There are few things in nature as sweet as real maple syrup. To get it, workers drive a tap into the bark of a maple tree, usually a sugar or black maple, and collect the sap that flows out. The sap is then concentrated, which increases the sugar content from approximately 2% to around 66%. This process also darkens the color to its familiar golden brown.
Maple syrup is produced in a variety of locales across the northern region of North America, including much of Canada and parts of the East Coast and Midwest. Syrup producers take pride in the quality of their product and praise its natural tastiness. Some also advertise potential maple syrup health benefits.
What does research say about maple syrup and health? Is it even possible for something so sweet to be good for you?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that maple syrup is a high-calorie food. It comes in at an impressive 12 grams of sugar in a single tablespoon. That tablespoon also contains:
- Calories: 52
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 13 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
The vitamin content of maple syrup is extremely low — almost nonexistent. However, there are quite a few minerals present in measurable quantities. One tablespoon of maple syrup contains approximately 33% of your daily value of manganese, which is essential for healthy bones. Other minerals found in maple syrup include:
Potential Health Benefits of Maple Syrup
Real maple syrup is a plant-based product, and like many plant-based foods it is rich in antioxidants, which reduce damage due to oxygen in the body. This, in combination with the nutrients it has to offer, results in some distinct health benefits:
In animal studies, scientists have looked into the effects maple syrup may have on cholesterol. Not only was maple syrup found to lower cholesterol in mice, it was also found to potentially prevent inflammation of the liver.
Better Brain Health
The research into maple syrup’s effects on brain health is just emerging, but the findings hint at exciting benefits. Maple syrup appears to help in preventing the misfolding, tangling, and clumping of certain proteins found in brain cells. These deformations are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Animal studies have also linked the syrup to longer lifespans with Alzheimer’s.
The high manganese content of maple syrup makes it an easy way to prevent and treat manganese deficiency. While an uncommon disorder, manganese deficiency can have serious consequences, including abnormal skeletal development and reduced capacity to heal from wounds.
Potential Risks of Maple Syrup
The biggest health risks of maple syrup come from its high sugar content. Too much sugar in a person’s diet can be the source of a wide range of health problems and can also lead to complications in people with diabetes. Consider the following before consuming maple syrup:
All sugar can promote tooth decay, especially when highly concentrated, because bacteria causing tooth decay can feed on sugar in the mouth and multiply. The more sugar a person consumes, the more likely they are to develop dental cavities.
Maple syrup gives you carbohydrates in the form of sugars without associated fiber. As a result, ingesting maple syrup can cause swings in blood sugar and insulin levels. People with diabetes in particular may experience adverse effects from the sugar in maple syrup.