Maple Syrup: Is It Good for You?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on January 10, 2024
7 min read

Few things in nature are as sweet as real maple syrup, which is made from the sap of a maple tree. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

Does maple syrup go bad?

Maple syrup lasts for a while but will eventually spoil. Unopened, it lasts about a year in your pantry. Once it's opened, you should keep it in the fridge and throw it away after a year.

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 has 12 grams of sugar in a single tablespoon. That tablespoon also includes:

  • 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. But, it does have quite a few minerals in measurable quantities. One tablespoon of maple syrup has about 33% of your daily value of manganese, which is essential for healthy bones. Other minerals found in maple syrup include:

  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

Real maple syrup is plant-based, and like many plant-based foods, it is rich in antioxidants, which reduce damage molecules called free radicals can do. When too many free radicals build up, they can harm cells. This can lead to conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The antioxidants and the nutrients in maple syrup  result in certain health benefits:

Lower cholesterol

In animal studies, scientists find that maple syrup may have effects on cholesterol. Not only does maple syrup lower cholesterol in mice, it also has the potential to prevent inflammation.

Better brain health

Research into maple syrup’s effects on brain health is just coming to light, but the findings hint at exciting benefits. Maple syrup appears to help prevent the differences of certain proteins found in brain cells that link to the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Animal studies also connect the syrup to longer lifespans with Alzheimer’s.

Getting enough manganese 

The high manganese content of maple syrup makes it an easy way to make sure you get enough manganese in your diet. While an uncommon disorder, manganese deficiency can cause serious harm, including poor skeletal growth and slow wound healing.

The biggest health risks of maple syrup come from its high sugar content. Too much sugar in your diet can cause a wide range of health problems and can also lead to complications in people with diabetes. Consider the following before eating maple syrup:

Tooth decay

All sugar can cause tooth decay, especially in large amounts. That's because the bacteria that cause tooth decay can feed on sugar in the mouth and multiply. The more sugar a person has, the more likely they are to get dental cavities.

Diabetes complications

Maple syrup gives you carbohydrates in the form of sugars without fiber. As a result, maple syrup can cause swings in blood sugar and insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar in our blood to cells that convert it to energy.  People with diabetes may have bad side effects from the sugar in maple syrup.

If you're out of maple syrup, try one of these substitutes in your next recipe:

They may not taste the same as maple syrup, but you can use them in the same way.

Maple syrup vs. honey

Both maple syrup and honey are plant-based foods. While maple syrup comes from the maple tree, honeybees make honey using the nectar of flowers. Unlike maple syrup, honey never spoils. You don't need to refrigerate it and can store it unopened at room temperature in a cool, dry place. Honey is a bit sweeter than maple syrup, with 17 grams of sugar per tablespoon, compared to 12 grams in maple syrup.

To make maple syrup, workers drive a tap into the bark of a maple tree and collect the sap that flows out. The sap is then concentrated, which increases the sugar content from about 2% to around 66%. This process also darkens the color.

Maple syrup tree

Any species of maple tree can yield maple syrup, including sugar, black, red, and silver maples. Box elder trees can also produce the sap needed for maple syrup. You'll find the highest concentration of sugar in the sap of the sugar maple.

How to make maple syrup

It would be pretty difficult to make genuine maple syrup yourself, but you can make a version at home. Gather one cup each of water, white sugar, and brown sugar, plus one tablespoon of maple-flavored extract. Boil the water, brown sugar, and white sugar in a saucepan on the stove. Lower the heat and stir in the maple-flavored extract. Simmer for about 3 minutes or until your syrup has thickened.

Maple syrup is graded based on two things: color and flavor. In 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) set guidelines for how to best classify maple syrup. There are four grades:

  • Golden. Lightest color and delicate flavor. This grade of maple syrup usually  comes from the first sap during the sugaring season.
  • Amber. Rich flavor with a bit darker color than golden. It has a  full-bodied taste. This is usually the kind  people look for when they want classic maple syrup.
  • Dark. This grade is stronger  than the first two and, overall, has a more pure maple flavor.
  • Very dark. Darkest color and strongest flavor. It's good for cooking.

When grading maple syrup, taste always takes priority over color. So you might have a syrup that's golden in color but has a strong flavor. In that case, it it would get the dark grade. 

Maple syrup is for more than just pancakes. You can use it in:

  • Granola
  • Cocktails
  • Desserts
  • Energy bars
  • Salad dressing

Maple syrup is produced in a variety of places across the northern region of North America, including much of Canada and parts of the U.S. East Coast and Midwest. The state of Vermont makes about 50% of the maple syrup produced in the U.S.

Maple syrup price

Depending on where you live, maple syrup ranges in price from $32 to $64 a gallon. The average price in the U.S. is about $36 a gallon. 

Maple sugar is a natural sweetener. It's made by boiling the tree’s sap, which cuts its water content until it’s a solid sugar. Native Americans discovered this method.

Maple sugar vs. sugar

Maple sugar can replace other sugar products, like white or brown sugar. It’s naturally sweeter, so you can use less of it for the same effect in the kitchen.

Because it's made from maple syrup, maple sugar has the same nutrition makeup, mostly sugar and carbohydrates. And it has the same minerals.

One tablespoon of maple sugar contains: 

  • Calories: 52
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 13 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 12 grams

Maple sugar is a source of: 

  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Potassium

Pure maple sugar may offer health benefits over other sugars, including:

Anticancer properties

Maple sugar contains many antioxidants, substances that help fight and reverse cell damage in your body. One of these antioxidants, quebecol, only exists in pure maple products. One study found quebecol killed cervical, ovarian, breast, and colon cancer cells, and may behave almost like a common chemotherapy drug. 

Less stress on the liver

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

Improves gut health

Maple sugar contains insulin. Researchers believe insulin may work with maple sugar’s antioxidants and nutrients to boost the growth of good bacteria in the gut. 

This balance of bacteria helps 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 they cause 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 increase the effects of antibiotics

In the past, Native Americans used maple sugar to treat infections. One study suggests that this practice may be helpful. 

Researchers found that the antioxidants in maple syrup may make antibiotics work better, though much more research is needed to confirm this. 

Maple syrup is a natural sweetener made by collecting and concentrating sap from maple trees. While it lacks vitamins, maple syrup is rich in certain minerals, such as manganese. It also has antioxidants that may offer health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and supporting brain health. But, its high sugar content can lead to tooth decay and further health problems for people with diabetes.

Is maple syrup healthier than honey?

Honey and maple syrup are both high-calorie foods and have about the same amount of calories per tablespoon – 64 calories in honey and 52 calories in maple syrup. They're also both high in sugar, with 12 grams in a tablespoon of maple syrup and 17 grams in honey.

Is maple syrup good if you have diabetes?

People with diabetes should look for sugar-free substitutes for maple syrup. Maple syrup can cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.