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Why Maple Syrup is Better Than Refined Sugar

A short-stack of pancakes with berries and maple syrup

While it may be evocative of Sundays spent eating waffles and flapjacks at home (or at brunch with friends post-pandemic), nutritional science is taking notice of the healthy ways in which maple syrup is head and shoulders above other sweeteners. The benefits of pure maple syrup go beyond flavor as this nutrient-dense powerhouse is as rich in vitamins and minerals as it is delicious. Maple syrup often gets lumped in with other sugars as fitness and health enthusiasts lean toward artificial sweeteners to get a little kick of saccharine, but unlike white refined sugar, maple sugar brings a host of vitamins and minerals that make it the sweet choice for the healthfully minded. Some food-lifestyle choices, such as Paleo, recommend pure maple syrup as a sweet alternative in a number of culinary applications.

The Glycemic Index

One of the biggest health benefits of maple syrup has more to do with its effect on the body than its robust vitamin profile. Blood glucose levels dictate everything from appetite to energy levels, which can both be imbalanced by processed foods and refined sugars. For individuals with a family history of diabetes, this is an especially important consideration as the inability to regulate these levels can lead to low insulin resistance and diabetes.

It’s generally considered that refined sugars play an oversized role in the raising of glucose levels. The “refining” process eliminates all other elements of the plant life from which the sugar is derived (often beets, corn or sugar cane); the resultant chemical make-up comprising some amalgam of fructose and glucose — both of which trigger a complex series of metabolic processes, which trigger the body to store fat (and contribute to a host of other health issues).

While maple syrup has a sugar content per serving comparable to other sugars, one of the benefits of pure maple syrup is its low glycemic. The glycemic index, often abbreviated GI, dictates how certain foods affect blood glucose levels. For the GI, the lower the number, the less detrimental it is to your blood sugar. Nutritionists classify “low GI foods” as foods whose rate of digestion and absorption are slow enough to be metabolized in such a way that they cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels (classified with a number under 55 on the GI scale). Normal refined sugar has a glycemic Index of 65; maple syrup is 54.

This is one of the multitudinous health benefits of maple syrup, but perhaps the most important because a diet high in foods ranking above 55 on the glycemic index is often directly connected to diabetes, obesity and a decrease in the functionality of the hormone leptin (which triggers the body to stop eating when full).

Superfood in a Bottle

 

Two healthy women prepare food in a modern kitchen

 

In addition to its position on the low end of the glycemic index, maple syrup also contains a host of trace minerals and vitamins which distinguish it from typical sugar. With a spectrum of nutritious benefits of pure maple syrup available by the spoonful, it’s worth examining exactly why this delicious and nutritious superfood is such a game changer.

Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc

Calcium, magnesium and zinc, when taken in concert and in the right dose (much like the complimentary doses found naturally in maple syrup), work together to bring your body its best health profile. Here’s how these trace elements that are unique to the health benefits of maple syrup contribute to your body’s unique biochemistry:

  • Calcium: Known as the “bone vitamin,” calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), calcium also plays a pivotal role in triggering cellular processes including regulating essential hormones like insulin in their role with individual cells. Calcium is also important in blood clotting, a process crucial to healing.
  • Magnesium: A major player in various biochemical and metabolic processes, magnesium is found in over 300 of our body’s functions. Magnesium in the right amount contributes to normative muscle and nerve function, immune health, heart function, protein synthesis and maintaining healthy blood glucose levels.
  • Zinc: A powerhouse of immune functionality, zinc plays a major role in fending off viruses. Zinc, like magnesium, also helps the body in making the proteins it needs to build and repair cells.

Potassium

Potassium is both a mineral and electrolyte, and an element which allows for the cellular production of energy for work such as contracting muscles. With potassium, that work takes place in important cells like the muscles of the heart and the alveoli in the lungs.

Manganese

Manganese is an important trace mineral for liver function and digestion. Working as a helper, it allows the body to utilize important vitamins like C, E, thiamine and choline. It also has a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory profile.

Iron

Iron is essential to the complex system of blood oxygenation: this trace element allows the tissues in the skin and muscles to use the oxygen in the blood. It also works to clear carbon dioxide from the body.

In a robust serving of Maple syrup you’ll find:

  • 282 mg of Potassium
  • 1 mg of Iron
  • 2.25 mg of Zinc
  • 18 mg of Manganese
A wooden bowl of health food

 

It’s important to remember that as these elements are extremely potent, those trace amounts represent 7-165% of the recommended daily allowance: a little goes a long way when it comes to the benefits of pure maple syrup. Not bad for a tasty topping!

Healthy and Balanced

As more and more people focus their diets around health, vitality and living their best life, having nutritious alternatives to traditional foods and condiments is important. There’s no reason to sacrifice flavor for health, and knowing the health benefits of maple syrup gives you another potent superfood powerhouse to swap for potentially dangerous, high-GI refined sugar.

With a world of healthy tipsters and gourmands sharing recipes and making healthy dishes easier than ever, you’ll have no problem finding ways to capitalize on the benefits of pure maple syrup and instantly upgrade any recipe calling for a little touch of sweetness.


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