I admit I have a sweet tooth, and yet I don’t feel so guilty when I use the sweeteners Mother Nature has provided for us. This week’s superfood spotlight discusses the main sweetener I’ve been using lately: Maple syrup. It's hard to believe all the amazing benefits it has too!
**NOTE: I’m talking about the pure kind of maple syrup, not the fake Aunt Jemima or other generic pancake and waffle brands of syrup that have often been processed, diluted, and pumped with added sugar and high fructose corn syrup. And trust me, they even taste different. Pure maple syrup is a bit more expensive because of its purity, however it is worth the price. Food is medicine and we cannot put a price tag on our health.
Health Benefits of Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is filled with minerals including manganese, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. As well the vitamin riboflavin, aka Vitamin B2. Trace amounts of other vitamins, minerals and nutrients exist as well. A study from the University of Rhode Island identified over 50 polyphenols in maples syrup, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
The darker the grade the more minerals and nutrients are found within the syrup, which is what gives it the darker color. One remarkable study found extracts from the amber/dark grade to have anticancer effects on colon cancer cells, where the darker syrup had a greater effect.
Although I love honey and use it abundantly in my diet, maple syrup contains less sugar than honey if you’re looking to shed some pounds.
Sourcing and Kinds of Maple Syrup
Draining the sap of maple trees sources pure maple syrup, and this process keeps the trees alive. There are various grades of maple syrup, based on the color from Fancy, the lightest in color through the grade A light, medium, and dark ambers, finishing with the darkest in color, Grade B. The coloring is based on the time of season, with the lightest beginning the maple tapping season in late winter and the darkest from when spring begins warming the air. Grade A tends to be sweeter and as darkness progresses the maple flavor intensifies.
How to use Maple Syrup
I suggest using maple syrup anywhere you use sweetener, such as tea, coffee, smoothies, when baking, etc. You can even put it over oatmeal or drizzle it over your sweet potatoes.
My recommendation is to buy the darkest, organic maple syrup you can find. Buying in bulk also makes it cheaper. Maple syrup is a great, healthy way to fix that sweet tooth. So ditch the sugar and enjoy, the warm nurturing benefits of maple syrup this winter season!
A González-Sarrías, L Li, NP Seeram. Anticancer effects of maple syrup phenolics and extracts on proliferation, apoptosis, and cell cycle arrest of human colon cells. Journal of Functional Foods, 2012.
L Li, NP Seeram. Maple syrup phytochemicals include lignans, coumarins, a stilbene, and other previously unreported antioxidant phenolic compounds. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 2010.