Popular Health Foods: Healthy or Just Hype?
March 30, 2010 | By Health Editor
Agave, Salba, stevia—oh my! Having trouble telling which new finds in the health-food aisle are actually good for you? Our helpful guide can point you in the right direction.
What it is: A syrup made from the Mexican agave plant, which is used as a sweetener and to make mescal—a distilled spirit. (Tequila is a kind of mescal.)
Where you’ll find it: In the baking aisle, near the other sweeteners.
What it’s good for: The syrup is roughly 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, without being cloying, and it works well in drinks and baked goods. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar, so it doesn’t cause blood sugar levels to spike as sharply. And agave is a natural source of inulin, a fiber additive that promotes the growth of stomach-protecting probiotics.
Worth a try? If you’re looking for a less-processed sweetener, agave is a good choice. But it’s not calorie-free: 1 tablespoon has 60 calories. You’ll pay more, too: a 23.5-ounce bottle of organic agave is $8, while a 5-pound bag of sugar (which has more servings) costs about $4.
What it is: A caffeine-free South African plant that is brewed as a tea; also known as red tea.
Where you’ll find it: In the tea and spice aisles, and where bottled iced tea is sold. You can even get a rooibos latte at Starbucks.
What it’s good for: Rooibos is naturally sweet, so it’s perfect iced with a little fresh mint or lemon for a low-calorie drink, and it delivers a nice hit of antioxidants. Rooibos also has been used for centuries to combat allergies and skin problems, although these benefits have not been documented.
Worth a try? If you enjoy the flavor of this tea, sure.