So I decided to outline the pros and cons of each...
Let's start with Agave Syrup...
Agave syrup is made from the Agave plant , the same plant used to make tequila. It has the consistency and colour of honey and can be used in baking without losing its sweetness.
Unfortunately Agave syrup (or nectar) is highly processed. Manufacturers use genetically modified enzymes to chemically transform the starchy root into a high fructose liquid. And when compared to High Fructose Corn Syrup, (HFCS) Agave takes the crown (containing almost 80& fructose compared to 55% found in HFCS).
So what's the problem with too much fructose?
An article published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explains how high fructose intake can contribute to cardiovascular disease, weight gain and increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Other studies have also linked it to insulin resistance and hypertension.
For Diabetics and those following the GI diet, Agave syrup may have been on the recommended list due to its low GI score, but remember the glycemic index measures ONLY the glucose index. Agave syrup has less glucose but way more fructose than sugar.
The sweet truth - not a recommended source of sweetener.
The Story with Stevia:
Stevia seems to be the new No Calorie sweetener of choice, used with abandon in sugar-free baking because it retains its sweetness in heat and only a little is needed to go a long way.
But, and there is always a but.. Stevia isn't all its been sugar coated up to be:
1. The Taste... Stevia does have a slightly bitter after taste and is very sweet.
2. Messing with blood glucose levels...when we eat sweet foods the body assumes that it will be receiving sugar and so starts the secretion of insulin. When no sugar is delivered blood sugar levels drop and the body then has to rely on adrenalin and cortisol to mobilise sugar from other stored sources (such as the muscles or liver) to bring blood sugar back up to normal.
When the body continually secretes the stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) without using them in either "fight or flight" these hormones suppress the immune system and reduce thyroid function.
3. The things that lurk inside... most of the stevia we buy is mixed with other additives, including glycerine, dextrose (which can include corn) or xylitol. Even though stevia is marketed as 'all natural' it's processed state is far from its green leafy shrub origins.
The sweet truth - not a recommended for those with adrenal or thyroid problems.
Honey is the most natural of the sweeteners, requiring no processing or additives before you get to sample it's sweetness. It's been linked to cures for hay fever and flu, infections and sore throats and for me, nothing beats melting honey onto warm toast...
But how does it compare as a sweetener?
Honey contains about 50% fructose although the ratio of fructose to glucose in honey can vary greatly, depending on the nectar. Honey is also rich in antioxidants and has antibacterial properties.
Because honey is sweeter than sugar you need less of it to get your sweet fix.
If you're healthy, active and don't need to lose weight, honey can be a better option for you than either agave or sugar. Diabetics, those who are overweight or those who struggle with eating too much fructose should limit their intake.
Bray, G; (2007); How bad is Fructose?; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/895.full
Flavin, D; (2008); Metabolic Dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup- http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2008/dec2008_Metabolic-Dangers-of-High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup_01.htm
Geertsen, L; (2013); Why I quit Stevia - Empowered Sustenance - http://empoweredsustenance.com/is-stevia-bad-for-you/