The glycemic index is a scale that rates carbohydrates according to the effect they have on blood sugar. Although the glycemic index is a helpful tool for dieters, if you have a medical condition such as diabetes, the American Diabetes Association states that combining carbohydrate counting with the glycemic index is a powerful tool for managing blood sugar levels. As a carbohydrate sweetener, agave nectar has a place on the glycemic index.
According to All About Agave, the blue agave is the variety most often used to produce agave nectar. This plant, found in southern Mexico, resembles a cactus, and when mature, produces a pina, or core, weighing approximately 50 to 150 lbs. that contains raw agave sap. After extracting the sap, filtering and heating convert it into a substance with a taste comparable to honey. Because processing occurs at extremely low temperatures, less than 118 degrees Fahrenheit, most consider agave nectar as a raw food.
The glycemic index scale starts at zero and goes to 100. According to the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrative Medicine, foods that rate between zero and 49 have a low glycemic index, foods between 50 and 70 have a moderate glycemic index and foods that rate over 70 have a high glycemic index. A 2 tbsp. serving size of agave nectar has a glycemic index of 30, placing it in the category of low glycemic foods.
In addition to considering the glycemic index rating of agave nectar, another number you may want to consider it its glycemic load. According to the UWCIM, the glycemic load of a food takes into account the percent of carbohydrate contained in a food. Foods that rate between zero and 10 have a low glycemic load, foods between 11 and 19 have a moderate glycemic index and foods that rate over 20 have a high glycemic load. A 2 tbsp. serving size of agave nectar, according to All About Agave, has a glycemic load of 9.6, placing it just at the cutoff between low and medium. To calculate the glycemic load of any food, first find the number of carbohydrates the food contains by looking at food labels or a nutrition chart. Then, multiply this number by its glycemic index, and divide the total by 100.
The higher a food ranks on the glycemic index, the faster and more dramatic is its effect on blood sugar levels. You can use this information as a comparison to help you decide which foods to select and which to avoid. For example, compared to agave nectar’s glycemic index of 30, table sugar comes in at 65 and honey is at 58. Factoring in the glycemic load reveals that agave nectar is a clear winner. Compared to agave nectar’s glycemic load of 9.6, table sugar comes in at 15.6 and honey is at 19.7
You can use the glycemic index of foods to provide balance and allow variety in your diet. As the American Diabetes Association notes, combining foods with a lower glycemic against those with a higher index can balance the effect on your blood sugar and allow you to eat foods you may not otherwise choose.