The category of “Superfoods” is one of our favorite topics here at Ask Dr. Maxwell. In the past, we have highlighted the many natural health benefits of various whole foods. Cinnamon has the potential to help you lower your blood sugar. Foods like carrots and broccoli help you naturally fight inflammation. If you’re like me and love using the natural health benefits of certain foods to your advantage, then I have some great news for you!
Maple syrup, when used in moderation, can be beneficial to your health! Prepare your taste buds as we discuss the health benefits of maple syrup.
How It’s Collected and Processed
Maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees. Harvesting the sap can be a tricky process. You can’t just tap into a tree and watch the golden syrup stream into a bucket. The process relies heavily on the weather. As the Cary Institute explains “Nights with temperatures below freezing followed by days with temperatures in the 40s to 50s make sap flow.” Typically these conditions don’t happen in the midwest until February and March.
After the sticky substance–a LOT of it–has been collected, it is boiled. Boiling evaporates some of the water. Actually, it takes forty times the quantity of sap to make the final yield of syrup. That means 40 gallons of sap boils down to just one gallon of syrup!
The syrup is then filtered to remove impurities. What’s left after this process is the sweet concoction we have learned to love on our breakfast foods.
Be careful when you’re purchasing maple syrup at the store. Make sure that the bottle says “100% real maple syrup.” Alternatives will say things like “maple-flavored syrup” or “pancake syrup.” Another giveaway is the price. You will pay more for the real thing. But, as you can see above, a good deal of work goes into producing maple syrup, hence the bigger price tag.
A Replacement for Sugar?
It’s hard for some to imagine using maple syrup on anything other than pancakes and waffles. But syrup is an excellent replacement for sugar. When compared, syrup contains many more nutrients and health benefits.
Whereas sugar is just a starch, 100% maple syrup contains numerous vitamins and minerals, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc that you won’t find in sugar. It is also lower on the glycemic index, so it won’t cause such a spike in blood sugar. This makes syrup more beneficial to diabetics — when used in moderation.
According to the journal Pharmaceutical Biology pure maple syrup also contains 24 polyphenol antioxidants. These are known to be helpful in preventing certain diseases like arthritis, irritable bowel disease (IBD) and heart disease.
For centuries, natives of Canada have used maple syrup to fight ailments. Frustrated with the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, Nathalie Tufenkji, Ph.D, turned to their old medical traditions for help.
After purchasing some natural maple syrup, Tufenkji “separated the sugar and water from the syrup’s phenolic compounds” as she explained to American Chemical Society in an interview. After extracting the compound, Tufenkji introduced it to a few strains of bacteria. She noticed it effectively helped kill resistant strains of E. Coli, Proteus mirabilis, & Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
There is still room for more research. Scientists worry that adding the maple syrup extract to antibiotics could cause allergic reactions in some people. However, Tufenkji is hopeful about her research.
Good for You Inside and Out
Maple syrup isn’t just good for you on the inside. Some people use it on their skin and hair. Similar to honey, maple syrup contains antioxidants that can help fight wrinkles and act as a moisturizer. Combined with other common household ingredients it can be used as a mask for your hair and face. Themakeover.me has a few different recipes to choose from. Try one to see if you can reap the benefits of maple syrup.
Whether you’d like to try replacing your sugar with maple syrup, or you’re looking for a new skin care product, this natural condiment has the potential to benefit you in many ways!
Photo credits: Envato Elements