Many people already consume plenty of sugar — in most cases way more than they actually need. That said, as a good alternative to cane sugar, and when used in moderation, maple syrup is one of the sweeteners you should use.
Maple syrup, which is produced by boiling down sap collected from the sugar maple tree (species name Acer saccharum), is now among the “most commonly consumed natural sweeteners worldwide.” What are the benefits of maple syrup? This sweetener does more than make your pancakes taste sweet. It surprisingly has health benefits, including providing certain protective phytochemicals.
Similar to the contrast between whole and refined grains, unrefined natural sweeteners contain higher levels of beneficial nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes compared to white table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. When used in appropriate amounts, maple syrup nutrition benefits can include the ability to lower inflammation, supply nutrients and better manage blood sugar, all while helping to make recipes taste great.
1. Contains Numerous Antioxidants
Need a strong reason to use switch your sweetener? Maple syrup nutrition is impressive when it comes to supplying protective antioxidants. In fact, the medical journal Pharmaceutical Biology revealed that pure maple syrup contains up to 24 different antioxidants!
According to studies comparing the total antioxidant content of natural sweeteners to refined sugar products (like white sugar or corn syrup), there are substantial differences between different products. Refined sugar, corn syrup and agave nectar contain minimal antioxidant activity, while maple syrup, dark and blackstrap molasses, brown sugar, and raw honey have been shown to have higher antioxidant capacity.
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The antioxidants found in maple syrup are mostly in the form of phenolic compounds. Phenolic compounds are found in a variety of plant foods — including berries, nuts and whole grains — and are considered to have significant benefits when it comes to the prevention of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. They are capable of reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation and contribute to the formation of various chronic diseases. Dark, grade B maple syrup typically contains more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups.
Some of the primary antioxidants found in maple syrup include benzoic acid, gallic acid, cinnamic acid and various flavanols, like catechin, epicatechin, rutin and quercetin. While most are found at low concentrations, others are present in higher quantities. Thus, it’s possible that the benefits of these antioxidants might counteract some of the downsides to consuming the syrup’s high quantity of sugar.
2. Has a Lower Score on the Glycemic Index
Studies suggest that the maple syrup may have a lower glycemic index than sucrose, including research conducted on rats. This may help in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Refined sugar, and in general refined carbohydrates that contain little fiber, are known to be rapidly metabolized by the liver. This causes a “sugar high,” followed by a quick “sugar crash.” Even worse, consuming too much sugar quickly spikes your blood sugar and raises insulin levels. Over time, that can lead to lower insulin response and problems managing blood glucose. This is the reason diabetes develops.
However, keep in mind that because consuming too much sugar, from any source, is one of the leading causes of some of the most widespread health problems — like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease — even natural sweeteners should be used in small amounts. When it comes to solutions for reversing diabetes naturally, or other blood sugar-related conditions, it’s best to minimize sugar intake overall and especially to avoid refined sugar.
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3. May Help Fight Inflammatory and Neurodegenerative Diseases
Because maple syrup nutrition supplies inflammation-reducing polyphenol antioxidants, it can be considered part of a healthy diet that’s helpful in preventing certain diseases — such as neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or heart disease.
Many studies have found that phenolic-containing natural products — including certain fruits, berries, spices, nuts, green tea, olive oil and syrup — have neuroprotective effects. Maple syrup’s plant-based compounds can help protect the brain by reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is responsible for aging us at a quicker rate. Some research shows that phenolic-containing foods in the diet can down-regulate the production of inflammatory markers and reduce the risk for neurotoxicity, brain cell death and conditions including Alzheimer’s disease.
4. May Help Protect Against Cancer
While some evidence shows that to a certain degree sugar can cause cancer or at least contribute to it, maple syrup seems to a much less harmful sweetener. This is due to the presence of antioxidants in the syrup that can protect cells from DNA damage and mutation. Some studies have even found that dark maple syrup can demonstrate inhibitory effects on colorectal cancer cell growth and invasion. Findings have led researchers to believe that dark-color maple syrup may inhibit cell proliferation through suppression of AKT activation. This makes concentrated syrup a potential “phytomedicine” for gastrointestinal cancer treatment.
Even if consuming syrup alone doesn’t result in a reduced risk for developing cancer, it makes a good sugar substitute since it’s generally a better option than refined sugar or artificial sweeteners.