It seems impossible to think about pancakes and not think about maple syrup. In this guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know about maple syrup nutrition and its health benefits.
The dark golden delicious breakfast condiment is so popular here in the U.S. that 4.27 million gallons were produced in 2017. This is more than the amounts produced in 2015 and 2016 (source).
The increase in production makes sense. Maple syrup is much more than a mere breakfast accompaniment to your waffles. It is also used in many baked goods recipes as a natural sweetener.
But is it a healthy option? Keep reading to learn all about maple syrup nutrition.
Where Does Maple Syrup Come From?
Native Americans first discovered maple syrup. A few legends may explain its discovery, one being Native Americans stumbling upon sap drawing from a broken maple tree branch (source).
The early settlers of Canada and the U.S. Northeast regions became knowledgeable of maple syrup through the Native American people(source).
Maple syrup comes from sap.
The sap is produced from trees belonging to the Acer genus (source).
The optimal time to collect sap is early February to mid-March when the highest temperature reaches 40 degrees, and the lowest temperatures are below 32 degrees (source). Healthier trees produce more sap that is also sweeter (source).
How Is Maple Syrup Made?
After the tapping of maple trees and the sap collection, the sap goes through a filtration process to remove debris(source).
Next, the sap is boiled down so that the water evaporates out of it. As the water evaporates, the sugar content in its remnants becomes more concentrated (source).
Ideally, the sugar content is best to be around 66%(source).
Caramelization occurs during the heating process. This gives maple syrup its distinctive flavor, aroma, and color (source).
Pure maple syrup is free of additives, and all of its nutrients are retained (source).
Maple Syrup Mold
When syrup is not boiled down enough, and the sugars’ remaining content is too low (or below 66%), maple syrup is more likely to go sour or even mold (source).
Maple Syrup Grades
In 2015, the USDA created a new grading system which is based on the color of the syrup (source).
Color is determined by the percentage of light that passes through the syrup (source).
Darker and richer tasting syrup comes from extended boiling time and elevated temperatures (source).
The four Grade A classifications are:
- U.S. Grade A Golden
- U.S. Grade A Amber
- U.S. Grade A Dark
- U.S. Grade A Very Dark
The darker colored syrup grades generally have more intense maple syrup flavor as compared to the lighter colored syrups.
Maple Syrup may also be classified as Processing Grade and Substandard.
Maple Syrup Nutrition
One ounce (30 milileters) of maple syrup generally provides:
- 3 – 6 mg of Phosphorus
- 10 – 30 mg of Potassium
- 40 – 80 mg of Calcium
- 4 – 25 mg of Magnesium
- 74 calories
- 0 grams of Fat
- 0 mg of Cholesterol
- 3 mg of Sodium
- 10 g of Carbohydrate
- 0 g of Protein
Nutrient amounts may vary depending on the time of sap collection.
Organic Maple Syrup
Organic maple syrup must have an organic certification that’s shown on the label.
How does maple syrup get to be certified as organic?
- Those that produce organic maple syrup can only use fertilizers like wood ash and others that are allowed (source).
- There are also limits on the size of trees that maple syrup producers can tap.
- Since sap is drawn directly from trees, it’s essential to keep the tree tap hole clean. Organic maple syrup can only come from tap holes that are cleaned with food-grade ethyl alcohol.
- The kitchen equipment in syrup production must only be cleaned with approved cleaners (source).
Maple Syrup Vs Honey
In the past decade, many people are using alternative sugars as a way to improve their health.
Both maple syrup and honey have become popular alternatives to refined sugars and table sugar. Both of these sweeteners may offer some health benefit when consumed in small amounts.
- Maple syrup and honey both possess antioxidant activities through their phenolic compounds (source, source). This may play a significant role in disease prevention by reducing oxidative stress and damage by free radicals.
- Pure maple syrup is lower in calories and carbohydrates than honey, as seen in the graphic below (source, source).
- Pure maple syrup has more micronutrients (including manganese and magnesium) than honey. (source).
- Maple syrup has a lower glycemic index than honey. Honey has a glycemic index of 58, maple syrup is 54, and sugar is 65 (source) glycemic index.
- Honey and sugar are high glycemic index foods meaning they will cause a more rapid rise of your blood sugar levels. Maple syrup is a low glycemic index food since it’s less than 55 on the glycemic index scale causes a gradual increase in blood sugar levels. Foods that have a lower glycemic index are usually better for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Is Maple Syrup Good for You?
Maple syrup is best consumed in its 100% pure maple syrup to avoid additives and harmful ingredients.
Though maple syrup has an impressive nutrition profile, it is still a source of added sugars. Whether you enjoy agave nectar, honey, or table sugar, added sugars should be included within moderation.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to 10% of your daily caloric intake (source).
This means that if you typically consume a 2000 calorie diet, only 200 calories should be coming from added sugars.
Remember the graphic from above? A ¼ cup of maple syrup is 200 calories!
There are also hidden forms of added sugars in foods we don’t naturally think about when we think about added sugars like dried fruit, bread, and crackers. Many processed foods contain hidden corn syrup.
These recommendations on added sugars aren’t meant to spoil your fun–even though it may feel like it! They are there because added sugars are less nutrient-dense. Therefore, they can rob you of chances to eat nutrient-rich foods — potentially reducing your intake of vitamins and minerals.
In other words, eating high amounts of sugar may get in the way of eating other foods that your body and immune system need to function optimally.
Strong evidence exists that diets lower in added sugars can reduce heart disease risk (source).
Is Maple Syrup Diet Friendly?
Pure Maple Syrup is free from most common allergens. (Be sure to check labels. Imitation maple syrup may contain corn and other ingredients that are not well tolerated by those with allergies or digestive disorders.)
Maple Syrup is:
- Top 8 Allergen Friendly
- Dairy Free
- Gluten Free
- Corn Free
- Nut Free
- Peanut Free
- Paleo Friendly
Most people tolerate maple syrup but maple syrup allergy does exist.
Maple Syrup Benefits
- Maple Syrup is both sweet and flavorful.
- Maple Syrup contains antioxidants.
- Maple Syrup is a source of dietary minerals.
- Maple Syrup is a lower glycemic index sweetener compared to other sweeteners.
- Pure Maple Syrup is versatile. Because it is a liquid it can be easily added to smoothies, hot beverages and cold beverages. (Have you ever added table sugar to cold iced tea and ended up with a gritty mix of sugar and bitter tea?) Maple Syrup can also be used in baking, savory recipes and specialty cocktails.
Maple syrup can be an excellent choice and alternative to refined sugar thanks to its phenolic compounds, vitamins and minerals, rich flavor, and low glycemic index.
Because it is still a source of calories, it is crucial to be mindful of how much you are consuming and being sure you’re eating a variety of other healthful food sources in your day.
High quality maple syrup is very flavorful so a small amount can go a long way towards making your food sweet and flavorful.