Maple Sugar: Is It Good for You?

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. 

Nutrition Information

One tablespoon of maple sugar contains: 

  • Calories: 30
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 gram
  • Carbohydrates: nine grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: nine 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: 

Anticancer Properties

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. 

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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

The antioxidants in maple sugar may also protect against liver damage. One study found that maple sugar reduces ammonia formation in the blood, which, in high levels, can cause liver disease. 

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:

Weight Gain

While maple sugar’s lower glycemic index helps prevent blood sugar spikes, it can still raise your blood sugar level. Sustained high blood sugar can cause unwanted weight gain. 

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Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar in our blood to cells that convert it to energy. Prolonged high blood sugar can cause insulin resistance, where sugars get stored as fat instead.

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.

Diabetes

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. 

Heart Disease 

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.

Tooth Decay

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. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 06, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

American Dental Association: “The Truth About Sugary Drinks and Your Smile.”

Applied and Environmental Microbiology: “Polyphenolic Extract from Maple Syrup Potentiates Antibiotic Susceptibility and Reduces Biofilm Formation of Pathogenic Bacteria.”

Bioorganic Medicinal Chemistry Letters: “Synthesis and antiproliferative activities of quebecol and its analogs.”

Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry: “Ingested Maple Syrup Evokes a Possible Liver- Protecting Effect—Physiologic and Genomic Investigations with Rats.”

Circulation: “Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association.”

Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: “Granulated Maple Sugar.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Maple Sugar.”

Frontiers in Nutrition: “The Role of Polyphenols in Human Health and Food Systems: A Mini-Review.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Pre-Diabetes.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “The sweet danger of sugar.”

Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism: “Leptin, diabetes, and the brain.”

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Detection of Inulin, a Prebiotic Polysaccharide in Maple Syrup.”

PLoS One. “The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data.”

Stanford Medicine: “Diabetic-level glucose spikes seen in healthy people.”}. 

University of Rochester: “Manganese.”

University of Sydney: “Glycemic Index Search Tool.”

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