I do understand that there is not a lot of maple syrup in the Mediterranean diet, but having grown up in Vermont and lived in New England most of my life, I have a natural predisposition to loving the stuff. I do use maple syrup for Mediterranean recipes that ask for sugar. There is a lot of back and forth about whether maple syrup is any better for you than sugar so I thought I would put my two cents in with this Maple Syrup vs Sugar article.
We eat too much sugar.
Most people know that regular table sugar is one of the worst inflammatory foods out there and that it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and fatty liver disease. The average American eats around 150 pounds of sugar per year. That comes to almost 3 pounds of sugar per week. By any standard, many of us need to decrease our sugar consumption dramatically. But what about maple syrup vs sugar?
What makes Maple Syrup Better.
The general argument by some is that all sugar is sugar. That reminds me of when people used to say that all fat is fat and it was all bad (boy has that changed!). The truth is is that maple syrup has some qualities that are vastly different than sugar.
- Glycemic Index – The Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking of foods and how they affect blood glucose levels. The lower the GI the better. A low GI food is considered to be 55 or less. The Glycemic Index of sugar is, as you would expect fairly high, coming in at 65. Maple Syrup, on the other hand, has a glycemic index of 54 which makes it a low GI food (just barely).
- Antioxidants – One of the big differences between sugar and maple syrup is that maple syrup has a good amount of minerals and antioxidants. Here is a list of some of the nutrients in 1/3 cup of pure maple syrup: Calcium: 7% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Allowance), Potassium: 6% of the RDI, Iron: 7% of the RDI, Zinc: 28% of the RDI, Manganese: 165% of the RDI. There are a total of 24 different antioxidants in maple syrup.
- Quebecol-Quebecol is a substance in maple syrup that is created during the production (boiling down) of maple sap to maple syrup. It turns out that Quebecol has some potent anti-inflammatory qualities. Inflammation, of course is what we are trying to reduce. So, while sugar is a potent inflammatory, there are at least some things in maple syrup that are potent anti-inflammatories (Quebecol and antioxidants).
The Bottom Line: (Maple Syrup vs Sugar)
Ok, so maple sugar has a lower glycemic index, antioxidants and Quebecol, but is it healthy for you? The bottom line for me is this:
- Maple syrup is still a sugar, but it is better for you than table sugar. I mean, I wouldn’t go guzzling down buckets of maple syrup (although, I would like to), but it apparently has some qualities that regular sugar doesn’t that make it a better product for you.
- When I use maple syrup as a sweetener I don’t add as much. Maybe it’s because of the delicious flavor of maple syrup that I don’t need to use as much. A typical 20 ounce soda has 16 teaspoons of sugar yet when I make 20 ounces of my maple lemonade in the summer I use 3 teaspoons of maple syrup.
For me, I am going to stick to maple syrup and honey as sweeteners. For one thing, they are made all around me. Our neighbors across the street make their own honey and a few houses down they make maple syrup. For another thing, I do think they are superior products (in moderation) to sugar.
Here are a few of our recipes using maple syrup:
Maple Sweet Potatoes with Smoked Paprika
Maple Almond Granola with Coconut
Maple Blueberry Compote