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From what I can tell, it seems that the only advantage is that it has a lower glycemic index.

Here's my logic...

On my organic blue agave sweetener bottle, it says that it's 25% sweeter than sugar, so you can use less than sugar (use 3 parts of agave sweetener for every 4 parts of sugar).

Cane sugar has 4g of sugar in 1 teaspoon (4g). (4 teaspoons (or 16g) of cane sugar = 16g of sugar).

Agave sweetener has 16g of sugar in 1 tablespoon (21g). (3 teaspoons (or 21g) of agave sweetener = 16g of sugar).

So from a nutritional point of view, if you substitute 4 teaspoons of sugar for 3 teaspoons of agave sweetener, you are getting the same grams of sugar (16 in this case), which has the same amount of calories (64). So there seems to be no benefit here.

Are they just trying to say that you're using less of the product so you can save money? If so, that is very misleading, since agave sweetener costs significantly more ($0.16/oz, $0.04/tsp) than sugar ($0.05/oz, $0.007/tsp) by 82.5%. That's nowhere near the 25% it can cost more than sugar and still be a cheaper alternative.

The only other benefit I see is that it says that its glycemic index (39) is lower than sugar's (68) [source].

Am I overlooking anything? Are there any other benefits?

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Besides the glycemic index one should also consider the benefits or problems of consuming too much fructose. Unlike glucose, fructose is metabolized by your liver. –  papin Oct 11 '10 at 3:45

4 Answers 4

Agave sweetener has a higher level of fructose (as high as 92% versus table sugar's 50%). You can use less than 16 grams of agave sugars and have it be as sweet as 16 grams of cane sugars. Lower calories for the same sweet taste.

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As you've identified, the key is that the amount of sugar is the mass. The use of the volume measure is misleading here. It's a slightly weird american practice. –  Marcin Oct 10 '10 at 18:40
    
so are you saying I should ignore the 3:4 ratio (by volume) they recommend and use less? If I use the 3:4 ratio, I am getting exactly the same amount of calories. –  Senseful Oct 11 '10 at 18:59
    
92% is "as high as". Wiki links to several sources ranging between 56% and 92%, so it probably varies from brand to brand. If you're counting calories, it'd probably be worth reducing the amount of agave you use beyond their recommended 3:4 ratio and see how it affects taste. –  ceejayoz Oct 11 '10 at 20:14

Other benefits would include purported health benefits.

I am unsure if you are simply asking what other cooking benefits there might be, but if you are asking why would someone use agave sweetener over heavily processed sugar (e.g. in coffee), the answer would probably result in it being (typically) an unrefined sugar. Studies point to health issues correlating with (high) intake of processed sugars.

However, I also find it has a subtler flavor (than white sugar) that breaks down more easily in acidic foods.

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One benefit to consider is that it's a syrup, not a crystal, so it'll disolve easier in liquid (although, you could also make a simple syrup with the sugar, so you're only really saving a step).

Agave nectar is hygroscopic, so in that regard, it behaves more like honey, but it from what I've heard (never done a straight taste test myself), it doesn't contribute much in the way of flavor, which can allow you to sweeten things without otherwise changing the taste.

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Be careful - agave has a much higher fructose component than sugar (sucrose). There is considerable research suggesting that fructose metabolizes into triglycerides (fat) rather than being directly used by the body for energy.

You might get more sweetness with less calories, but those calories get stored very quickly as fat rather than being used as a fuel source for you body.

I suggest using agave might give you a counter-intuitive result.

Use glucose (aka dextrose) instead. It's less sweet, but your body can directly use it for energy and it triggers your body's natural sense of being full (which fructose doesn't).

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Where would you get glucose/dextrose from? –  Senseful Sep 10 '12 at 20:51

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