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Sweeten foods, drinks with agave nectar

April 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Those who are health conscious try to keep sugar to a minimum, but when the need for sweet calls, many are turning to agave nectar due to the fact that it doesn't spike blood sugar like honey, syrup and table sugar. Here's a look at how to use agave in some of your favorite foods."It has some very interesting applications in the kitchen because it dissolves really easily," said Bon Appetit magazine's contributing Chef Jeanne Kelley. "It's wonderful to add to marinades, it's also a really easy way to add just a touch of sweetness to say a salad dressing."

Chef Kelley demonstrated by using agave in a marinade with citrus juices, garlic and rosemary - or a salad dressing with vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard.

"A little bit of sweetness balances that acidity out so the agave nectar is really great for that," said Kelley.

Honey, sugar, and syrup all cause a big rise in blood sugar that can lead to a crash later on, often leaving us wanting even more sweet stuff. Yet agave nectar is a kinder, gentler sweetener that doesn't do that.

"It lets the sugar into your system in a more gradual rate than say sugar," said Kelley.

Made up of about 70 percent fructose to 20 percent glucose, it imparts a taste that is sweeter than sugar or honey so it's possible you will use less.

Try agave in ice tea as the syrup pours and dissolves easily in anything cold, blending beautifully. You can also use it to top cereal, waffles, even yogurt and fruit, anything you would use syrup for.

Agave is sold in both light and amber grades. Lighter works well in beverages and topping food, while amber offers a heavier, somewhat fruity flavor used in sauces and cooking.

Due to its intense flavor and higher moisture content, experts suggest you'll use less of it when cooking with it.

"Generally, guidelines they recommend using about 2/3 of a cup of agave in place of a cup of sugar and bake it at 25 degrees less," said Kelley.