Maple sugar is a natural sweetener from maple trees native to Canada and the Northeastern United States. It’s made from boiling the tree’s sap, reducing its water content until it’s a solid sugar — a technique first discovered by Native Americans.
Maple sugar can be used as a replacement for other sugar products like white or brown sugar. It’s also naturally sweeter, meaning you can use less of it for the same effect in the kitchen.
Along with its sweetness, maple sugar often adds a caramel and nutty flavor to dishes — similar to maple syrup’s signature taste. It also contains minerals and antioxidants, and research suggests these may offer health benefits over other sweeteners.
Consuming any sugar in high amounts is linked with health issues and chronic disease, however. Follow your doctor’s recommendation for sugar in your diet and eat it in moderation to help avoid these risks.
Maple sugar is available at many health and grocery stores. You can also make it at home by boiling pure maple syrup until it hardens.
One tablespoon of maple sugar contains:
- Calories: 52
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 gram
- Carbohydrates: 13 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 12 grams
Maple sugar is a source of:
A serving of maple sugar contains more than half of your daily recommended intake of manganese. This mineral helps our bodies maintain bone health, heal wounds, and may lower your risk for osteoporosis.
Potential Health Benefits of Maple Sugar
Maple sugar can be a good source of nutrients and a healthier alternative to other sweeteners. This can depend on its source, however. Make sure to look for unrefined sugar made from pure maple syrup, as maple flavoring and other additives can reduce its nutritional value.
Pure maple sugar may offer health benefits over other sugars, including:
Maple sugar contains many antioxidants, compounds that help fight and reverse cell damage in our bodies. One of these antioxidants, quebecol, is only found in pure maple products. One study found quebecol killed cervical, ovarian, breast, and colon cancer cells, and may behave similarly to a common chemotherapy drug.
More research is needed to confirm these findings, but studies support the anti-inflammatory and immune system boosting effects of antioxidants found in maple sugar.
Less Stress on the Liver
Improves Gut Health
Maple sugar contains inulin, a complex carbohydrate that has prebiotic properties. Researchers believe it may work with maple sugar’s antioxidants and nutrients to encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
This balance of bacteria helps to support a healthy immune system and can protect the body against health issues like chronic inflammation.
Lower Risk of Blood Sugar Spikes
Maple sugar contains low amounts of fructose, which gives it a lower glycemic index than white and brown sugars. This glycemic index ranks foods based on how quickly it causes your blood sugar to rise.
Blood sugar spikes can cause tiredness and hunger soon after a meal. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
May Enhance the Effects of Antibiotics
In the past, Native Americans have used maple syrup to treat infections. One study suggests that this practice may actually be beneficial.
Researchers found that the antioxidants in maple syrup may improve the effectiveness of antibiotics, though much more research is needed to confirm this theory in humans.
Potential Risks of Maple Sugar
Research suggests that maple sugar is “better” than many sweeteners because of its higher nutritional content, but you should still limit added sugars in your diet.
The American Heart Association recommends that added sugar intake should be limited to three tablespoons a day for men and two tablespoons a day for women.
Maple sugar is naturally sweeter than white or brown sugar, however. You can use less in the kitchen to get the same effect.
High levels of sugar consumption can pose health risks like:
High blood sugar also interferes with leptin, a hormone that helps regulate our feeling of hunger. This effect can cause us to overeat, consuming excess calories that lead to weight gain.
Weight gain and prolonged high blood sugar are both linked with diabetes. One study found that the risk of developing diabetes grew by 1.1% for every three tablespoons of sugar eaten per day.
Studies show that high-sugar diets are linked with a greater risk of heart disease. Too much sugar in your diet can raise your blood pressure and cause chronic inflammation, both of which contribute to heart problems.
Sugar is one of the main causes of tooth decay. When we eat sugar, bacteria in our mouths produce an acid that damages tooth enamel and can lead to cavities over time. This bacteria also feeds on the sugar and produces plaque, a sticky substance that erodes this protective enamel.