In moderation, maple syrup is not bad for you. It is rich in minerals and antioxidants, and it boasts fewer calories than honey. Just make sure you pick pure maple syrup over the processed kinds.
It’s hard to imagine breakfast without maple syrup. The tasty topping for french toast, pancakes, waffles and oatmeal seems like it’s been around forever—and it has. Long before European settlers came to North America, the indigenous people were collecting and using maple syrup for a variety of purposes. Settlers embraced the delicious natural byproduct and refined the process.
As the name suggests, maple syrup is made from the xylem sap of maple trees. To obtain the syrup, you must drill through the trunk to collect the sweet sap. The sap must then be heated in order to evaporate much of the water, creating maple syrup’s thick, signature consistency.
Since maple syrup is created naturally, it can’t be that bad for you... right?
In its pure form, the occasional serving of maple syrup is good for you. It's rich in antioxidants, which help your body fight off cell-damaging free radicals and the diseases they cause—cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and more. Syrup also provides manganese and zinc minerals, both of which Wayne State University in Detroit found to offer crucial immune-boosting benefits. In addition to its powerful nutritional content, maple syrup is also relatively low in calories compared to other sweeteners. For example, pure maple syrup only includes about 52 calories per tablespoon, while honey contains around 64.
However, there are overly processed types of maple syrup (Mrs. Butterworth comes to mind) which are bad for you. In fact, some of these popular store-bought syrups don’t contain any actual maple at all—they use high-fructose corn syrup instead! The high sugar and calorie content of these syrups can lead to tooth decay, obesity and other serious health problems when consumed too frequently.
So how do you know the different between pure and processed maple syrup? Check the label! But don’t be fooled by products that label themselves as “pure,” “organic” or “all-natural.” Those are just marketing terms used to sell the product, and they aren’t regulated by anyone.
Instead of relying on the label, flip the product over and scan the ingredient list. Avoid syrups that contain high-fructose corn syrup and “maple flavor.” Look for the ones that are made from 100% pure maple syrup—no blends. Some hybrid products mix pure maple with corn syrup in order to tout health benefits coupled with a sweeter taste. However, the added sugar and calories in these types of maple syrup far outweigh any nutritional perks.
Possible short-term side effects
- increased blood sugar
Possible long-term side effects
- tooth decay
- other effects depending on the additives used
Ingredients to be aware of
- non-natural maple syrup:
- high fructose corn syrup
- refined sugars
- caramel color
- artificial flavors
- artificial colors
- sodium hexametaphosphate
- heart health
- hair health
- reproductive system health
- improved immune system
- great source of antioxidants