Is agave syrup the same as agave nectar?

Agave syrup and agave nectar are two different names used to describe the same sweetener that comes from the agave plant. While they may seem like two distinct products, agave syrup and agave nectar refer to the same thick, syrupy sweetener.

What is agave syrup/nectar?

Agave syrup, also called agave nectar, is a sweetener made from the juiced extract of several species of the agave plant, including the blue agave plant. It is produced primarily in Mexico.

To make agave syrup, the agave plant is trimmed back to reveal the piña, or core, which contains all the sugars. The piña is roasted, then juiced to extract the agave sap. The sap is filtered and heated to break down its complex components into simple sugars. The end result is a syrupy liquid that is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar.

Agave syrup has a consistency similar to honey but contains a mild, neutral taste. Its primary sweetening agents are fructose and glucose. Depending on how extensively the agave sap is processed, agave syrup can contain 50-90% fructose, while table sugar (sucrose) is 50% fructose and 50% glucose.

Difference between agave syrup and high-fructose corn syrup

Like high-fructose corn syrup, agave syrup is higher in fructose than plain sugar. However, there are some differences between the two sweeteners:

  • Agave syrup is derived from the agave plant, while high-fructose corn syrup is derived from corn
  • High-fructose corn syrup goes through multiple chemical processes involving enzymes to convert cornstarch to fructose. Agave syrup is processed more simply from the agave sap.
  • The fructose content of agave syrup ranges from 55-90%, while high-fructose corn syrup is typically 55% fructose.
  • High-fructose corn syrup commonly contains genetically modified corn, while agave does not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

So while agave syrup and high-fructose corn syrup share similarities, they have some distinct differences in their sources, production methods, and precise nutrition profiles.

Nutrition of agave syrup

Below is the nutrition information for a 100 gram serving of agave syrup:

Nutrient Amount
Water 30 g
Carbs 76 g
Sugars 74 g
Fructose 55-90% of total sugars
Glucose 10-45% of total sugars
Sucrose 0-10% of total sugars
Other sugars 0-5% of total sugars
Fiber 0 g
Calories 310

As you can see, agave syrup is very high in carbs and sugars, but does not contain any fiber, protein, or fat. Its calories come almost entirely from carbohydrates.

Agave syrup vs. honey

How does agave syrup compare to honey?

Nutrient Agave syrup Honey
Water 30% 17%
Carbs 76g 82g
Sugars 74g 82g
Fructose content 55-90% 38-55%
Glucose content 10-45% 31-40%
Calories 310 304

Agave syrup and honey contain comparable amounts of calories and carbs. However, agave syrup contains a higher proportion of fructose, while honey contains more glucose. Honey also contains some trace vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are destroyed in the processing of agave syrup.

Is agave syrup healthy?

Though it’s marketed as a “natural” sweetener, there are some concerns around agave syrup’s health effects:

  • Highly processed: While agave syrup comes from a plant, it goes through extensive processing to extract and process the sap into syrup.
  • High fructose content: The high fructose levels in agave syrup can be concerning, as excessive fructose is linked to increased risks of metabolic disease.
  • Lack of nutrients: Unlike less processed sweeteners like maple syrup and honey, agave syrup lacks any trace minerals, vitamins, or antioxidants.
  • Fructose absorption: Fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion and can be absorbed unrelentingly, while glucose uptake is regulated by insulin.
  • Effects on metabolism: Some research links high intakes of fructose to insulin resistance, belly fat accumulation, and poor metabolic health.

Due to its high fructose concentration and heavily processed nature, agave syrup provides empty calories and little nutrition. There is no nutrition advantage of using agave syrup over more common sweeteners like sugar or honey.

How is agave syrup used?

Agave syrup has a mild, neutral flavor that blends well with many foods and drinks. It can be used in place of sugar or honey in recipes. Some examples of using agave syrup include:

  • Drizzling over pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal
  • Sweetening tea, coffee, or lemonade
  • Mixing into smoothies
  • Baking cakes, cookies, or desserts
  • Glazing meat, fish, or tofu
  • Making salad dressings, marinades, and sauces
  • Adding to yogurt, cottage cheese, or oatmeal

In baked goods, agave syrup will lead to softer, moister results than white sugar. You can replace sugar with agave at a ratio of 1 cup sugar : 2/3 cup agave syrup. Reduce liquids by about 3 tablespoons to account for the added moisture.

Since it is 1.4-1.6 times sweeter than sugar, you can use less agave syrup than sugar in recipes. Start by using about 25% less agave than sugar and adjust to taste.

Is there a difference between light and dark agave syrup?

There are two main varieties of agave syrup:

  • Light agave: Lighter in color and milder in flavor. It comes from several Agave species and is processed for a shorter time.
  • Dark agave: Darker in color with a stronger, more caramelized flavor. It exclusively comes from the blue agave plant and is processed longer.

While flavor and color vary, light and dark agave syrup have minimal differences in their nutrition profile and sugar composition. Both varieties contain similar high amounts of fructose.

Dark agave does have slightly higher antioxidant levels since the longer heating process helps develop the antioxidants that are naturally present in the blue agave plant. However, the quantities are still negligible compared to less processed sweeteners.

Is agave syrup vegan?

Yes, agave syrup is considered a vegan food. Since it comes from the juice of the agave plant, it does not contain any animal products or byproducts. Agave syrup is also suitable for vegetarians.

Vegan foods, including agave syrup, are also often recommended for kosher and halal diets, as they avoid prohibited ingredients like pork.

Is agave syrup gluten-free?

Agave syrup is naturally gluten-free. Since agave syrup is made from the agave plant, it does not contain gluten like grains do.

Agave syrup is frequently recommended as a gluten-free alternative to common sources of glucose and sugar like wheat. It can be enjoyed on a gluten-free diet as well as other diets that exclude gluten.

Is agave syrup keto-friendly?

Agave syrup is very high in carbs, so it is not considered keto-friendly. The low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet minimizes sources of sugar and carbs like agave syrup.

On a standard keto diet, carb intake is limited to around 5% of total calories, which is about 25 grams of net carbs for most people. Since agave syrup provides 74 grams of carbs per 100 grams, even small amounts would easily surpass a day’s carb limit.

Some alternative sweeteners that can be included in moderation on a keto diet include stevia, erythritol, and monk fruit.

Is agave syrup suitable for diabetics?

Agave syrup has a high glycemic index, meaning it rapidly raises blood sugar levels. It also consists almost entirely of fructose and simple sugars, which can be harmful in excess for diabetics.

For these reasons, agave syrup is not considered diabetic-friendly. Small amounts may be acceptable on occasion as part of a healthy, well-rounded diabetic diet, but it should not be a regular part of the diet.

Some alternatives diabetics can consider instead of agave include:

  • Stevia
  • Erythritol
  • Monk fruit
  • Xylitol
  • Yacon syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey

When including sweeteners in their diets, diabetics are best limiting intake to occasional small servings and focusing on options that are low on the glycemic index.

Is agave syrup safe during pregnancy?

Agave syrup is likely safe for pregnant women in small to moderate amounts as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet. However, it should not be consumed in large quantities.

Pregnancy increases requirements for certain vitamins and minerals like folate, calcium, and iron. Since agave syrup is void of nutrients, over-relying on it could potentially displace nutrient-dense foods from the diet.

Additionally, excess sugar intake is linked to increased risks of gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Agave syrup is very high in sugar and calories, so intake should be limited.

For the healthiest pregnancy possible, focus on getting nutrients from whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, dairy, nuts, and seeds instead of empty sources of sugar.

Does agave syrup have any side effects?

Agave syrup is likely safe for most people in moderate amounts. However, there are some potential side effects to be aware of if consuming large amounts:

  • Digestive issues: Since agave syrup is high in fructose, overdoing intake can cause bloating, gas, cramping, and diarrhea in sensitive individuals.
  • Weight gain: The high calories and sugar content may promote weight gain when consumed in excess.
  • Blood sugar spikes: Agave syrup has a high glycemic index, meaning it can rapidly raise blood sugar levels.
  • Inflammation: Extremely high fructose intake has been linked to inflammatory processes.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: Heavy use as a sugar substitute could displace more nutrient-rich foods from the diet.
  • Fatty liver: Excess fructose consumption has been shown to increase liver fat.

To avoid adverse health effects, it is best to use agave syrup in moderation as part of a diet focused on wholesome, nutritious foods.

Is agave syrup safe for babies and children?

Small amounts of agave syrup are likely safe for babies and children. However, it should be used sparingly.

Since agave syrup is high in sugar and empty calories, heavy use could displace nutrient-dense foods from the diet that are important for babies’ and children’s growth and development.

It’s best to focus on getting nutrition from whole foods at an early age while limiting processed sugars. Babies under 12 months should avoid agave syrup and added sugars altogether.

If used, agave syrup should be reserved for occasional small servings such as:

  • Drizzled sparingly over oatmeal or yogurt
  • Mixed into smoothies
  • Thinly spread over whole grain toast

Keep total added sugar intake below 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day for children 2-18 years old according to American Heart Association recommendations.


Agave syrup, also called agave nectar, is a popular sweetener made from the agave plant. Though sometimes marketed as a “health food,” it is very high in sugar and processed.

It contains more fructose than plain sugar, which may negatively impact blood sugar control, inflammation, and metabolic health when consumed in excess.

While small amounts of agave syrup can be used safely in some recipes, it provides little nutrition. For the best health, it is wisest to satisfy a sweet tooth with whole fruits, reserve agave as an occasional treat, and rely on less processed sweeteners like maple syrup and honey.

At the end of the day, agave syrup and agave nectar refer to the same product. While one may sound more natural than the other, there is no difference between the two in terms of nutrition, sugar content, and how they are produced.

Leave a Comment