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Is maple syrup healthy?

maple syrup
There’s no denying that woody, sweet maple syrup is one of North America’s best imports, but is maple syrup healthy? Find out in this article.

Maple syrup is often marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar – and a must have for fluffy American-style pancakes!

But is it really healthy?

Learn all about maple syrup, what it does in our bodies, and if it’s really healthy here.

Where does maple syrup come from?

Maple syrup comes from just one place in the world: North America, with the most popular producer being Quebec in Canada – hence the Canadian colours on most bottles!

It is a natural sap collected from maple trees during springtime. Quite a sensitive product, maple syrup can only be harvested when the climate is just right.

They need cold freezing night times and warm days so that the sap can flow out from the trees properly.

The most popular kind of maple tree for this sweet syrup is the sugar maple, as it has the highest sugar content (around 2%).1

What is in maple syrup?

A whole load of sweetness!

Maple syrup is around 60% sucrose (table sugar), but what sets it apart from refined sugar are its nutrients.

Just 20g (1 tablespoon) of pure maple syrup contains:2

  • Manganese – 33% DV (% daily values)*
  • Zinc – 6% DV
  • Iron – 1% DV
  • Calcium – 1% DV
  • Potassium – 1% DV

It also contains vitamins B2, B5, B6, niacin, biotin and folic acid, as well as traces of amino acids.3

However, although maple syrup does provide a decent amount of some minerals, they will come with a pretty hefty serving of sugar.

The fact that maple syrup has desirable nutrients means that it could be a great alternative to refined white sugar, but it is not a ‘health food’ in itself, due to its sugar content.

As you probably already know, too much refined sugar can lead to an array of health problems, including obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.4

* Percent Daily Values (%DV) are for adults or children aged 4 or older and are based on a 2000 calorie reference diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual needs.

Summary

  • Maple syrup is extracted from maple trees in North America – mainly Canada
  • It has a sweet, smoky taste, and a similar nutritional profile to table sugar – but with added vitamins, minerals and amino acids
  • It’s considered a healthy alternative to sugar, but still needs to be enjoyed in moderation

Maple syrup nutritional information

A tablespoon serving of maple syrup contains approximately:5

  Energy Carbs of which sugars Fat Protein Fibre
Amount 52kcal 13.4g 11.9g 0g 0g 0g

Is pure maple syrup healthy for you?

It is considered healthier than refined white sugar by most people, but it is a bit of a reach to claim that it’s a full-blown health food!

However, there are some reported health benefits of maple syrup.

What are the benefits of maple syrup?

Here are 9 reasons you may want to try maple syrup:

  1. Nutritious: It contains many minerals and vitamins including iron and vitamin B6.
  2. Amino acids: It contains trace amounts of amino acids, which the body uses to make and maintain muscle mass.
  3. Antioxidants: It contains around 24 different antioxidants, compounds which help protect the body from oxidative stress.6
  4. Sugar alternative: It can be a great replacement to refined sugar, when used in moderation
  5. CIt goes through less processing than refined sugar
  6. There are multiple types of maple syrup to suit different tasks and tastebuds, the darker the syrup, the stronger the flavour.
  7. Low G.I.: It’s considered to be a low G.I food (glycemic index), especially when compared to honey and white sugar. For example, pure maple syrup has a G.I of 54, honey has a G.I of 58 and table sugar has a G.I of 65.7 This means that maple syrup shouldn’t cause insulin levels in the body to spike in the same way as refined sugars do.8
  8. Quebecol: Contains quebecol, a substance that has been seen to slow down carb-breakdown in the digestive tract.9
  9. And most importantly: It tastes really good!

Is maple syrup vegan?

Yes, 100% pure maple syrup is vegan as long as it hasn’t had any additional non-vegan ingredients added. It does come straight from a tree, after all!

Make sure you check the label for ingredients like milk and honey.

Although it is rare that you’ll find non-vegan ingredients in your maple syrup, they do sometimes pop up in processed products like maple-flavour ice cream sauces.

You may have heard that some maple syrup producers use animal fat in a process called defoaming.

However, this is not a common process that most maple syrups sold in the UK go through, so it shouldn’t be much of a concern.

If in doubt, always go for a clearly labelled vegan maple syrup – but as long as you go for 100% pure maple syrup you should be ok!10

9 ways to use maple syrup

  1. Roasted root vegetables

Use it in place of honey to coat root veggies like carrots and parsnips – that way it’s vegan-friendly. It’s also a different flavour to try – you may enjoy it more than honey!

Here’s a Deliciously Ella maple roasted root veg recipe to get you started.

  1. Drizzle over yoghurts

Instead of reaching for the honey, why not add some maple syrup into the mix instead?

Honey is more ‘floral’ whereas maple syrup is ‘woodier’, so they both complement different toppings and tastebuds.

  1. Sweeten smoothies

Maple syrup is very sweet, so a little will go a long way in your smoothie.

Try to only use them in veg-heavy smoothies with very little sugar content, as it may be a bit much combined with lots of fruit.

  1. Bake with it

Add a rich, decadent taste to your cookies, brownies, cakes and other bakes with maple syrup.

Try this Bonfire Night gluten-free maple cheesecake.

  1. Top pancakes and waffles

The classic way to use maple syrup is to drizzle it over fluffy American-style pancakes and waffles, and who can argue with that?

  1. Carrot ‘bacon’

Bear with us… Carrot bacon is a new vegan creation that – you guessed it – replicates bacon with carrots!

Carrots are peeled and baked whole in salt, peeled again into ‘bacon’ strips and marinated in a sweet, smoky sauce. Maple syrup is a popular sweetener, due to its rich and earthy taste.

  1. Sweeten your porridge

Maple syrup porridge is a real joy on cold wintery mornings.

Not only does it taste rich and delicious, it is also a more nutritious option than using white or brown sugar to sweeten your porridge.

  1. Drizzle over popcorn

You need to try this! Maple syrup drizzled over freshly popped popcorn tastes amazing – and makes you feel a bit posh, too!

  1. Whisk it into salad dressing

Instead of honey, agave nectar or any other sweetener, why not try maple syrup in your salad dressing?

It goes lovely with mustards, balsamic vinegar, lemon and more.

Summary

  • It has many benefits, including being less processed than white sugar and being a source of Quebecol – which can slow down the breakdown of carbs in the gut
  • Maple syrup is usually vegan – woo!
  • Use it to make roasted root vegetables, in baking, and drizzle over pancake stacks

3 side effects of maple syrup

If you eat or drink too much maple syrup on a regular basis, you may experience the following side effects.

  1. Weight gain: It could make you put on weight if you consume too much of it as it contains quite a lot of calories.
  2. Tooth decay: All sugars are bad for our teeth; there is a direct correlation between the amount of sugar someone consumes and dental cavities.11
  3. Could cause insulin / blood sugar spikes: Even though maple syrup has a lower G.I. than honey and table sugar, it can still cause blood sugar and insulin spikes. People with diabetes or similar conditions should treat it the same as sugar in this respect.

Does maple syrup make you gain weight?

It can contribute to weight gain, yes. Maple syrup still has (quite high) calories, so you should pretty much treat it how you treat sugar when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.

Honey vs maple syrup - Is honey or maple syrup healthier?

Honey and maple syrup are both natural products but is one healthier than the other. We could do a whole other article on this! But here’s a quick summary:

  • They’re both considered healthier than refined sugar
  • Maple syrup has more of the sugar sucrose, which breaks down into glucose and fructose
  • Honey has more fructose and glucose, and only a little sucrose
  • 1 tablespoon of honey has more calories (64kcal) than 1 tablespoon of maple syrup (52kcal)12
  • They both contain vitamins and minerals – much more than refined sugar
  • Honey has a floral taste, whereas maple syrup has a woody taste
  • Honey has antibacterial properties
  • Maple syrup is usually vegan friendly, unlike honey

Maple syrup vs sugar - Is maple syrup or sugar healthier?

We can safely say that maple syrup is healthier than white table sugar, but you still need to make sure you enjoy them both in moderation.

The final say

  • Maple syrup is extracted from maple trees in North America – mainly Canada
  • It has a sweet, smoky taste, and a similar nutritional profile to table sugar – but with added vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants
  • It’s considered a healthy alternative to sugar, but still needs to be enjoyed in moderation
  • It has many benefits, including being less processed than white sugar and being a source of Quebecol – which can slow down the breakdown of carbs in the gut
  • Maple syrup is usually vegan – woo!
  • Use it to make roasted root vegetables, in baking, and drizzle over pancake stacks
  • It can cause a few side effects, like weight gain and tooth decay when not enjoyed in moderation
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 25 August 2021

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