By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Maple syrup is truly one of my favorite natural sweeteners. I use it when baking, making oatmeal and in smoothies and I also recommend that my clients use it as a sweetener whenever possible.
Many sweeteners don’t contain too many extra nutrients, which is why maple syrup is one of my absolute favorites: it contains healthy added benefits along with key vitamins and minerals. Not only are you getting a delicious sweet taste, but you’re also getting some nutritional punch with it too. Additionally, for many with a history of Crohn’s, Colitis or IBS, maple syrup may be tolerated better than some other sweeteners.
Maple syrup is high calorie and quite rich in sugar. So it’s best to enjoy in moderation — but if you are going to indulge, know that you’ll be getting some health benefits along with a treat:
Muscle recovery: Maple syrup contains a number of minerals and nutrients including those that are key for muscle health and recovery, including manganese, zinc, iron and calcium. Manganese in particular helps to promote muscle recovery and together with manganese, calcium is key for fluid balance within the muscle and zinc is key for generation of protein cells. Zinc can also help with muscle recovery too.
Antibacterial: Maple syrup may also be helpful when it comes to fighting different forms of bacteria and infections. This is thanks to a few of the many compounds it contains, including gallic acid, which may contain anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
Anti-inflammatory: Maple syrup contains anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to the polyphenols (plant based nutrients), gallic acid that’s been found to be anti-inflammatory and as well a nutrient called quebecol. Quebecol has been identified in research to help slow and prevent the inflammatory process in the body. Maple syrup is also a source of manganese that is part of the antioxidant pathway in the body, called superoxide dismutase, which can also help to fight inflammation and damage to cells in the body as well.
Natural energy: Maple syrup has energy-boosting properties not only because it’s a source of quick-digesting carbohydrates, but also because it contains energizing b vitamins. Maple syrup contains energizing b vitamins like B1, B2, B3 and B6 — all of which are involved with turning the fuel that we eat in to usable energy for our bodies.
Like other types of sweeteners, such as honey, the darker the color, the more nutrients it contains. So when choosing your maple syrup, opt for the darkest color, which may be labeled either Very Dark Amber or Grade B. There are certainly still benefits in the Grade A/ lighter amber maple syrups, but overall, a darker color indicates more plant-based compounds like polyphenols. So aim for the darker varieties whenever you can!
Looking to get more maple syrup in your diet? Try one of these yummy recipes: