Whole Wheat Quick Bread With Banana and Slivered Almonds
Enjoy the benefits of whole grain with this easy-to-make quick bread! Homemade Banana-Nut Whole Wheat Bread takes about an hour from start to finish.

Browse The Practical Vegetarian's archives.

The Practical Vegetarian Weblog
Custom Search

Illustration of blue agave cactus by artist Wayne L. Curtis.
Are you looking for an alternative to refined sugar but you do not want to use artificial sweetener? All-natural agave nectar, from the blue agave cactus plant, may be just right for you.   Illustration source: Wayne L. Curtis.

Nature's Sweetener

By Mary Curtis

Agave nectar, from the blue agave cactus plant, is a real alternative to both artificial sweetener and honey to replace refined sugar.

Are you looking for a substitute for granulated table sugar?

Agave nectar may be the right alternative for you.

Up until now, many of us have believed that the only alternatives to refined sugar have been either artificial sweetener or honey, unaware of this beautiful plant indigenous to Mexico and South America.

Honey is okay, unless you are allergic or sensitive to bee products, or you are a vegan. Additionally, many of us are becoming concerned about the possible side effects of artificial sweeteners which are chemicals which produce a sense of sweetness on our tastebuds. Even if you're not concerned, many artificial sweeteners are difficult or impossible in cooking or baking.

Agave nectar, from the blue agave cactus plant, is a real alternative to both artificial sweetener and honey to replace refined sugar. You can use it for sweetening your beverages and cereals as well as in cooking and baking.

The blue agave cactus plant, which produces the agave nectar, now grows in Mexico and the southwestern United States as well as throughout South America. It is the same plant from which tequila is made. But instead of making the alcohol, its natural sugars are made into a nectar.

Agave nectar is sweeter than honey and table sugar so if you normally take a teaspoonful of honey or sugar in your tea, you can use less. As far as taste, the lighter agave nectar shouldn't taste any differently than honey or sweetener; the darker nectar, however, may have a slight molasses-like taste. The cost of agave nectar is not signicantly higher than a good cane sugar but is less than most honey selections.

Word of warning to diabetics: Because agave nectar contains natural sugars, do not use agave nectar without first consulting your doctor or diabetes healthcare professional.

Artificial Vs. Natural
Which sweetener is right for you? There is a lot of controversy over artificial sweeteners. Some experts, such as the Mayo Clinic, deem those sweeteners approved in United States to be "safe in limited quantities." Others warn of catastrophic side effects including seizures and some even link their usage to certain cancers.

As always in everything, it's up to you to be the best judge to decide how much artificial sweetener, if any, is safe for you. You know your own body and how you react to things. There is also the possibility of allergy. If you consume artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, become aware of how you feel after consuming it, and consider stopping or cutting back if you experience any of the following:

The best advice is to exercise caution about artificial sweeteners.

For more information about artificial sweeteners, check out these sources:

  2. Mayo Clinic
  5. TLC