it until today. A friend of mine asked me if I had heard NPR’s Faith Middleton interview a nutritionist talking about agave nectar. I hadn’t so she told me about the show. Faith Middleton’s guest was Ania Catalano who has just come out with a book called Baking with Agave Nectar. Ania has hypoglycemia and has discovered the usefulness of baking with agave nectar. As soon as I got home from seeing my friend, I headed to my computer to see what I could fine out about agave. As a nurse, I wanted to know what the big deal was about agave nectar and was it something I could recommend to my patients?

Does the American Diabetes Association approve it?

First, I went to the American Diabetes Association website. I found no mention of agave on their website although other references say that agave nectar has the ADA stamp of approval. If anyone knows a reference for this, please let me know.

Totally organic

What does tequila and agave syrup have in common? They both come from the same Mexican blue agave plant. Agave is completely organic unlike other sweeteners. Agave is similar in appearance to honey but not as thick. Once hard to find, it is now stocked in such major grocery stores as Stop-and-Shop.

Glycemic index

The big deal about agave is its low glycemic index. Agave was tested by the Glycemic Research Center in Washington D.C. and found to rank low. This is a plus for people who want to avoid surges of sugar into their bloodstream. It isn’t without calories though. One tablespoon equals 60 calories so it must be counted in the daily calories. If you go to the Glycemic Research Center website take a look at the results on the glycemic index that the Nurses Health Studies published in 2003.

What’s not good about agave

Agave nectar is about 90% fructose. That is the kind of sugar found in fruit but being a fructose sugar is not all good. Unlike glucose, fructose is metabolized in the liver. Studies have shown that a diet high in fructose can elevate triglycerides. This can effect the arteries. It also raises uric acid which can cause gout. Some people on a diet high in fructose have been found to develop fatty liver disease.

My conclusion and a recipe!

I can’t say I’ve tasted it. Everyone says it has a nice taste, sweeter than sugar. Obviously it can be used for cooking as Ania Catalano can attest to. It appears that it may be a suitable choice of a sweetener for hypoglycemics who like to watch the glycemic index of the foods they eat. I’m not sure if I would recommend it to my diabetic patients since coronary artery disease is often a complication of diabetes. I’d like to know what your experience has been with agave nectar so let me know. And since everyone is talking about black bean brownies made with agave nectar here is the recipe from Ania Catalano’s Baking with Agave Nectar:

The Amazing Black Bean Brownies

“Without exception, this was the most sought-after recipe at my restaurant and bakery.  You would never believe that these incredibly fudgy brownies are made with beans but no flour.”  Ania Catalano   A gluten-free recipe.

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or nonhydrogenated butter substitute
  • 2 cups soft-cooked black beans, drained well
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup natural coffee substitute (or instant coffee for gluten sensitive)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1 /2 cups light agave nectar
 

Method

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line an 11-by 18-inch baking pan with parchment paper and lightly oil with canola oil spray.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high.  Stir with a spoon to melt the chocolate completely.  Place the beans, 1/2 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and a couple of spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into the bowl of a food processor.  Blend about 2 minutes, or until smooth.  The batter should be thick and the beans smooth.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, remaining melted chocolate mixture, coffee substitute, and salt.  Mix well and set aside.

In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer beat the eggs until light and creamy, about 1 minute.  Add the agave nectar and beat well.  Set aside.

Add the bean/chocolate mixture to the coffee/chocolate mixture.  Stir until blended well.   Add the egg mixture, reserving about 1/2 cup.  Mix well.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup egg mixture until light and fluffy.  Drizzle over the brownie batter.  Use a wooden toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the brownies are set.  Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares.  (They will be soft until refrigerated.)

Makes 45 (2-inch) brownies

Keep the brownies in the refrigerator.  They will slice much better if refrigerated several hours or overnight.  Find natural coffee substitute at natural food stores.

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