Maple Syrup – Canada’s Answer To Sugar

Pouring maple syrup on stack of pancakes.
Pouring maple syrup on stack of pancakes. Copyright: tuvi / 123RF Stock Photo

Maple syrup is to Canada what blueberries and almond milk might be to the USA. Likewise, imagine the farmer going into the wilderness to look for snow-capped maple trees waving in the wind.  There is developing excitement about what is the Maple tree’s natural antifreeze – a sweet sugar syrup that is literally collected by tap through its bark. The health benefits might be highly significant and whilst it has natural sugars, it is certainly better for you than the equivalent amount of refined sugar.

About 80 per cent of the world’s supply comes from Quebec in the east of Canada.

Maple syrup is of course the natural partner of pancakes, waffles, French toast, ice cream and fruit. Who hasn’t enjoyed an American breakfast on that basis ? To be honest, it really tastes best at breakfast time. In fact some of us add it to coffee and it can be drizzled over vegetables as part of their roasting. We also use it as a base for a marinade. The processing method hasn’t gone high tech ever and still follows a 200 year old technique. In most cases, the sap is further evaporated to generate the syrup without losing any of the flavour.

Processing Of Maple Syrup

The sap has a high water content which means it must be evaporated to concentrate the sugars and produce a thicker syrup without losing any pourability. High heat processes are required but fortunately no additives, preservatives or indeed any other agent is required during processing.

Nutrition

Aprroximately 1/3 cup (80 ml) of pure maple syrup contains these minerals:-

  • 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

The interesting minerals are zinc and manganese. The manganese content is high and rivals other saps like birch sap which also has a healthy content of this important element. 

Benefits Of Maple Syrup

Antioxidant Benefits

The syrup has many important antioxidants and if you subscribe to the idea of the antioxidant theory then this offers us considerable benefits that we do not have with other natural sugar syrups. The general idea is that antioxidants protect us from many risks that could upset our general well-being and health. For example they have long been associated with reducing the risk of cancers because they can mop up free radicals which damage DNA. Such damage is connected to a range of chronic diseases.

Diabetes

Diabetes is increasingly becoming a scourge of affluent Western populations and is associated with what we would economically term the middle classes as diets become less restrictive. There is a possibility that the number of diabetes sufferers including those who are undiagnosed may well reach 440 million by 2030 which is about 7.5 per cent of the population (Wild et al., 2004). We mentioned antioxidants earlier and there is some possibility that the phenolic compounds which are part of the antioxidant potential may inhibit those carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes that are involved in managing type 2 diabetes in particular. The two enzymes of interest here are alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase (Apostolidis et al., 2011).

At the moment much of the research is still at the cell based level and there are no relevant human clinical trials yet available to support this singular benefit. However as with many foodstuffs we must always remain hopeful of the possibilities.

Heart Health Benefits.

The heart is very susceptible to damage from various chronic diseases. It can be damaged through atherosclerosis, stroke and a host of other conditions which affect cardiovascular function. Any food which helps protect us from the damaging implications of conditions which affect heart health are to be welcomed.

Issues

Maple syrup certainly has a high sugar content which means that consumed in excess would contribute to our overall sugar loading. That contradicts the idea that it could be beneficial where diabetes was concerned (Yang et al., 2014). The glycaemic index is 54 compared to sucrose which we find in table sugar which is 65. From this figure alone, it suggests maple syrup raises blood sugar slightly more slowly than consuming the equivalent amount of sucrose. Check out the web-site which compares glycaemic indices for various foods from the University of Sydney in Australia.

Brands Of Maple Syrup

Famous brands include Kirkland. They produce their flagship:-  Kirkland Signature 100% Pure Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup. This is 100% Pure Grade A dark amber loveliness. There is also a Pure Grade B type available.

Buckwud, Meridian, Maple Farm, Terrasana and Pure Maple are also well-known brands.

Buckwud, Maple Farm, Shady Farms  and Meridian are 100% organic.

Pure Maple has won a 2016 Best taste award.

Meridian is from the USA. 

All the products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

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    References

    Apostolidis, E., Li, L., Lee, C., & Seeram, N. P. (2011). In vitro evaluation of phenolic-enriched maple syrup extracts for inhibition of carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes relevant to type 2 diabetes management. Journal of Functional Foods, 3(2), pp. 100-106 (Article).

    Wild, S.; Roglic, G.; Green, A.; Sicree, R.; King, H. (2004) Global prevalence of diabetes: estimates for the year 2000 and projections for 2030. Diabetes Care, 27, pp. 1047-1053

    Yang, Q., Zhang, Z., Gregg, E. W., Flanders, W. D., Merritt, R., & Hu, F. B. (2014). Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Internal Medicine174(4), pp. 516-524 (Article). 

     

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