Difference Between Agave and Honey

Main Difference – Agave vs Honey 

Negative health impacts associated with added sugar always force consumers to turn to natural sweeteners. Agave and honey are two different natural sweeteners which are commonly consumed.  Agave is a commercially manufactured from several species of agave, containing Agave tequilana (blue agave) and Agave salmiana. Honey is a sweet food made by bees. This is the main difference between Agave and honey. Agave is mainly derived from plant sources. Although both agave and honey belong to the sweeteners group, agave and honey have several different properties and characteristics, and this article explores the difference between Agave and honey.

Difference Between Agave and Honey -infographic

What is Agave

Agave, also known as agave syrup is a natural, healthful sweetener commercially manufactured using Agave tequilana (blue agave) and Agave salmiana. The scientific classification of agave plant is as follows;

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Monocots
  • Order: Asparagales
  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Subfamily: Agavoideae
  • Genus: Agave

They are mainly manufactured in Mexico and South Africa. Agave syrup is sweeter and less viscous than honey, but it is rich in fructose. It is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar and is ideally substituted for sugar or honey in different cuisines.

Main Difference - Agave vs Honey

What is Honey

Honey is the major source of food for the bees. It is made by bees using nectar from flowers. The sweet taste of honey is due to monosaccharides fructose and glucose. Due to its distinctive flavor and color, honey is mainly used for baking. Honey has a very low water activity and thus is less susceptible to the growth of microorganisms. Honey is a major calorie source and contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Honey is a good substitute for sugar as well as a good energy source. Honey is also believed to be helpful in creating smooth and beautiful skin and removing scars. It also helps to maintain our blood sugar levels.

Difference Between Agave and Honey

Difference Between Agave and Honey

Agave and honey may have substantially different sensory properties, nutrients, and uses. These differences may include,

Source

Agave is derived from the nectar of the blue agave plant.

Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from different flowers.

Produced by

Agave is produced by the leaves of Agave tequilana (blue agave) and Agave salmiana. The nectar is then extracted from the core of the agave and filtered. After that filtrate is heated to break the complex components into simple sugars.

Honey is produced by insects of the genus Apis, bumblebees, stingless bees, and other hymenopteran insects such as honey wasps.

Synthesis

Agave is synthesized in the plant as a result of the photosynthesis process.

Honey bees convert flower nectar into honey by a process of spitting out and evaporation.

Purpose of these Constituents

Agave provides food and energy for metabolism of the plant.

Honey is the primary food source for bees.

Production Countries

The two largest agave producers in the world are Mexico and South Africa

The five largest honey producers in the world are China, Turkey, Argentina, Ukraine, and Russia

Predominant Sugar

Agave is rich in Fructose (55%-90%) and glucose. It contains more fructose compared to natural bee honey

Honey predominantly consists of fructose, glucose, and sucrose.

Glycemic Index

Agave has  a glycemic index is 10-19. (low GI food)

Honey (pure) is a medium GI food. (GI is 58)

Classification

Agave is classified based on the color such as light- to dark amber, depending on the degree of processing.

Honey is categorized by the floral source of the nectar. Some categories include blended honey wildflower honey and Monofloral honey.

Thickness

Agave is slightly thinner than honey.

Honey is slightly thicker than agave.

Uses

Agave is used as a vegan alternative to honey during cooking. It is also used as a sweetener for cold beverages such as iced tea and some breakfast cereals.

Honey is mainly used for baking; it can be also used as a spread on bread or biscuits, as a sweetener for various beverages and to preserve meat.

Safety Concerns

Agave rarely causes allergic reactions is very rare.

Honey may be contaminated with dormant endospores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can be hazardous to infants.

Health Concerns

Agave contains high amount of fructose and consumption of large amounts of fructose can be harmful and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome, hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation

Honey is not associated with detrimental health outcomes compared to agave. There is some evidence that honey may contribute to healing skin wounds after surgery and mild burns when used in dressings.

References

Carbohydrate quantity and quality and risk of type 2 diabetes in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition–Netherlands (EPIC-NL) study”. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92, 905–911.

Crane, E. (1983). The Archaeology of Beekeeping, Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-1609-4

Kántor, Z., Pitsi, G. and Thoen, J. (1999). Glass Transition Temperature of Honey as a Function of Water Content As Determined by Differential Scanning Calorimetry. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 47 (6): 2327–2330

Ralf Patzold; Hans Bruckner (2005). Mass Spectrometric Detection and Formation of D-Amino Acids in Processed Plant Saps, Syrups, and Fruit Juice Concentrates (PDF). J. Agric. Food Chem 53 (25): 9722–9729.

Basciano H, Federico L, Adeli K (2005). Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia. Nutrition & Metabolism 2 (5).

Image Courtesy:

“Blue Agave” by Stan Shebs, via

“Honey Comb” by Gavin Mackintosh from South Molton, United Kingdom via

About the Author: Geesha

Geesha has a BSc (Hons) degree in Food Science and Technology and Master's degree in Food and Nutrition. She is currently reading for her PhD in Food science and technology. Sharing what she learned is a passion of hers and enjoys writing.


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