A Potential Sugar Substitute
The majority of people get more than enough sugar and many people of all ages consume far too much of the stuff. Given that quitting sugar entirely or even radically cutting down is beyond many people, it is important to look at healthier feasible alternatives.
If your goal is to cut down on regular cane sugar. ample syrup is just one of many healthier options to satisfy your sweet tooth. While we would never recommend that you eat it in huge amounts, using maple syrup in moderation is a decent alternative and it even brings some surprising health benefits to the party.
Maple syrup may be more commercial these days but it is certainly nothing new. The native Americans have been using it for many centuries and maple trees were used for their sap well before European settlers ever arrived in the Americas.
Maple Syrup Nutritional Facts
When compared to the empty calories and lack of any nutrients that you get from regular sugar, maple syrup is a nutritional powerhouse. It may not be nature’s healthiest product but it contains far more beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals. If it is used wisely, maple syrup can help you to manage your blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation.
As well as its antioxidant compounds, maple syrup contains 33% of your RDA of manganese. It also contains a small amount of potassium, zinc, calcium, iron and magnesium. Sure, it is not a lot but it is certainly more than you would be getting from your regular sugar.
Maple syrup has a glycemic index of 54 which comparing it favorably against cane sugar which has a glycemic index of 65.
Another reason to think about substituting your table sugar with maple syrup is the manufacturing process. Refined table sugar goes through a very long and complex process before being crystallized and making its way to the shelves. By contrast, maple syrup is unrefined and produced from maple tree sap by far more natural means.
Maple Syrup Health Benefits
Bear in mind that the following benefits should be taken in context as a comparison to refined cane sugar or corn syrup. Nobody is going to tell you that maple syrup is some type of superfood but if you are looking for an all-natural alternative sweetener, you could do a lot worse.
So long as you eat it in moderation and don’t start feeling you can shovel it down then you may well notice some benefits over time.
Several studies have been done comparing the antioxidant value of common refined sugars with unrefined natural sweeteners. Unsurprisingly researchers have found considerable differences between these different forms of sweetener.
You will not be surprised to learn that corn syrup and refined cane sugar have very little antioxidant activity. On the other hand, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, raw honey and brown sugar demonstrated far greater antioxidant value with blackstrap molasses coming out on top. (1)
By now, most everybody is familiar with the need for antioxidants so this is certainly a very good reason to consider changing your choice of sweetener. A study published in 2008 identified over 20 different types of antioxidant in maple syrup in the shape of various polyphenols.
They include gallic acid, cinnamic acid and benzoic acid as well as a variety of flavanols like catechins, quercetin and rutin. (2) It is worth noting that darker, higher quality maple syrup contains more antioxidant value than the lighter variety.
So why is this important? There are actually many reasons that we should be doing our best to increase our intake of antioxidants. These compounds help to protect against damage done to the cells by free radicals.
This protects us from inflammation and a variety of chronic health conditions. Antioxidants are good for your outside too. They are good for the skin and can help slow down those inevitable signs of aging..at least for a while.
The polyphenol antioxidants found in maple syrup are known to have anti-inflammatory actions. This means that swapping your regular sugar for this healthier option might contribute to a reduction in inflammation throughout your body.
The vast majority of chronic conditions including very severe diseases like heart disease and cancer are caused by inflammatory reactions in the body. This can actually have a number of benefits of from reducing the pain of arthritis to the risk of serious heart disease.
The antioxidants in maple syrup can help reduce the impact of oxidative stress on the system and may help prevent disease down the line.
When it comes to sugar, there really is too much of a good thing. It would be better to cut right down on your sugar intake from most sources but if you feel that you need a sugar fix, then maple syrup is a much better option than refined sugar.
Sugars metabolize very quickly in the liver causing the familiar sugar highs and subsequent plummets in blood glucose. And that is not all… eating a lot of sugar can have serious long term consequences.
Over time, sugar can cause poor insulin responses and cause problems for your body in managing blood sugar levels leading to type 2 diabetes.
Before you go out and gorge yourself on a jar pf maple syrup, bear in mind that eating large amounts of sugar whatever the source is likely to lead to health issues. Even sugars from natural sources can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity so maple syrup should only be used in moderation.
Antioxidants are good for the skin and as we have mentioned already, maple syrup has them while other sugar products do not. But you do not have to eat your syrup in order for it to be effective. It sounds strange but many people apply maple syrup topically to the skin in the same way that honey is a popular treatment.
Like raw honey, it can be used to reduce inflammation of the skin, relieve redness and eliminate dryness. To get the most out of your maple syrup, it can be mixed with rolled oats and yogurt before applying it to the skin. This combination makes a natural and hydrating skin mask with good antibacterial effects.
Reducing your sugar intake is one of the best things you can do to improve your digestive health. Refined sugar is known to play a role in various digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel syndrome, Candida and leaky gut.
While you may feel that artificial sweeteners offer a better option, many of those products can also have a negative impact on the digestive system. Some artificial sweeteners are linked to bloating, constipation and stomach cramps.
Instead, why not try a natural sweetener like maple syrup to sweeten up your coffee, oatmeal and smoothies.
Manganese and Zinc
Maple syrup is hardly a nutritional powerhouse and does not contain as many healthy nutrients as many other sweet food such as fruit. However, it does contain certain minerals and vitamins that your body needs including a decent amount of manganese and zinc.
Our bodies need manganese to aid the absorption and metabolism of the nutrients we consume as well as boosting the function of your nervous system. Zinc also plays important roles in the body; it boosts the immune system which helps to prevent illness.
While these nutrients are available in greater amounts in other foods, they are certainly a bonus for people that replace their normal processed sugars with maple syrup.
Maple Syrup is better than most Artificial Sweeteners
Many people have made the move from cane sugar to artificial sweeteners in the belief that they are choosing a healthier option. Products like aspartame, splenda and sucralose are becoming increasingly popular but the more they are researched, the greater the health concerns.
Even though these sweeteners are calorie free, there is some evidence that they actually contribute to weight gain as well as various other health issues. These include depression, anxiety, learning difficulties, memory loss and there is even concern that aspartame is linked to cancer.
If you are serious about getting healthy and find that you cannot go without a sweetener, then consider switching to a more natural product like maple syrup, honey or blackstrap molasses as soon as possible.
Reduces your Intake of Processed Foods
An often overlooked benefit of replacing sugar with maple syrup is that you are reducing the amount of unhealthy processed foods you shovel into the body. We know that processed food has a number of negative effects on your health. They can cause obesity and increase your risk of serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
While refined sugar is heavily processes, maple syrup is produced naturally which means it retains the majority of its healthy nutrients. Most other artificial sweeteners including corn syrup and refined sugar are very highly processed. This means that we do not know exactly what we are putting into our bodies and the risk of disease is increased.
Frequently Asked Questions
The darker maple syrups have a much stronger flavor and are typically used in baking and cooking while lighter syrups are more often used as drizzles or toppings on pancakes and other food.
If you are shopping for maple syrup, you must make sure that you are getting real maple syrup rather than the cheaper far less healthy maple flavored syrups. Flavored syrups are usually laden with refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup.
For those of you with a sweet tooth looking for an alternative to your unhealthy refined sugar, maple syrup is a decent option. While it is far from the healthiest food known, it at least provides some healthy nutrients and antioxidants that can benefit your health. If you can not go without a sweetener, try adding a spoonful to your coffee or drizzle some onto your oatmeal instead of your regular refined sugar.