My question is about "agave" as a sweetner.. is it really as safe to use as people say? To me it looks and tastes like honey. Though my blood levels haven't changed using it every once and awhile like they do when I use processed sugars. -- Celine I'm curious about agave too. I've always stayed away from artificial sweeteners but now that my DD(7) has type 1 diabetes I feel clueless as to the best desserts for her. Some things make her BG go nuts and she's tired of chocolate peanut glucerna bars. I don't deprive her but would like to have her try other things. -- Carla

Agave nectar (agave syrup) is a sweetener that comes from the Mexican cactus. It is considered to be a new “food trend” and has been cited to help people with diabetes better control blood sugar levels. It is similar to sugar in that they both have approximately 16 calories per teaspoon. However, agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, so theoretically you could use less and consume fewer calories, thereby reducing blood sugar levels. Agave differes from sugar in its chemical make up, which is another way that it may be useful for someone with diabetes. Sugar is consisted of half sucrose and half fructose, while agave contains anywhere from 55-90% of fructose. It is speculated that a higher fructose composition does not cause increased spikes in blood sugar.

Researchers note that more research needs to be completed to really understand the potential benefit from agave. The Food and Drug Administration says that “there is no evidence for safety concerns” but to be aware that “botulism spores can be found in bottled sweeteners originally derived from natural products” so to treat it similar to honey and refrain from giving it to a child under the age of one. They also urge consumers to seek out agave products that carry the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) seal and that are organic. And like anything else, I would encourage you to check the food label and be aware of the total calorie content per serving and the amount of carbohydrates per serving.

Children with diabetes can certainly still enjoy dessert. However, you will need to do a little planning and maybe even explore some healthy dessert recipes for diabetes. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is a great source of information. They provide recipes and tips for feeding your kids healthy foods. Artificial sweeteners can safely be included into children’s diet, and can really make desserts taste good. As with adults living with diabetes, kids should certainly be given many sweet fruit options as well as a balance of lean meats (chicken and fish), healthy fats (peanut butter and hummus), dairy products, vegetables, and whole grains.

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