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How Sweet is the Sweet? Maple Syrup

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

tapping maple syrup

It amazes me how many nutritional resources that surround us in nature. Not only is there an endless variety of food around the world, but also right at home in our very own ecosystems--including the sap of a maple tree! Let’s take a look at this sweetener produced here locally.

When the first thaw of winter greets us, the joys of maple syrup season begin. Many of you are familiar with this process which has been used for centuries. The American Indians are credited with first developing this method of sugar production which takes 40 gallons of sap to equate 1 gallon of maple syrup.

Maple Syrup is a sucrose which has a glycemic load (GL) of around 7 (lower but still comparable to honey which has a GL of 10.) This is one of the many reasons it is a much better option than table sugar (GL 12), but also should be kept in moderation for a healthy blood sugar system. While this carbohydrate does not have all the medicinal properties of honey, it still includes many healing benefits. Maple syrup contains an impressive variety of minerals which are pulled from the soil by the roots of the maple tree unlike cane sugar which has been stripped of nutrients. These minerals which include manganese, zinc, calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium support and slow down blood sugar absorption. In addition, new research reveals maple syrup to be very anti-inflammatory and cancer preventative due to the high amount of antioxidants. [1]

So how does commercial syrup compare to pure maple syrup? For example, if you examine the Original Aunt Jemima syrup (which I did indeed grow up on in my ignorance), maple tree syrup cannot even be found among the ingredients. Rather, the ingredients are as follows: Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Cellulose Gum, Caramel Color, Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Benzoate and Sorbic Acid (Preservatives), Sodium Hexametaphosphate. In other words, this is an enemy to your blood sugar and toxin to your digestion! When buying maple syrup, the only ingredient should be “pure maple syrup”--this is the gift of simple ingredients is the simplicity we all receive when buying real food.

Also, when investing into maple syrup, it is very important to get a trusted source. The process of tapping maple trees is chemical free, however, the equipment and supplies to clean that equipment may contain lead or chemicals. Organic is the best way to go. It also ensures that the land and trees have been chemical free for at least three years. However, if a product is not certified organic, you can always inquire into the methods of production. This is the benefit of buying local! If trustworthy, the farmer will confidently disclose how the syrup was produced.

I hope this sweet treat will find its way into your home, replacing table sugar alongside healthy raw honey. Remember, though, maple syrup is still a sucrose, so moderation is the key to maintain healthy blood sugar. The exciting thing is, you don’t need to order this ingredient from miles away. Alfred, NY and our surrounding area is supplied with a bountiful population of maple trees and its nutritious syrup!

[1] High-performance liquid chromatography characterization and identification of antioxidant polyphenols in maple syrup. 2008. Abou-Zaid, M.M.; Nozzolillo, C.; Tonon, A.; Coppens, M.D.; Lombardo, D.A. Pharmaceutical Biology 46: 117-125.

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