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Maple syrup is a popular natural sweetener that is claimed to be healthier and more nutritious than sugar.
However, it’s important to look at the science behind some of these assertions.
This article explains whether maple syrup is healthy or unhealthy.
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:
1. A hole is drilled in a maple tree so that its sap pours into a container.
2. 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.
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 (1).
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.
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 (2):
– 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 (3, 4, 5).
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 (6).
This implies that maple syrup raises blood sugar slower than regular sugar.