The Health Benefits of Maple Syrup

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Maple syrup is one of the many wonders of the world and far more than a simple sweetener. Maple syrup is not only rich in essential nutrients such manganese as well as zinc, but 34 new beneficial compounds discovered just a few years ago have been confirmed to play a key role in human health.

Health Potential

Maple syrup was known to have naturally occurring minerals, such as zinc, thiamine, and calcium. Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram was enlisted to study the plant’s antioxidants, known to exist in plant structures such as the leaves and the bark, and found 13 that were not previously known to be in the syrup. Several of those had anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, and anti-diabetic properties.

A previous study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 found that maple syrup contains polyphenols such as abscisic acid (ABA) which is thought to stimulate insulin release through pancreatic cells very much the same way berries increase sensitivity of the fat cells to insulin, which makes the syrup beneficial for those with metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

These discoveries of new molecules from nature can also provide chemists with leads that could prompt synthesis of medications that could be used to fight fatal diseases, said University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram.

“I continue to say that nature is the best chemist, and that maple syrup is becoming a champion food when it comes to the number and variety of beneficial compounds found in it,” Seeram said. “It’s important to note that in our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.”

As part of his diabetes research, Seeram has collaborated with Chong Lee, professor of nutrition and food sciences in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences. The scientists have found that maple syrup phenolics, the beneficial anti-oxidant compounds, inhibit two carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes that are relevant to Type 2 diabetes management.

Enhances Liver Function

The pilot study, conducted by Dr. Keiko Abe of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, showed that healthy laboratory rats fed a diet in which some of the carbohydrate was replaced with pure maple syrup from Canada, yielded significantly better results in liver function tests than the control groups fed a diet with a syrup mix containing a similar sugar content as maple syrup.

Click here to view a brief video detailing the liver health findings with Dr. Keiko Abe and Dr. Melissa Palmer.

Different Grades of Maple Syrup

There are several different “grades” of maple syrup, depending on the color.
The exact way they are classified can vary between countries.

In the United States, maple syrup is either classified as grade A or grade B (1).
Grade A is further categorized into 3 groups: Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber.
Grade B is the darkest of them all.

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The main difference between them, is that the darker syrups are made from sap that is extracted later in the harvesting season.

The dark syrups have a stronger maple flavor and are usually used for baking or in recipes, while the lighter ones are rather used directly as syrups… for example on pancakes.

If you’re going to buy maple syrup, then make sure to get actual maple syrup, not just maple-flavored syrup… which can be loaded with refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

As with any other food, make sure to read the label.

Thinking of replacing sugar with maple syrup?

Here are some simple conversion tips:

  • Substitute sugar for an equal amount of maple syrup.
  • In General Cooking, it is ideal to use ¾ cup of maple syrup for every one cup of sugar.
  • In Recipes – For each cup of syrup, reduce the quantity of liquid ingredients in the recipe (water, milk, juice) by about a quarter of a cup.
  • In Baking – the ratio is 1:1 It is a good idea to turn your oven temperature down about 25 degrees from the original cooking temperature because the maple syrup caramelizes at a lower temperature than sugar does.Replacing sugar with maple syrup in your cooking can be a great adventure. Take the time to experiment and learn how the maple syrup can best enhance the recipe at hand, for cooking healthy can be fun as well as tasty.

Replacing sugar with maple syrup in your cooking can be a great adventure. Take the time to experiment and learn how the maple syrup can best enhance the recipe at hand, for cooking healthy can be fun as well as tasty.

For recipes containing maple syrup click here

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