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.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Maple Syrup? How Is It Made?
- What Are The Benefits Of Maple Syrup?
- What Is The Nutritional Profile* Of Maple Syrup?
- How Is Maple Syrup Different From Sugar And Honey?
- Any Considerations?
What Is Maple Syrup? How Is It Made?
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.
What Are The Benefits Of Maple Syrup?
1. Helps Fight Inflammatory Diseases
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).
2. May Boost Brain Health
We already discussed how maple syrup could beat brain inflammation and benefit people who have Alzheimer’s. In mice studies, pure maple syrup was found to boost brain health. More studies are warranted to further understand the effects of maple syrup on the human brain (3).
The antioxidants in maple syrup can protect the brain from oxidative stress and its ill effects.
3. Aids Cancer Treatment
Research suggests that pure maple syrup may inhibit cell proliferation and invasion in cancer patients (4). Extracts of maple syrup were found to have antioxidant and anti-proliferative effects against cancer cell lines (4). The antioxidant properties of maple syrup are directly proportionate to its color – the darker the syrup, the stronger its antioxidant profile (4).
In another study, dark-colored maple syrup showed positive effects on gastrointestinal cell lines (5). 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.
4. May Aid Digestion
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 contain polyols that cause flatulence and abdominal discomfort (6). Maple syrup, as an alternative, can prevent these issues.
5. Is Better Than Regular Table Sugar
Maple syrup has a glycemic index of 54, whereas table sugar has a glycemic index of 68. This makes maple syrup a better alternative. Studies show maple syrup could be better than sucrose to individuals dealing with type 2 diabetes (7).
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?
What Is The Nutritional Profile* Of Maple Syrup?
|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, including leucine, valine, and isoleucine.
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?
How Is Maple Syrup Different From Sugar And Honey?
Maple Syrup Vs. Sugar
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 (8). This 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.
Maple Syrup Vs. Honey
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 mostly in the form of sucrose, honey contains sugars in the form of fructose. Sucrose is better than fructose. Mice studies show that consuming fructose (or glucose) could have more harmful effects than sucrose (9).
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.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
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.
- Xylem – A tissue in plants that transports water and dissolved nutrients upwards
- Macrophages – Large white blood cells that are an important part of the immune system
- Glycemic index and glycemic load, Oregon State University.
- Molecule with anti-inflammatory properties in maple syrup discovered, ScienceDaily.
- Effects of a Standardized Phenolic-Enriched Maple Syrup Extract on β-Amyloid Aggregation, Neuroinflammation in Microglial and Neuronal Cells, and β-Amyloid Induced Neurotoxicity in Caenorhabditis elegans, Neurochemical Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Antioxidant Activity, Inhibition of Nitric Oxide Overproduction, and in Vitro Antiproliferative Effect of Maple Sap and Syrup From Acer Saccharum, Journal of Medicinal Food, US National Library of Medicine.
- Effect of dark-colored maple syrup on cell proliferation of human gastrointestinal cancer cell, Biomedical Reports, US National Library of Medicine.
- Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials, Advances in Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Comparison of the Enhancement of Plasma Glucose Levels in Type 2 Diabetes Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty Rats by Oral Administration of Sucrose or Maple Syrup, Journal of Oleo Science, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Sugar and Other Sweeteners, ResearchGate.
- Compared to Sucrose, Previous Consumption of Fructose and Glucose Monosaccharides Reduces Survival and Fitness of Female Mice, The Journal of Nutrition, Oxford Academic Journals.
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