Whether you’re baking or adding a little sweetness to salad dressing, the options for the type of sweetener you reach for keep growing: pure cane sugar, stevia, date syrup, molasses. The two kinds we hear most about? Agave and honey. While these two have similarities (they both pack about 20 calories a teaspoon), there are differences to keep in mind (for starters: one’s sweeter). Honey and agave are both natural sweeteners that people like to use in recipes instead of table sugar. Let’s learn about how these amber-colored sticky ingredients stack up.
Ever since agave hit the sweetener scene in the early 2000s, it’s been touted as a health darling. This is because it ranks lower on the glycemic index—a ranking of how food affects a person’s blood sugar level—than both honey and table sugar. But that doesn’t mean you should use it with abandon. Agave’s lower level of glucose means a higher amount of fructose, which has been linked to obesity. Agave is produced mainly in Mexico and South America by extracting the nectar from the core of the agave plant (hence why it’s vegan friendly), then heating and processing it to make a thin syrup. Since it has a sweeter flavor than honey and sugar, you can use less of it in recipes, like when sweetening a smoothie or cup of tea. Agave has a more neutral flavor than honey, so subbing it in baking is a good option if you think honey can be overpowering. This can be an easy and a simple swap. But swapping agave for sugar can be trickier, due to the viscosity of agave, so you probably need to reduce the amount of liquid called for in the recipe.
(Image: Huffington Post)
Bees make this natural sweetener from flower nectars, a process that gives honey a range of distinct flavors and colors. Typically, the darker the color, the more intense the flavor. Honey might be less sweet than agave, but it’s still sweeter than sugar, so you’ll want to use less when subbing it in baking. And while it’s best known in its sticky liquid form, honey also comes in other ways. Raw honey is minimally processed after being removed from the beehive, and typically costs more because of its pure state. If you’re eating honey for its antibacterial and antifungal benefits, you might be better off sticking with the raw kind because it hasn’t been heated. Creamed honey is a more spreadable, butter-like version of the sweetener that’s been processed to prevent large crystals from forming. Found at specialty food stores, creamed honey is a treat when slathered on toast or biscuits, but the consistency is lost when used in baked goods, so stick with regular honey for baking.