Most people already consume plenty of sugar – likely even way more than they actually need. That being said, maple syrup is one of the sweeteners you should be using in small amounts and a good alternative to cane sugar when used in moderation.
Similar to the contrast between whole and refined grains, unrefined natural sweeteners like maple syrup contain higher levels of beneficial nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals than white table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. It’s also why we see the many health benefits of raw honey. When used in appropriate amounts, maple syrup nutrition benefits can include the ability to lower inflammation, supply nutrients and better manage blood sugar.
Maple tree syrup, or more accurately sap, has been used for centuries. In fact, sap from various maple trees first started being processed into syrup long before European settlers even arrived in America. Native Americans had theories about the impact of maple syrup nutrition even back then, and the sweetener had cultural significance to many aboriginal tribes. They even celebrated the Sugar Moon (the first full moon of spring) with a Maple Dance and viewed maple sap as a source of energy and nutrition.
What Are the Benefits of Maple Syrup Nutrition?
Compared to refined (or “table”) cane sugar that offers absolutely no nutrients, maple syrup contains some important antioxidants and minerals like zinc and manganese. When we do a side-by-side comparison of sugar nutrition and maple syrup nutrition, we see that they have a few things in common, but also some things that definitely make maple syrup more favorable.
What makes maple syrup better than regular sugar?
Both are made of about two-thirds sucrose, but maple syrup supplies less sugar overall to your diet plus more nutrients. The glycemic index score of maple syrup is about 54, compared to a score of about 65 for regular cane sugar. This means that one benefit of maple syrup nutrition is that it impacts your blood sugar levels a bit less drastically than table sugar does. Maple syrup also supplies some trace minerals and antioxidants, while sugar lacks both of these.
Another factor that makes these two sweeteners very different is how they are made. Maple syrup is derived from the sap of maple trees. Unlike refined cane sugar – which undergoes a long, complex process in order to be condensed in crystalized sugar – maple syrup is a relatively a much more natural, unrefined product. And as you probably know, high fructose corn syrup is not natural or a healthy choice, and neither are artificial sweeteners (hence the name).
For example, sugarcane stalks and beets are mechanically harvested, cleaned, washed, milled, extracted, juiced, filtered, purified, vacuumed and condensed – all before they even become sugar crystals!
Maple Syrup Nutrition Facts
1 tablespoon of maple syrup contains about:
- 0.7 milligrams manganese (33 percent Recommended Daily Value, or DV)
- 0.8 milligrams zinc (6 percent DV)
- 13.4 milligrams calcium (1 percent DV)
- 40.8 milligrams potassium (1 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams iron (1 percent DV)
- 2.8 milligrams magnesium (1 percent DV)
Health Benefits of Maple Syrup
1. Contains Numerous Antioxidants
According to studies comparing the total antioxidant content of natural sweeteners to refined sugar products like white sugar or corn syrup, substantial differences in total antioxidant content were found. Refined sugar, corn syrup and agave nectar contain minimal antioxidant activity, but maple syrup, dark and blackstrap molasses, brown sugar, and raw honey showed higher antioxidant capacity (with molasses having the highest).
A strong reason to use switch your sweetener? Maple syrup nutrition is impressive when it comes to supplying protective antioxidants. The medical journal Pharmaceutical Biology revealed that pure maple syrup contains up to 24 different antioxidants. These antioxidants, in the form of phenolic compounds, are beneficial for reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation and contribute to the formation of various chronic diseases. Whenever possible, select darker, grade B maple syrups since these contain more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups do.
Some of the primary antioxidants found in maple syrup include benzoic acid, gallic acid, cinnamic acid, and various flavanols like catechin, epicatechin, rutin and quercetin. While most are found at low concentrations, others are present in higher quantities, so it’s possible that the benefits of these antioxidants might counteract some of the downsides to consuming the syrup’s high quantity of sugar.
2. Gets a Lower Score on the Glycemic Index
Refined sugar, and refined carbohydrates in general, are known to be rapidly metabolized by the liver — causing a “sugar high,” followed by a quick “sugar crash.” Even worse, consuming too much sugar quickly spikes your blood sugar and raises insulin levels, which over time can lead to lower insulin response and problems managing blood glucose, with is the reason diabetes develops.
However, keep in mind that because consuming too much sugar, from any source, is one of the leading causes of some of the most widespread health problems − like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease − even natural sweeteners like maple syrup should be used in small amounts. When it comes to solutions for reversing diabetes naturally, or other blood-sugar related conditions, it’s best to minimize sugar intake overall and especially to avoid refined sugar.
3. Fights Inflammatory Diseases
Because maple syrup nutrition supplies inflammation-reducing polyphenol antioxidants, it can be considred part of a healthy diet that’s helpful in preventing certain diseases like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or heart disease. Maple syrup’s plant-based compounds reduce oxidative stress, which is responsible for aging us at a quicker rate and reducing the strength of our immune system.
4. May Help Protect Against Cancer
While some evidence shows that to a certain degree sugar can cause cancer or at least contribute to it, maple syrup seems to a much less harmful sweetener. This is due to the presence of antioxidants in maple syrup that can protect cells from DNA damage and mutation. While maple syrup alone won’t likely result in a reduced risk for developing cancer, it’s a much safer option than including high levels of refined sugar or artificial sweeteners in your diet.
5. Helps Protect Skin Health
Many people swear by using maple syrup topically, directly on their skin. Similarly to raw honey, maple syrup can help to lower skin inflammation, redness, blemishes and dryness. Combined with raw milk or yogurt, rolled oats and raw honey, this natural mixture applies to the skin as a mask can hydrate skin while reducing bacteria and signs of irritation.
6. Alternative To Sugar For Improved Digestion
Consuming high levels of refined sugar can contribute to candida, IBS, leaky gut syndrome and other digestive system disorders. In fact, one of the biggest steps you can take to heal leaky gut and autoimmune disorders is to reduce refined sugar intake and opt for small amounts of natural sweeteners instead.
Most artificial sweeteners also cause symptoms of indigestion, including gas, bloating, cramping and constipation. To keep the digestive tract in healthier shape, free from chemicals and the damage done by a high-sugar diet, maple syrup can be a much better alternative to use in baked goods, yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies.
7. Supplies Important Vitamins and Minerals
Maple syrup contains zinc and manganese in fairly high amounts, in addition to potassium and calcium. Zinc can help fight illness and improve immunity since it keeps your level of white blood cells up, while manganese plays a role a crucial role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, blood sugar regulation, brain and nerve function.
8. Healthier Alternative to Artificial Sweeteners
If you typically use artificial sweeteners or refined sugar products like dangerous splenda, sucralose, agave, aspartame or sugar, you should think about switching these out for maple syrup and raw honey as soon as possible. Artificial sweeteners, while they may be calorie-free, are tied to numerous health problems including weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, short-term memory loss and much more.
Many existing illnesses can be worsened by repeatedly using artificial sweeteners over time, and they also show unfavorable results when it comes to weight loss, too. It’s very possible to form an addiction to artificial sweeteners used in many diet or light foods, since they affect your food cravings and your ability to manage your body’s signs of hunger and fullness.
Maple syrup isn’t linked to any of those health problems, plus it triggers more satisfaction because of its natural sweet taste.
9. May Enhance Antibiotic Effects
Antibiotics may seem like a quick, easy solution to a number of different illnesses, but as new research continues to be released, it becomes harder to ignore the dangers and downfalls of antibiotic use. While targeting bad bacteria, antibiotics can also attack healthy cells, while the overuse of antibiotics results in the creation of “superbugs” that no longer respond to antibiotic treatment.
When researcher Nathalie Tufenkji and her team investigated extracts from maple syrup in conjunction with antibiotics ciprofloxacin and carbenicillin, they observed the same antimicrobial effect with upwards of 90 percent less antibiotics. In other words, the maple syrup extract helped the antibiotics work better. How? Researchers found that the extract increased the permeability of the bacteria, helping the antibiotics into the interior of bacterial cells.
“There are other products out there that boost antibiotic strength, but this may be the only one that comes from nature,” Tufenkji says. More research and testing for allergic reactions is still needed before this could ever become part of a medical protocol, but Tufenkji’s research suggests hope against antibiotic resistance in the future.