Doesn’t maple syrup conjure up the image of a sugary sweet golden liquid in your mind? Whether it is a bowl of oatmeal or a plate of breakfast pancakes, maple syrup makes for a delicious add-on. But then, isn’t it bad? Or is it the ideal alternative to sugar? In this post, we will explore the benefits of maple syrup and how you can make use of it.
It is the syrup made from the xylem1 sap of sugar maple or black or red maple trees. These trees store starch in their trunks and roots just before winter. During late winters, this starch is converted into sugar that rises in the sap. This exuded sap is collected by drilling holes into the tree trunks, which is then processed by heating to evaporate most of the water. What is left is concentrated maple syrup.
Maple syrup has a glycemic index of 54, which is low (1). But does this alone make it worth talking about? Well, let’s see.
Studies have discovered that quebecol, a molecule found in maple syrup, can help fight the body’s inflammatory response (2). Quebecol works by curbing the inflammatory response of macrophages2.
Maple syrup is also quite rich in phenolic compounds that help fight inflammation. A study found that these anti-inflammatory attributes of maple syrup can help combat neuroinflammation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (3).
We already discussed how maple syrup could beat brain inflammation and benefit people who have Alzheimer’s. A report published by the United States Department of Agriculture confirms that the beneficial compounds in maple syrup may help boost brain health (4).
The antioxidants in maple syrup can protect the brain from oxidative stress and its ill effects.
Research suggests that maple syrup may inhibit cell proliferation and invasion in cancer patients. Extracts of maple syrup were found to have antioxidant and anti-proliferative effects against cancer cell lines (5). The antioxidant properties of maple syrup are directly proportionate to its color – the darker the syrup, the stronger its antioxidant profile (5).
In another study, dark-colored maple syrup showed positive effects on gastrointestinal cell lines (6). The syrup contains certain active ingredients that offer protection from cancer. The study also suggests that routine intake of dark-colored maple syrup can suppress the progression of gastric and esophageal cancers.
This has got to do with the fact that maple syrup can replace most other refined sugars in your food. Excess intake of refined sugars can lead to digestive system issues like irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut. But, this may not be the case with maple syrup.
Artificial sweeteners also cause other abdominal issues like stomach gas, bloating, and constipation. Maple syrup, as an alternative, can prevent these issues.
Maple syrup has a glycemic index of 54, whereas table sugar has a glycemic index of 68. This makes maple syrup a better alternative – it raises blood sugar levels much slower than regular sugar.
More interestingly, maple sugar comes with other important antioxidants that sugar lacks. This makes it all the more superior to sugar.
The lower glycemic index of maple syrup may also make it an ideal food for preventing type 2 diabetes (7).
But then, you shouldn’t overconsume maple syrup either. It still contains sugar, and excess of sugar has been linked to serious health complications.
These are some important benefits of maple syrup. Now, why don’t we take a detailed look at its nutritional profile?
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,088 kJ (260 kcal)|
|Thiamine (B1)||0.066 mg||6%|
|Riboflavin (B2)||1.27 mg||106%|
|Niacin (B3)||0.081 mg||1%|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.036 mg||1%|
|Vitamin (B6)||0.002 mg||0%|
|Vitamin C||0 mg||0%|
*Sourced from USDA, syrups, maple
A hundred grams of maple syrup contains over 260 calories, 67% carbohydrates, and 32% of water by weight. Though maple syrup is low in micronutrients, manganese and riboflavin are exceptions. Calcium and zinc are present in moderate amounts, and the syrup contains amino acids as well.
Quite a varied profile, isn’t it? We also discussed how it is a better option than sugar and other sugary foods. But how? What is the science?
Maple syrup is relatively unprocessed. The sap from the maple trees is just heated to evaporate most of the water, leaving behind the syrup.
Sugar, on the other hand, undergoes lots of processing that usually happens in factories. Sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beets. Even chemicals like lime, phosphoric acid, and diatomaceous earth are used in the processing of sugar. The resulting juice is then filtered and whitened using bone char or carbon before we get granulated sugar.
Sugar also contains absolutely no nutrients due to the processing. But maple syrup contains trace amounts of important minerals, including potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium and is particularly high in manganese and riboflavin.
Both are touted to be alternative sugar sweeteners. They vary widely in their nutritional content.
Though both offer trace amounts of nutrients, honey contains vitamins C and B6 in modest amounts. On the other hand, maple syrup contains numerous minerals (that we already discussed) that honey doesn’t.
In terms of sugar content, maple syrup seems to have the upper hand. While the sugars in maple syrup are in the form of sucrose, honey contains sugars in the form of fructose. Sucrose is better than fructose as the body needs to do some work to break down sucrose into fructose and glucose.
When compared to table sugar and honey, maple syrup seems to be a much better option. Of course, you can use maple syrup and honey interchangeably – but ensure you stay away from table sugar as much as possible.
Does this mean that you can go about adding maple syrup to your dishes every day? Probably not.
Maple syrup does contain sugar. Of course, it is not majorly fructose. Consuming it in moderation, along with plenty of fruits and veggies and unprocessed animal meat, is what works best. You don’t have to strive to make it a part of your diet – but you can use it in place of regular table sugar.
Waffles or oatmeal or breakfast pancakes – maple syrup works great with anything! But moderation is key. Whenever you want to include sugar in your diet (which shouldn’t be quite often), you can go for maple syrup instead. Otherwise, a healthy diet and regular exercise will work wonders for your health.
What are the common substitutes for maple syrup?
You can substitute maple syrup with honey – it improves the taste of your dishes and contains some important nutrients too.
What is the best grade of maple syrup?
The darker the syrup, the better it is. Grade A, which is dark, is the best pick.
How long does maple syrup last?
Unopened maple syrup can last indefinitely. If opened, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a year.
Is maple syrup vegan?
Yes, it is.
Is it paleo?
Yes, provided you can lay your hands on the most natural form. In most cases, this may not be possible.
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