To produce agave nectar from the Agave tequiliana plant, juice is expressed from the core of the agave, called the pia. The juice is filtered, then heated to hydrolyze polysaccharides into simple sugars. The main polysaccharide is called inulin or fructosan and comprises mostly fructose units. The filtered, hydrolyzed juice is concentrated to a syrup-like liquid a little thinner than honey that ranges in color from light to dark depending on the degree of processing. The syrup contains iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium which contribute to the resulting color.
Agave salimiana is processed differently to Agave tequiliana. As the plant gestates it starts to grow a stalk called a “quiote”. The stalk is cut off before it fully grows, creating a hole in the center of the plant that fills with a liquid called “aquamiel”. The liquid is collected daily and the fructans hydrolysed by enzymes into fructose and dextrose.
An alternative method used to process the agave juice without heat is described in a United States patent for a process that uses enzymes derived from the mold Aspergillus niger to hydrolyze the polyfructose extract into fructose. A. niger fermentation is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Agave nectar consists primarily of fructose and glucose. One source gives 92% fructose and 8% glucose; another gives 56% fructose and 20% glucose. These differences presumably reflect variation from one vendor of agave nectar to another. Agave nectar’s glycemic index and glycemic load are comparable to fructose, which in turn has a much lower glycemic index and glycemic load than table sugar (sucrose).
However, the extremely high percentage of fructose can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome, hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation.
Agave nectar is said by one supplier to be 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar. Agave nectar is often substituted for sugar or honey in recipes. Vegans in particular commonly use agave nectar to replace honey in recipes. It is also used as a sweetener for cold beverages such as iced tea because it can dissolve quickly.
Agave nectars are sold in light, amber, dark, and raw varieties. Light agave nectar has a mild, almost neutral flavor, and is therefore sometimes used in delicate tasting foods and drinks. Amber agave nectar has a medium-intensity caramel flavor, and is therefore used in foods and drinks with stronger flavors. Dark agave nectar has stronger caramel notes, and imparts a distinct flavor to dishes, such as some desserts, poultry, meat, and seafood dishes. Both amber and dark agave nectar are sometimes used “straight out of the bottle” as a topping for pancakes and waffles. Raw agave nectar also has a mild, neutral taste. It is produced at temperatures below 118 F (48 C) to protect the natural enzymes, so this variety is an appropriate sweetener for raw foodists.
^ Hocman, Karen (August 2009). “Agave Nectar a.k.a. Agave Syrup”. The Nibble. http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/nutri/cookies/agave-ice-cream.asp.
^ a b Gary M. Mohr, Jr. (3-Oct-99). “Blue Agave and Its Importance in the Tequila Industry”. Ethnobotanical Leaflets. http://www.ethnoleaflets.com//leaflets/agave.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
^ “Monocarpic Behavior in Agaves”. J. C. Raulston Arboretum, North Carolina State University. June 19, 2009. http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum/horticulture/interpretive_signs/interpretive_signs_other_topics.php?UniqueID=14. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
^ “Method of producing fructose syrup from agave plants (United States Patent 5846333)”. 1998-12-08. http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5846333.html.
^ “Inventory of GRAS Notices: Summary of all GRAS Notices”. US FDA/CFSAN. 2008-10-22. http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~rdb/opa-gras.html. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
^ Ronald C. Deis (February 2001). “Sweetners for Health Foods”. Food Product Design. http://www.foodproductdesign.com/archive/2001/0201ap.html.
^ Ralf Patzold and Hans Bruckner (2005). “Mass Spectrometric Detection and Formation of D-Amino Acids in Processed Plant Saps, Syrups, and Fruit Juice Concentrates”. J. Agric. Food Chem 53: 97229729. doi:10.1021/jf051433u. http://www.uni-giessen.de/fbr09/food/download/Publikationen/J%20agric%20food%20chem%202005%2053%209722-9729_jf051433u.pdf.
^ David Mendosa. Revised International Table of Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) Values2002. http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm.
^ Basciano H, Federico L, Adeli K (2005). “Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia”. Nutrition & Metabolism 2 (5). doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-5. PMID PMC552336. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=552336.
^ Mayes, PA (1993). “Intermediary metabolism of fructose”. Am J Clin Nutr. Nov: 58. PMID 8213607.
^ Buemann B, Toubro S, Holst JJ, Rehfeld JF, Bibby BM, Astrup A (2000). “D-tagatose, a stereoisomer of D-fructose, increases blood uric acid concentration”. Metabolism Aug (49): 96976. PMID 10954012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8213607.
^ Davis, W (2008). “Yet another reason to avoid fructose”. The Heart Scan Blog Dec (6). http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/yet-another-reason-to-avoid-fructose.html.
^ “Looking at Health Claims of Agave Nectar”. The Wall Street Journal. October 27, 2009 author=Laura Johannes. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704335904574497622806733800.html?mod=WSJ_hps_RIGHTTopCarousel. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
^ Ania Catalano. Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature’s Ultimate Sweetener, 2008, Celestial Arts, p. ix .
Mancilla-Margalli, N. A., and M. G. Lopez. “Generation of Maillard Compounds From Inulin During the Thermal Processing of Agave tequilana Weber var. azul. J. Agric. Food Chem. vol. 50 (2002), pp. 806-812.
Categories: Sweeteners | Syrup | Mexican ingredients | Cuisine of Mexico | TequilaHidden categories: All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements from June 2008
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