Most people already consume plenty of sugar – likely even way more than they actually need. That being said, maple syrup is one of the sweeteners you should be using in small amounts and a good alternative to cane sugar when used in moderation.
Similar to the contrast between whole and refined grains, unrefined natural sweeteners like maple syrup contain higher levels of beneficial nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals than white table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. It’s also why we see the many health benefits of raw honey. When used in appropriate amounts, maple syrup nutrition benefits can include the ability to lower inflammation, supply nutrients and better manage blood sugar.
Maple tree syrup, or more accurately sap, has been used for centuries. In fact, sap from various maple trees first started being processed into syrup long before European settlers even arrived in America. Native Americans had theories about the impact of maple syrup nutrition even back then, and the sweetener had cultural significance to many aboriginal tribes. They even celebrated the Sugar Moon (the first full moon of spring) with a Maple Dance and viewed maple sap as a source of energy and nutrition.
What Are the Benefits of Maple Syrup Nutrition?
Compared to refined (or “table”) cane sugar that offers absolutely no nutrients, maple syrup contains some important antioxidants and minerals like zinc and manganese. When we do a side-by-side comparison of sugar nutrition and maple syrup nutrition, we see that they have a few things in common, but also some things that definitely make maple syrup more favorable.
What makes maple syrup better than regular sugar?
Both are made of about two-thirds sucrose, but maple syrup supplies less sugar overall to your diet plus more nutrients. The glycemic index score of maple syrup is about 54, compared to a score of about 65 for regular cane sugar. (1) This means that one benefit of maple syrup nutrition is that it impacts your blood sugar levels a bit less drastically than table sugar does. Maple syrup also supplies some trace minerals and antioxidants, while sugar lacks both of these.
Another factor that makes these two sweeteners very different is how they are made. Maple syrup is derived from the sap of maple trees. Unlike refined cane sugar – which undergoes a long, complex process in order to be condensed in crystalized sugar – maple syrup is a relatively a much more natural, unrefined product. And as you probably know, high fructose corn syrup is not natural or a healthy choice, and neither are artificial sweeteners (hence the name).
For example, sugarcane stalks and beets are mechanically harvested, cleaned, washed, milled, extracted, juiced, filtered, purified, vacuumed and condensed – all before they even become sugar crystals!
Maple Syrup Nutrition Facts
1 tablespoon of maple syrup contains about: (2)
0.7 milligrams manganese (33 percent Recommended Daily Value, or DV)
0.8 milligrams zinc (6 percent DV)
13.4 milligrams calcium (1 percent DV)
40.8 milligrams potassium (1 percent DV)
0.2 milligrams iron (1 percent DV)
2.8 milligrams magnesium (1 percent DV)
History of Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is one of the oldest forms of sweetener there is, having been eaten by Native Americans living in North America hundreds of years ago. Maple syrup was first collected and used by indigenous people before they introduced it to early European settlers, who figured out ways to quickly improve the technology needed to gather more.
Because of its natural harvesting method and history as a healing sweetener, this is one reason why today many people choose maple syrup and raw honey as their sweeteners of choice, even those following the paleo diet, for example.
Today, Canada supplies over 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup. In the U.S, the largest producing state of maple syrup is Vermont. Maple syrup has been made in Vermont for hundreds of years; in fact, some large maple trees in Vermont that are still suppliers of sap today are over 200 years old! Most maple trees are about 10 to 12 inches in diameter and usually about 40 years old.