According to some sources, maple syrup is a very healthy food with these positive benefits:
- 100% natural, pure organic food which cannot be altered
- Three times as sweet as cane sugar, with fewer calories
- 100% pure with no reduction, processing or removal of anything
- Contains manganese and zinc, natural antioxidants which are good for your immune system, male reproductive systems and helps prevent damage to the heart
So the big plus is that when you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can consider using maple syrup which contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals than honey and is available throughout the year in your local supermarket.
How is maple syrup harvested?
Maple syrup is made from the sap of the black or red maple tree. The process of creating maple syrup begins with tapping the tree, which allows the sap to run out freely. The sap is clear and almost tasteless and very low in sugar content when it is first tapped. It is then boiled to evaporate the water producing syrup with the characteristic maple flavor and amber color. It has a sugar content of 60%.
Maple syrup is really sweet but what are the health benefits?
- The trace mineral manganese is an essential co-factor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defences. According to web sites promoting maple syrup, 1 ounce of maple syrup supplies 22.0% of the daily value for manganese.
Zinc, in addition to acting as an antioxidant, has other functions that can decrease the progression of atherosclerosis while it has been found that in adults deficient in manganese (the other trace mineral amply supplied in maple syrup) the level of HDL (the "good" cholesterol) is decreased.
- Zinc and manganese are also important allies in the immune system. 2 teaspoons of maple syrup contain 0.6 mg of zinc.
- Maple syrup may help to support reproductive health and provide special benefits for men. Zinc is concentrated more highly in the prostate than in any other human tissue, and low levels of zinc in this gland relate to a higher risk for prostate cancer. Manganese also participates in the production of sex hormones, thus helping to maintain reproductive health.
To counteract these glowing reports on maple syrup, here is the other side of the coin!
Nutritionist Jonny Bowden, M.A. C.N., C.N.S., author of "Living the Low Carb Life" and "Weight Loss Coach" for e-Diets.com and iVillage.com. says: "I would certainly not call it one of the world's healthiest foods, nor do I know anyone in any tradition who would, including people like Ayruvedic physicians and traditional Oriental Medicine practitioners."
"But the organic B grade maple syrup, which has been less processed than the A, does have some nutrients. But it's still a sugar and behaves like sugar in the body, for those who need to be aware of that. Nutritionally, though, it beats the white stuff."
How to select and store maple syrup
Maple syrup is available in individual containers (and in bulk in some stores). The quality of the syrup varies in characteristics such as color, taste and consistency. All maple syrups are labeled with a grade based upon an official USDA grading system. There are three versions of Grade A maple syrup, including Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber. The lighter the color, the more subtle the flavor. Maple syrup is also available in a Grade B version which is usually reserved for cooking and use in processed foods.
Be aware that pure maple syrup is distinguished in its labeling from maple flavored syrups. Pure maple syrup is generally more expensive but well worth the extra cost for its rich rich unique flavor.
While unopened containers of maple syrup can be stored in a cool dry place, they should be kept in the refrigerator once they are opened. You can freeze maple syrup for up to one year in a tightly-sealed container, remembering to leave 2 cm of head space for expansion. It will take about one hour at room temperature for the maple syrup to become pourable.
A word of warning
If any mold appears in the syrup, even if just on the surface, you should throw away the entire container since it may be contaminated.
Some ideas on how to use maple syrup
- In place of table sugar as a sweetener, giving tea and coffee a unique taste.
- Pour on oatmeal, then top with walnuts and raisins – I can vouch for this one!
- With cinnamon, add to puréed cooked sweet potatoes.
- Combine with orange juice and tamari and use as a marinade for baked tofu or tempeh.
Whatever you decide about the merits of maple syrup, it is certainly a better option to sugar AND you only need to use 1/3 of the amount because it is 3 times sweeter than sugar.
- Spread peanut butter on a piece of whole wheat toast, top with sliced bananas and then drizzle maple syrup on top for a sweet, gooey treat.