Glycemic Index is measured between 0 and 100 of how fast carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels. The faster carbohydrates break down and raise blood sugar, the higher the glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods are usually preferred because they raise blood sugar levels more slowly and are less detrimental to the insulin response. Foods that have a GI of 70 or more are considered to be high.
The Agave Syrup issueI said that "Low glycemic index foods are usually preferred". It's not as cut and dry as you may think. Looking at the chart, you may think that agave syrup is obviously a proper choice in regards to including it in your diet as a sweetener. Unfortunately, some sugars that are low on the GI scale are low because instead of getting processed in the lower intestine, like most sugars, they get processed by the liver like alcohol. Agave syrup falls in this category and the concern is that when it gets processed in the liver, the liver converts it to fat and places it in the bloodstream. Due to this, I don't recommend agave syrup as a sweetener.
Learn more about the pitfalls of agave syrup.
Different sweeteners have different GI levels. Below is a chart to see where your favorite sweetener places on this scale.
Sweeteners and Glycemic Index
|Brown Rice Syrup||25***|
|High Fructose Corn Syrup||87***|
*These values are gathered from University of Sydney's Glycemic Index Database at www.glycemicindex.com
**These values are gathered from www.diabetesnet.com/diabetes_food_diet/glycemic_index.php
***These values are gathered from www.greenmagazines.com/organic/alternative-sugars.php
Note the high GI of high fructose corn syrup. As of this writing, an increasing number of prepared foods are including high fructose corn syrup due to its affordability. Due to its high GI most health professionals recommend reducing high fructose corn syrup intake as much as possible.
Keep in mind that regular white sugar tends to have the best flavor in baked goods because it's the most neutral. Using a sweetener other than what a recipe was designed to use usually results in compromising flavor in the baked item. Turbinado sugar isn't as high as refined sugar on the GI scale and tends to not 'color' your baked item's sweetness profile too excessively. It's used frequently in my kitchen.
If you have a sweet tooth it's a good idea to reduce excess high glycemic foods in your diet when convenient, get plenty of exercise and pay attention to protein intake to balance blood sugar levels. Remember that both sugar and moderation are best used in moderation.
Sugar by Uwe Hermann via Flickr
Lollipops by Dhammza via Flickr