Maple Syrup – Sugar, But Better Than Sugar

July 24, 2018 in Health, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

If you agree with some of the basic propositions of this blog, including Good Health Can Be Yummy and Enjoy in Moderation you will understand why I pitch something especially yummy, even though you have to be quite careful to use it moderately. Maple Syrup is one of these really yummy natural foods. Last year we visited northeastern Canada for a couple of weeks. We were in Quebec, to visit the land of my paternal ancestors; most especially to see the world heritage site in historic Quebec City with my eighth great grandfather, Mathurin Gagnon and his two brothers Pierre and Jean. It was a wonderful and interesting trip – a fascinating and diverse area of the world. One of the exports of this area of Canada is maple syrup; not the inexpensive kind commonly available at the grocery store, but the kind made from the real sap that comes out of maple trees. I was recently reminded about this product by an article in July’s Today’s Dietitian by Judith C. Thalheimer, RD, LDN. It is a very complete article about maple syrup. I wanted to share a little information here; because many of the readers of this blog don’t get Today’s Dietitian. If you like, you can read her entire article for free at this site.

Some of the especially interesting bits of information about maple syrup are:

  • To get maple syrup from trees, the trees need to grow in an area with 20 to 25 degree F nights and 40 to 45 degree days (warm enough to get the sap to run.) That essentially, means that maple syrup comes from North America – mostly Canada.
  • The indigenous peoples of northeastern US and southeastern Canada taught the European settlers how to collect and boil the sap that yields maple syrup.
  • It takes about 40 liters of sap to make just one liter of syrup.
  • In my estimation, the most important fact about maple syrup is that it is 68% sugar, mostly sucrose. That’s the same thing as in your sugar bowl or canister.

If you really want to get into the making of maple syrup or understand how it’s made, you will not want to miss Thalheimer’s article; as she tells all the ways that the production has improved. In addition, her article contains information about color and grades, with a very nice chart. The new production methods have improved the efficiency, the food safety and the actual quality. Among other benefits, the new methods protect us from the lead in the solder seams of collecting buckets and from molds falling into the sap. Now they commonly use vacuum-sealed tubes and more environmentally friendly reverse osmosis machines that cut energy consumption, time, and money. The new closed systems even extend the sap-collecting season by two or three times.

One of the phytonutrients discovered in maple syrup has been named quebecol in honor of the province of Quebec, Canada, which leads the world’s production of maple syrup.

If you’ve never tasted real maple syrup, you’re probably wondering why we care. The fact is that it has a unique and quite delicious flavor.

In my opinion, the most important take away lesson is this: Maple syrup is flavorful and contains many nutrients, including phytonutrients that I write about frequently. But please remember that these are trace nutrients – very small amounts. You can read much about the nutrients and even some possible benefits, in the referenced article. But remember THIS IS SUGAR. I love the advice given by Navindra Seeram PhD, a professor and researcher at the University of Rhode Island “Drizzle, don’t guzzle.”

Don’t forget that lower sugar intake is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers.

If you’re looking for a delicious way to add a touch of flavorful sweetness to a recipe or food item, you may want to consider maple syrup. Fortunately, I don’t need to go from the mountain-west all the way back to Quebec to have a bit of maple syrup nostalgia from time to time; as it is available on line and in local markets. Very complete directions are included in Thalheimer’s article for substituting with maple syrup. Please notice that like honey, maple syrup is a denser sugar that table sugar; ¾ cup of syrup/honey to one cup of sugar. The point is that if you use a cup of maple sugar or honey for a cup of sugar (one to one) in a recipe; you’re really getting more sugar than if you used plain old sucrose (table sugar).

If you enjoy the flavor of maple syrup and want to sweeten something up a bit, you may want to consider substituting maple syrup instead of ordinary flavorless processed sucrose. It offers its own additional argument for moderation – it is way more expensive than common sucrose.