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Agave Nectar vs. Corn Syrup

Fitday Editor

Agave nectar serves as a sweet alternative to other sugary syrups like corn syrup. Both of the sweeteners come from natural plants, though each provides different levels of fructose and glucose content.

Agave Versus Corn

The process by which the naturally sweet syrups are taken from their plants greatly differs. Corn syrup develops through a chemical reaction between pure filtered corn starch and an acid mix. Agave nectar is extracted from the agave plant through a different chemical process. First, a liquid from the plant receives a filtration process, followed by a heating step that turns the liquid into pure simple sugars. The sugars then become condensed into syrup like liquid, called nectar.

The key difference between the two processes lies within the use of chemicals. Corn syrup gets the chemical treatment in order to produce a sweeter taste, ultimately derived from the pure corn starch. The agave nectar basically contains purely condensed natural plant sugars.

Nutritional Content

Corn syrup contains mostly glucose with little fructose. Fructose has a much sweeter taste, which remains the reason why so many food manufacturers convert pure corn syrup into high fructose corn syrup. Fructose also has a higher glycemic index rating, causing major spikes in insulin. This triggers greater food cravings, among other problems.

Agave nectar contains fructose and glucose as well. The balanced amounts of the two basic sugars found in the nectar result in a lower glycemic index rating than corn syrup. This gives some individuals the incentive to use the alternative sweetener as a substitute for things like honey, chemically engineered no-calorie sweeteners and traditional table sugars.

Both syrupy mixes contain no protein or fat content. The sugar variants also contain little to no nutrient content at all.

Major Similarities and Differences

Both agave nectar and corn syrup are primarily used by consumers and food manufacturers in order to sweeten dull foods. The agave source has grown in popularity since vegans do not use honey as a sweetener, nor do they consume other types of artificial sweeteners. Agave is often sold as an organic 100% natural product. Corn syrup would suffice as a sugar alternative for vegans as well, but the sweetener often gains a negative reputation because of high fructose corn syrup.

People tend to negatively look at corn syrup only because they associate it with the higher fructose version, also known as HFCS. This type of corn syrup undergoes further chemical reactions in order to vastly increase the fructose content, which leads to a much sweeter taste. This process allows food manufacturers to reduce the amounts of the sweetener used in mass food production, saving a lot of money each year.

Both agave nectar and pure corn syrup come from naturally grown and harvested plants. Both contain fructose and glucose in moderate levels which provide a mildly sweet taste. Each of the sweeteners should not be consumed in large amounts, due to their lack of nutrient content. They both serve as a viable food sweetener, although agave nectar has a sweeter taste than even traditional table sugar. These items, commonly found on store shelves and online distributors for general purchase, provide consumers with a sugar alternative and often, nothing more.

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