Maple Syrup Is More Than A Breakfast Condiment
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that comes from the sap of maple trees, and could be marginally healthier for you than regular sugar.
It may sound like an improvement over traditional white sugar, maple syrup has several of the same disadvantages and only a few somewhat redeeming attributes, including some minerals and antioxidants you can also get from actual, nutritious foods instead of a sweetener.
The process for creating maple syrup is an additional plus over white sugar, since there are no chemicals involved. The circulating fluids of maple trees known as sap, that is siphoned off by tapping into tree veins and inserting tubes to carry out the sap.
In smaller operations buckets are still used to collect the liquid. Modern commercial manufacturers typically run lines to a central reservoir.
This sweet liquid is boiled resulting in thick syrup with impurities are removed. After the finished product is free of solids, it’s packaged and distributed.
Maple syrup has been in existence for centuries. Northeast Native Americans have used maple syrup for years. Today more than 75% of the world’s supply of maple syrup is manufactured in Canada.
In North America, maple syrup is produced in two grades. Grade A syrup is further broken down into three categories separated by color: light amber, medium amber and dark amber. These syrups are frequently more expensive, and purchased for direct consumption, such as pouring over waffles or pancakes.
The Grade B syrup is very dark, has a stouter maple flavor, and is harvested further into the season, when the sap is more concentrated. It’s regularly used for baking or other recipes.
The distinct flavor of maple syrup makes it a popular choice. With adjustments for extra liquid, maple syrup can be a substitute for sugar in recipes. Maple syrup has inspired many specialty drinks and desserts no other sweetener tastes quite like maple syrup.
Pure & Natural Maple Syrup vs Artificials
Many syrups are labeled with cautiously worded reference to “real maple flavor.” Depending on the product, these syrups contain differing amounts of actual maple syrup or maple sugar, from a spoonful to a little more, while providing most of the sweetness through high fructose corn syrup or other mediocre sources.
The truth is, pure maple syrup is just an additional form of sugar, and many of us eat far too much sugar as it is.
What Does It Boil Down to?
Nearly two-thirds of the sweetness in maple syrup originates from sucrose, which is the same as traditional table sugar.
One hundred grams of maple syrup translates to 67 grams of sucrose; it’s also a high glycemic index food at 54. Compared with sugar at 65, maple syrup doesn’t increase blood sugar levels quite as rapidly as table sugar.
In recipes, maple syrup offers approximately the same amount of sweetening cup for cup as sugar. As a result, maple syrup could cut total sugar by almost 33% and add some minerals and antioxidants.
Maple syrup is particularly rich in manganese, providing 159% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for this crucial mineral. Manganese is important for bone health, being used to treat anemia and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Respectable amounts of zinc are also found in maple syrup. One hundred grams contains 26% of the RDA. Maple syrup delivers less than 10% of the RDA for other vital minerals, including iron, potassium and calcium.
The antioxidants in maple syrup offer another minor benefit. Antioxidants play an important part in suppressing free radicals, those unstable electrons that move around in our systems, creating oxidative damage, quickening the aging process, and likely increasing the risk for developing certain diseases.
One review identified 24 different antioxidants that exist in maple syrup. The darker maple syrups are a wealthier source of antioxidants than the lighter syrups.
However, don’t expect to increase any noticeable amount of these helpful substances by taking maple syrup to the extreme.
Researchers who studied this question estimated if an individual replaced every bit of sugar typically eaten with maple syrup, the additional antioxidants you’d receive could be matched by a handful of nuts or a half cup of berries.
Lab studies, conducted by Canadian growing companies, have isolated a limited number of other potentially beneficial substances in maple syrup. These substances including one named quebecol for the Canadian province manufacturing large quantities of maple syrup.
Active compounds found in maple syrup have shown promise for slowing the growth of cancerous tumors, as well as impeding the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract. However, consuming excessive amounts of maple syrup will not make you healthier.
Sugar is Sugar
Minerals and antioxidants aside, maple syrup is still another form of sugar, and eating sugar does not promote good health. In fact, sugar could be the most harmful dietary component of all.
Ingesting excessive amounts of sugar, either coming from maple syrup, raw agave nectar, organic cane sugar, or various other kinds of sugar, is a quick and effective way to harm yourself.
What’s measured as excessive? A majority of American men and teenagers consume in excess of 300 calories per day from sugars alone; women typically consume around 200 calories per day. The American Heart Association (AHA) advises approximately half of those amounts as the maximum.
In 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement recommending 10% of energy intake should come from free sugars; adding that substantial health benefits could be realized by cutting that percentage in half, to approximately 6 teaspoons per day. Free sugars refer to added sugars found in soft drinks, table sugar, processed foods, fruit juices, honey, jam and jelly, and of course, maple syrup.
Including a lot of sugar in your daily diet can lead to serious health conditions such as heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
If you’re going to consume sweetened foods, using maple syrup as a substitute for sugar will reduce your total intake of sugar by approximately a third.
Although for those who are carrying around extra pounds or must improve metabolic health, blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, choosing maple syrup as a sweetener likely will not make an appreciable difference.
The unique flavor of maple syrup makes it an outstanding choice for the occasional treat; however, the negligible benefits of this natural sweetener don’t justify everyday use. Make sure you also check out our yacon syrup post to learn more about how these various natural syrups can be beneficial to your body and detoxification pathways.