Maple syrup is a natural sweetener and is said to be healthier and nutritious than sugar. It is known for the unique sweetness it adds to different dishes. Maple syrup is made from the sap of certain species of maple trees. This article explores the health benefits of maple syrup, nutrition facts, substitutes, and potential risk factors. Continue reading to know more about it.
Maple Syrup: What Is It, Types, And Preparation
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener made from the sap of certain species of maple trees like sugar maple, red maple, and black maple. These trees are native to Canada and the northern regions of the United States. Traditionally, the collected sap is boiled to prepare maple syrup. However, nowadays, maple syrup is prepared in many other ways. The process is described below:
- The sap is collected by drilling a hole in the bark of the maple tree.
- The sap is boiled until the hydrometer reads 66% of sugar content.
- The syrup is strained and allowed to cool down.
- It is stored in clean containers at room temperature.
You will get varieties of maple syrup available on the market and are distinguished based on the color and consistency:
- Gold Syrup: It has a mild sweet taste and is prepared from the sap collected at the beginning of the maple season. It goes well with Greek yogurt and vanilla ice cream.
- Amber Syrup: It is prepared in the mid maple season. The amber-colored syrup has a strong, rich taste and is served with waffles, salads, and maple-sweetened barbecue sauce.
- Dark Syrup: The syrup turns dark as the sugaring season progresses. Dark maple syrup has a caramel-like taste. It goes well with baked apples and is used for glazing meats.
- Very Dark Syrup: This syrup is produced at the end of maple season. It has a rich taste and strong maple flavors. It is generally used for cooking or baking.
Contrary to popular belief, maple syrup has a rich nutrient profile.
Maple Syrup Nutrition Facts
A hundred grams of maple syrup contains (1):
|Total lipid (fat)||0.06 g|
The calories in maple syrup may vary as per the serving size. Here is a breakdown:
Calories In Maple Syrup
|1 bottle (1000 mL)||3,517|
|1 cup (236 mL)||830|
|1 tablespoon (14.7 mL)||52|
|1 teaspoon (4.9 mL)||17|
You can use maple syrup as a sugar substitute in your food and drinks. Here are a few ways to use it.
Ways To Use Maple Syrup
You can use maple syrup:
- As a sweetener in smoothies, pancakes, juices, and health drinks
- As a sugar substitute in cakes, cookies, and bread
- As toppings on popcorns, yogurt, ice cream, and pancakes
- To flavor plain milk
- To glaze bacon, steak, and meat
- With oatmeal porridge
- To sweeten whipped cream for decorating cakes
Pure maple syrup has multiple health benefits. Let’s take a look at them.
Health Benefits Of Maple Syrup
1. Rich In Antioxidants
Maple syrup has significant antioxidant properties due to melanoidins produced by the condensation of amines and reducing sugars. Dark maple syrup has a higher antioxidant activity than lighter ones (2). These antioxidants protect from free radical damage to reduce cell damage and inflammation inside the body (3).
2. Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Maple syrup contains quebecol, a polyphenol that has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation often worsens conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and gout (4), (5). The anti-inflammatory properties of maple syrup may help reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions.
3. May Aid In Digestion
Maple syrup contains inulin, a prebiotic and non-digestible polysaccharide. It supports the growth of gut-friendly bacteria, promotes colon health, and aids in digestion (6).
4. May Reduce The Risk Of Cancer
Maple syrup inhibits the growth of colorectal cancer cells. Its low sugar content prevents DNA damage and mutation. In addition, the antioxidant property of dark maple syrup may help suppress cancer cells (7).
If you are tempted to switch to maple syrup due to its excellent health benefits, read ahead to learn about its potential side effects.
Possible Side Effects Of Maple Syrup
1. May Cause Tooth Decay
Excess maple syrup consumption may damage the tooth enamel. The natural sugar in the syrup may also lead to various dental problems (8).
2. May Spike Blood Sugar Levels
Anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming excess maple syrup may spike blood sugar levels. However, if consumed in moderation, it may help people with diabetes to satisfy their sweet cravings without affecting their blood sugar levels.
3. May Cause Allergic Reactions
Unprocessed raw maple sap is a potent allergen and may trigger severe allergic reactions (9). It may cause rashes, swelling, wheezing, swollen throat, and digestive issues.
4. May Cause Fatigue
The excessive use of maple syrup may result in fatigue. This may be due to the presence of simple sugars (simple carbohydrates). Although carbohydrates are necessary to maintain energy levels, research says that simple carbohydrates may cause fatigue (10).
Jeanette Kimszal, RDN, suggests, “Added sugar in moderation is fine, but don’t use these nutritive properties as an excuse to go overboard with the sugar. It might be beneficial to switch to maple syrup if you’re using another processed syrup. However, there is no reason to add sugary foods to your diet if you are not already consuming them.”
If you are allergic to maple syrup or experience any side effects, stop using it. Instead, you may try these substitutes.
Maple Syrup Substitutes
- Honey: Honey is a natural sweetener and resembles the taste of maple syrup when used in delicacies.
- Agave Nectar: Agave nectar has a unique sweet taste that enhances the flavor of any dish.
- Molasses: Molasses is similar to maple syrup in terms of color and taste. However, it has an intense and strong flavor and can be used in candies, cakes, and desserts.
- Corn Syrup: Corn syrup looks similar to maple syrup and has a rich, sweet taste. However, use it in moderation.
The Bottom Line
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener rich in minerals and polyphenols. It has multiple health benefits and is a tasty addition to drinks and desserts. Make sure you buy it from a trusted source to maintain its quality, as unprocessed maple syrup may affect the digestive system and cause allergic reactions. Moreover, consume in moderation as excess natural sugar may affect your blood glucose levels. If you notice any side effects, stop using it and consult a doctor.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is maple syrup better for you than sugar?
Yes. Maple syrup is a better option than sugar as it is a natural sweetener. However, consume in moderation.
Is honey healthier than maple syrup?
Both honey and maple syrup offer an array of health benefits when consumed in moderation. However, maple syrup is a healthier option because of its high antioxidant content.
Does maple syrup spike your blood sugar?
Yes, it may spike blood glucose levels if consumed in excess.
Can people with type 2 diabetes eat maple syrup?
Yes, people with type 2 may consume maple syrup in moderation and as advised by the doctor.
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- Antioxidant Activity of Different Grades of Maple Syrup as Determined by the Hydrophilic Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity Method
- Free radicals antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health
- Role of Antioxidants and Natural Products in Inflammation
- Anti-inflammatory properties of quebecol and its derivatives
- Detection of Inulin a Prebiotic Polysaccharide in Maple Syrup
- Inhibitory effect of maple syrup on the cell growth and invasion of human colorectal cancer cells
- Sugars and Dental Caries: Evidence for Setting a Recommended Threshold for Intake1.2.3
- Making maple syrup: Hazardous avocational ingestion of raw sap in a patient with nut and tree pollen sensitivity
- Carbohydrate Consumption and Fatigue: A Review