These days more and more people are switching to sugar alternatives, choosing to enjoy a lifestyle of less processed foods, embracing the concept of “green living,” and choosing to pursue such diets as paleo, vegan, and so forth.

But which alternative should you choose…especially given the fact that every single out there naturally produces some sort of sugar as a result of the sun simply shining down on that plant.

This sugar is important for the health of the plant because the plant uses this sugar as a source of energy for their growth of their roots.

For centuries the syrup from the maple tree syrup.

The Indians living in North America thousands of years ago were the first to collect the sap from the maple trees and process it into maple syrup. They used for this maple syrup for both medical and cultural purposes…seeing it as source of energy and nutrition and combining it with other herbs—such as juniper berry, catnip and ginger.

They introduced it to early European settlers, who quickly began improving the technology involved in gathering the sap from the trees. These Europeans began combining the maple syrup with herbs, teas, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar to improve insulin sensitivity, help combat metabolic disorders such as diabetes, improve digestion, and increase immunity against colds and respiratory issues.

Many people today…including Elf from the movie Elf…still choose maple syrup as their sweetener of choice….making it one of the most popular sugar alternatives out there.

Maple syrup is perhaps one of the least processed of the sugar alternatives out there.

Maple syrup is a very “low preservative” food…meaning that it is not highly processed but sold just like God made it.

Maple syrup, like fruits and veggies, is a seasonal product.

In the summer, maple trees—including the red maple trees store sugar in its root as starch its roots…and then in the winter, people put either “taps” or tubes into the trees to gather the sap in a bucket….then in the spring when the temperature gets warmer, the sap goes through a cycle of freezing and thawing which builds up pressure within the trees and causes the sap from the tap into the buckets.

The process of gathering sap takes anywhere from four to six weeks, usually during the month of March and April….depending on the changes in daily temperature.

Once the sap is gathered, the sap is boiled down to make syrup.

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Making Maple Syrup

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One gallon of maple syrup requires forty gallons of sap.

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Nutritional Value

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Although maple syrup is high in sugar, specifically sucrose, maple syrup is still a better option than refined cane sugar or corn syrup or agave nectar because it contains more antioxidants and vitamins.

Maple syrup contains up to twenty-four different antioxidants

In fact, the better options for sugar—maple syrup, brown sugar, dark and blackstrap molasses, honey, and maple syrup—all have more antioxidants than the sugar that most of us use every day to sweeten our coffee and cook with.

Maple syrup also provices fairly high amount of nutrients—including zinc, manganese, potassium and calcium. 

One tablespoon of maple syrup contains…

  • Calories…52.2
  • Carbohydrates…13.4 grams
  • Calcium…13.4mg…1%DV
  • Iron…0.2mg…1% DV
  • Magnesium…2.8mg…1% DV
  • Manganese…0.7mg…33% DV
  • Potassium…40.8mg…1%DV
  • Zinc…0.8mg…6% DV

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Health Benefits

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Antioxidants...As mentioned above, maple syrup contains antioxidants.

But what do these antioxidants do…(in case your head has been buried under a rock for the last decade or you’ve never read a single blog post of mine before)…

Antioxidants help prevent cancer, fight inflammation, protect the health of your skin, slave off Alzheimer’s, and prevent neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis, IBS or heart disease.

Diabetes...Maple syrup high a lower gylecmic index than sucrose and may keep you from experiencing the rollercoaster of “sugar highs” followed by “sugar crash.” Just remember that consuming too much of any sweetening product out there will not be so sweet if you overuse of it causes health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Digestion…Replacing the refined sugars or artificial sweeteners in your diet with natural sweeteners is good for your digestive system because it can help prevent digestive system disorders—such as indigestion, gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, candida, IBS, and leaky gut syndrome

Natural sweeteners such as maple syrup are a much better alternative to the sugar typically used in baked goods, yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies because these sweeteners keep the digestive tract in healthy and free from chemicals and the damage that result from a high-sugar diet, 

Immune System…Maple syrup is good for your immune system because the zinc that maple syrup contains helps fight inflammation and illnesses—including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer—and keep your level of white blood cells up. Maple syrup also contains manganese, which is important for fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, blood sugar regulation…as well as brain and nerve function.

Skin…Supposedly applying a mask containing maple syrup directly onto your skin may help lower skin inflammation, redness, blemishes and dryness, hydrate the skin, and reduce bacteria and signs of irritation.

One simple mask recipe is to simply microwave 1-½Tbsp 100% maple syrup for about twenty seconds and then add 3Tbsp plain oatmeal or rolled oats and 1-½Tbsp milk or milk alternative. After applying the face mask with your hands or a brush, wait fifteen minutes and then rinse the mask off with warm water.

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Maple Syrup vs. Artificial Sweeteners

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Of course, we can probably all figure out that sugar is bad for us…our parents have been telling us that from generation to generation to generation to generation to come.

But what about all the other stuff that we could be using instead of sugar?

When it comes to sweeteners other than sugar, there are basically two carpools…

The first carpool is for all the refined products out there—including sugar itself, Splenda, sucralose, agave, and aspartame.

Artficial sweeteners may be calorie-free, yet they can be the cause of many health problems—including weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, learning disabilities and short-term memory loss…as well as making these problems worse if they already exist.

Not only that artificial sweeteners do pretty much nothing as far as weight management goes because the sweeteners could be addicting and make you want to even eat more.

Table sugar has absolutely no nutrients…let me say that again…table sugar has NO nutrients at all…so why even bother putting forth the effort to lift a spoon and add it to your coffee, cereal, or whatever.

And probably the most important factor to me—artificial sweeteners are just that…artificial…processed…

Making the sugar that most of us simply take for granted actually requires a long, complicated process of mechanically harvesting, cleaning, washing, milling, extracting, juicing, filtering, purifying, vacuuming and condensing sugar cane stalks and beets.

Making maple syrup is a much more natural process that pretty much requires simply gathering the sap from the trees,

In others words, something…if not the one thing…that anyone who might possibly be interested in reading this blog wants to eliminate in his or her diet as much as possible.

The second carpool is for natural sweeteners such as honey, molasses, and maple syrup

The second carpool is obviouisly the better choice.

Unlike table sugar, maple syrup and most other natural sweeteners do contain nutrients—such as antioxidants and minerals.

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Maple Syrup vs. Other Natural Sweeteners

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Raw honey and blackstrap molasses are also more nutritious than table sugar and have health benefits—such as acting as natural antibacterial agents.

If you’re shopping for honey, look for honey that is pure, unfiltered and unpasteurized. These types of honey maintain their nutritional value…unlike their processed cousins.

Dark molasses is the fluid that remains after fully extracting of sugar from raw sugar cane and has the highest concentration of antioxidants of all sweeteners…as well as many nutrients—including vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium. 

However, molasses does require more mechanical and chemical processing that making honey or maple syrup.

There are several different standards of maple syrup—based the grade and place of origin.

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The Which

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Grade…In order for maple syrup to be considered “pure,” at least 66% percent of the sugar it contains must be sucrose.

Pure maple syrup is classified as either “grade A” or “grade B.” Either of these grades is a good choice as long as the syrups are actually pure and free of preservatives, artificial dyes and flavors…but grade B maple syrup typically contains more antioxidants.

The darker the maple syrup is…the later in the year the sap was harvested, the stronger the flavor will be, and the more nutritional value it will offer.

But buyers beware…most maple syrups at your local grocery store will actually not be the “real stuff”…but instead basically an imposters or a highly refined syrup made with maple syrup flavoring. Like almost everything else, you get what you pay for.

In order for a syrup to be regarded as “pure” maple syrup, the only…or at least the primary…ingredient…must be maple syrup instead of refined cane/beet sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Buy organic maple syrup if and when you can find it so that you can be assured that the maple trees were not treated with any chemicals during the manufacturing process.

Place of Origin…Most, if not all, maple syrup production here in America is done in the New England states—such as Vermont…but Canada supplies over 80% of the world’s maple syrup.

Maple syrup is a great natural substitute for sugar—both for sweetening your sweet tea or whatever…and for cooking, making marinades and glazes, incuding in salad dressings, and baking.

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The How

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If you are planning you baking with maple syrup as a substitute for the sugar originally called for in a recipe for “baked goods,” use the same amount of maple syrup as you would have used if you had used sugar but reduce the amount of liquid by about a half-cup so that you can create the perfect amount of sweetness without adding too much moisture or diminishing the texture you’re looking for.

On the other hand, if you are planning on using the maple sugar as a sugar substitute In smoothies, salad dressings or other liquids, use the same amount originally called for and don’t worry about changing the measurements for any other ingredients also.