Maple syrup: healthy, or hedonistic? It may seem like a funny question to ask, but we’re enjoying maple syrup in almost every way imaginable. While we’re piling it on pancakes, waffles, and French toast, we’re also heating maple syrup with butter and combining it with other sugary sweets like chocolate to use as hot fudge sauce.
What Is Maple Syrup?
Maple syrup is made from the circulating fluid, or sap, of sugar maple trees.
It has been consumed for many centuries in North America. Over 80% of the world’s supply is now produced in the province of Quebec in eastern Canada.
There are two main steps to maple syrup production:
- A hole is drilled in a maple tree so that its sap pours into a container.
- The sap is boiled until most of the water evaporates, leaving a thick, sugary syrup, which is then filtered to remove impurities.
The final product can be used to sweeten many dishes.
Maple syrup is made by tapping sugar maple trees, then boiling the sap to produce a thick syrup. Most maple syrup is produced in eastern Canada.
Comes in Different Grades
There are several different grades of maple syrup characterized by color, though classification can vary between countries.
In the US, maple syrup is classified as either Grade A or B, where Grade A is further categorized into three groups — Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber — and Grade B is the darkest available syrup
The darker syrups are made from sap extracted later in the harvest season. These have a stronger maple flavor and are usually used for baking, whereas the lighter ones are drizzled directly atop foods like pancakes.
When buying maple syrup, make sure to read food labels carefully. This way, you’ll get real maple syrup — not just maple-flavored syrup, which can be loaded with refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
There are several different grades of maple syrup based on color. Grade B is darkest and boasts the strongest maple flavor.
Contains Some Vitamins and Minerals — But Is High in Sugar
What sets maple syrup apart from refined sugar is its minerals and antioxidants.
Around 1/3 cup (80 ml) of pure maple syrup contains
- Calcium: 7% of the RDI
- Potassium: 6% of the RDI
- Iron: 7% of the RDI
- Zinc: 28% of the RDI
- Manganese: 165% of the RDI
Though maple syrup provides a decent amount of some minerals, especially manganese and zinc, keep in mind that it also packs plenty of sugar.
Maple syrup is about 2/3 sucrose, or table sugar — 1/3 cup (80 ml) supplies around 60 grams of sugar.
Consumed in excess, sugar may be a leading cause of some of the world’s biggest health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease
The fact that maple syrup contains some minerals is a very poor reason to eat it, given its high sugar content. Most people already eat copious amounts of sugar.
The best way to get these minerals is to eat whole foods. If you eat a balanced diet, then your chance of lacking any of these nutrients is very low.
In addition, the high sugar content may affect your blood sugar levels — though maple syrup may be a better option than regular sugar in that regard.
The glycemic index of maple syrup is around 54. In comparison, table sugar has a glycemic index of around 65
This implies that maple syrup raises blood sugar slower than regular sugar.
Maple syrup contains a small amount of minerals, such as manganese and zinc. However, it is very high in sugar.
Potential Health Benefits Of Maple Syrup
With so many other healthy ways to reduce your sugar intake like monk fruit extract or honey, you may be wondering: why choose maple?
Pure maple syrup goes above and beyond things like table sugar and other forms of refined sugar, even if considered purely in taste alone.
Fans of the sweet stuff will be happy to hear that there are many other reasons to choose maple syrup aside from flavor profile and weight loss alone.
Maple Syrup Is A Relatively Low Glycemic Index Sweetener Substitute
Maple syrup contains mostly sucrose and water, with some glucose and fructose, as well. Because it’s relatively low in glucose, it’s much lower on the glycemic index (GI) scale, especially when compared to other sweeteners with high sugar content.
The baseline for the glycemic index is pure glucose, with a GI score of 100. Maple syrup earns an astounding 54 on average, depending on where it originates and how it is processed. You should feel less of a spike in your blood sugar levels after choosing maple syrup than you would with table sugar, or any other granulated, refined sugar. Low glycemic foods are good for weight loss as they don’t have as drastic of an effect on blood sugar levels, thus indirectly affecting appetite.
Maple syrup is sometimes compared favorably to other natural sugar substitutes like agave when it comes to blood sugar levels. The phenols and minerals present in maple syrup make it a much more attractive option than other substitute sweeteners devoid of these nutrients.
Maple Syrup Is Rich In Nutrients And Antioxidants
Maple syrup contains twenty-four known phenolic compounds. It’s also a great source of several essential minerals, including polyphenols that may help you ward off many diseases like cancer.
Unlike the empty, nutritionless calories in white sugar, maple-derived products bring much more to the table than sucrose alone. Among these additional health benefits, you’ll also find:
- Manganese in ample quantities
- Plenty of zinc
- Small amounts of copper, potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium
- Trace amounts of B vitamins
- Flavanols, have been shown to improve blood flow and prevent heart disease
- Polyphenolic lignans, an antioxidant
- The phytohormone abscisic acid, which may help your body manage its glucose levels
If you’re going to indulge in natural sugar of any kind, you may as well include something as nutritionally-complex as pure maple syrup.
Different Types Of Maple Syrup May Have More To Offer
The world’s supply of all real maple syrup is extracted from sugar maple trees, also known as the Acer genus. The type of maple tree may vary—black maple (Acer nigrum), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red maple (Acer rubrum), and Box Elder Maple (Acer negundo) are a few species of sugar maple trees.
There are also several different grades of maple syrup to consider: extra light, light, golden, medium, and dark amber maple syrup. These varieties are produced during different parts of the season. The later the syrup is acquired and processed, the darker it will be.
Darker maple syrup is much more viscous than golden maple syrup and other lighters, early-season maple syrup. Much of the sap’s water evaporates as time passes. This evaporation produces a darker, more concentrated maple syrup resulting in a much richer and more bioactive source of antioxidants.
Risks Of Consuming Maple Syrup
The risks of using too much maple syrup are very similar to the risks of too much sugar. Weight gain, for those trying to lose weight, will be one obvious consequence to avoid. Everything is in moderation.
The biggest risk that you stand to take when choosing maple syrup: picking up a bottle of the fake stuff instead of pure, 100% maple products. Fake maple syrup is usually full of chemicals, artificial sweeteners, regular sugar, preservatives, and other useless filler, often containing less than three percent of actual maple-derived content.
Real maple syrup, just to clarify, contains only one ingredient: maple. No refined sugar, period.
Just like any other off-the-shelf sweetener concentrate like golden syrup or inverted sugar syrup, the high sugar content of artificial maple syrup alone should be enough to convince you to avoid consuming it in large amounts, especially when trying to lose weight.
Can real maple sugar cause any other health problems, though? Not really. If you stay within your recommended daily value, you should be fine. When in doubt, we can always recommend seeking the advice of your local health professional.
Is Maple Syrup Good For Weight Loss?
As long as you remain in a caloric deficit, you will lose weight, no matter what you put on your waffles in the morning. If you’re going to splurge, you may as well choose something as natural and delicious as maple syrup.
Whether you buy the Whole Foods-approved premium reserve label or you go local, seasonal, and straight from the source, pure maple syrup can be used to enhance pretty much every type of meal, whether you’re on a diet or not.
Similarities Between Honey and Maple Syrup
Contrary to popular belief, there are few similarities between honey and pure maple syrup:
- Honey and maple syrup are liquid sweeteners.
- Both are devoid of protein or fat, relying solely on sugar or carbs for their calorific value.
- Micronutrients and antioxidants are also present in both.
- Vitamins like A, D, E, K, D, and B12 are absent.
Differences Between Honey and Maple Syrup
Honey can change colour, texture, and crystallise depending on storage circumstances. These are, however, natural variations and do not indicate that honey is spoiled. In addition, honey has no set date of expiry. Therefore, it is suitable for consumption as long as it is in your jar. Your honey will only expire if it gets contaminated by moisture, so make sure never to get water into your honey jar.
Maple syrup is particularly prone to mould growth due to its density. You can keep a sealed bottle of maple syrup indefinitely, but you can only use it for roughly a year after opening it. Therefore, keep sealed bottles of maple syrup in a cool, dry place. It’s best to keep it refrigerated once you open it.
Compared to honey, maple syrup has a lower glycemic index. For example, the average glycemic index of seventeen different varieties of honey is 58, while maple syrup has a glycemic index of 54. Therefore, honey is best for low-fat diets, while maple syrup is best for low-calorie, low-carb, and low-glycemic-index diets. In addition, there is a difference in the average serving sizes of honey and maple syrup. For example, honey has a smaller serving size than maple syrup as it is thicker than maple syrup.
Vitamins and Minerals
Honey has more B3, B5, and B6 and vitamin C and folate than maple syrup. In contrast, maple syrup contains a vitamin that honey does not: vitamin B1. Minerals like iron, phosphorus, and copper are all higher in honey. On the other hand, maple syrup has higher magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium. Honey has a lower salt content. It also contains three times the amount of riboflavin than maple syrup.
At first glance, honey and maple syrup contain similar calories. Pure maple syrup contains 52 calories per tablespoon. A one-tablespoon serving of honey contains around 64 calories. Moreover, depending on the amount you use, the calories add up in your dish. The numbers are similar in small amounts, but they show a drastic rise in calories when you take bigger measurements. For example, a cup of maple syrup has 840 calories, while a cup of honey contains 1,031 calories.
Honey does not contain fat. Therefore, it lacks saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In a tablespoon of pure maple syrup, the fat is 0.1 grams, almost negligible. It contains a minute amount of the three subcategories of fat.
Use in Cooking
Since honey is sweeter, you need to reduce the amount if you’re substituting it with maple syrup. But on the other hand, maple syrup has a strong maple flavour. Therefore, it can cause changes in the taste of your food. Nonetheless, honey and maple syrup work well for cereals, baked goods, granola, and muesli. Honey’s thicker consistency works well in marinades and salad dressings, where it can adhere to other ingredients, but maple syrup’s thinner consistency works well in baked goods.