Claim: Agave nectar or syrup—made from the sap of a succulent Mexican plant—is a “healthier” alternative to sugar. You can find agave in squeeze bottles at supermarkets next to the honey, or online in a huge array of flavors such as maple, blueberry, hazelnut, and cappuccino. It’s also used as an ingredient in beverages, energy bars, and baked goods.
Truth: “Agave syrup is no better for you than other sweeteners,” says Nora Saul, RD, a certified diabetes educator and licensed dietitian at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. It has more calories—20 per teaspoon—than table sugar and actually ranks lower in disease-fighting antioxidants than many other natural sweeteners, including honey and maple syrup. What about the claim that agave is a better choice for diabetics? The Glycemic Research Institute in Washington, D.C., recently rescinded the “diabetic friendly” seal it had given to agave after studies revealed some products caused severe blood sugar swings. (Some were mixed with high-fructose corn syrup, which was not disclosed on the label.) So enjoy agave for its unique flavor, but “limit your intake for good health,” says Saul.