9 Surprising Benefits of Maple Syrup

Maple syrup

Many people already consume plenty of sugar — in most cases way more than they actually need. That said, as a good alternative to cane sugar, and when used in moderation, maple syrup is one of the sweeteners you should use.

Maple syrup, which is produced by boiling down sap collected from the sugar maple tree (species name Acer saccharum), is now among the “most commonly consumed natural sweeteners worldwide.” What are the benefits of maple syrup? This sweetener does more than make your pancakes taste sweet. It surprisingly has health benefits, including providing certain protective phytochemicals.

Similar to the contrast between whole and refined grains, unrefined natural sweeteners contain higher levels of beneficial nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes compared to white table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. When used in appropriate amounts, maple syrup nutrition benefits can include the ability to lower inflammation, supply nutrients and better manage blood sugar, all while helping to make recipes taste great.

9 Maple Syrup Health Benefits

1. Contains Numerous Antioxidants

2. Has a Lower Score on the Glycemic Index

3. May Help Fight Inflammatory and Neurodegenerative Diseases

4. May Help Protect Against Cancer

5. Helps Protect Skin Health

6. Alternative to Sugar for Improved Digestion

7. Supplies Important Vitamins and Minerals

8. Healthier Alternative to Artificial Sweeteners

9. May Enhance Antibiotic Effects

1. Contains Numerous Antioxidants

Need a strong reason to use switch your sweetener? Maple syrup nutrition is impressive when it comes to supplying protective antioxidants. In fact, the medical journal Pharmaceutical Biology revealed that pure maple syrup contains up to 24 different antioxidants!

According to studies comparing the total antioxidant content of natural sweeteners to refined sugar products (like white sugar or corn syrup), there are substantial differences between different products. Refined sugar, corn syrup and agave nectar contain minimal antioxidant activity, while maple syrup, dark and blackstrap molasses, brown sugar, and raw honey have been shown to have higher antioxidant capacity.

The antioxidants found in maple syrup are mostly in the form of phenolic compounds. Phenolic compounds are found in a variety of plant foods — including berries, nuts and whole grains — and are considered to have significant benefits when it comes to the prevention of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. They are capable of reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation and contribute to the formation of various chronic diseases. Dark, grade B maple syrup typically contains more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups.

Some of the primary antioxidants found in maple syrup include benzoic acid, gallic acid, cinnamic acid and various flavanols, like catechin, epicatechin, rutin and quercetin. While most are found at low concentrations, others are present in higher quantities. Thus, it’s possible that the benefits of these antioxidants might counteract some of the downsides to consuming the syrup’s high quantity of sugar.

2. Has a Lower Score on the Glycemic Index

Studies suggest that the maple syrup may have a lower glycemic index than sucrose, including research conducted on rats. This may help in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Refined sugar, and in general refined carbohydrates that contain little fiber, are known to be rapidly metabolized by the liver. This causes a “sugar high,” followed by a quick “sugar crash.” Even worse, consuming too much sugar quickly spikes your blood sugar and raises insulin levels. Over time, that can lead to lower insulin response and problems managing blood glucose. This is the reason diabetes develops.

However, keep in mind that because consuming too much sugar, from any source, is one of the leading causes of some of the most widespread health problems — like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease — even natural sweeteners should be used in small amounts. When it comes to solutions for reversing diabetes naturally, or other blood sugar-related conditions, it’s best to minimize sugar intake overall and especially to avoid refined sugar.

3. May Help Fight Inflammatory and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Because maple syrup nutrition supplies inflammation-reducing polyphenol antioxidants, it can be considered part of a healthy diet that’s helpful in preventing certain diseases — such as neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or heart disease.

Many studies have found that phenolic-containing natural products — including certain fruits, berries, spices, nuts, green tea, olive oil and syrup — have neuroprotective effects. Maple syrup’s plant-based compounds can help protect the brain by reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is responsible for aging us at a quicker rate. Some research shows that phenolic-containing foods in the diet can down-regulate the production of inflammatory markers and reduce the risk for neurotoxicity, brain cell death and conditions including Alzheimer’s disease.

4. May Help Protect Against Cancer

While some evidence shows that to a certain degree sugar can cause cancer or at least contribute to it, maple syrup seems to a much less harmful sweetener. This is due to the presence of antioxidants in the syrup that can protect cells from DNA damage and mutation. Some studies have even found that dark maple syrup can demonstrate inhibitory effects on colorectal cancer cell growth and invasion. Findings have led researchers to believe that dark-color maple syrup may inhibit cell proliferation through suppression of AKT activation. This makes concentrated syrup a potential “phytomedicine” for gastrointestinal cancer treatment.

Even if consuming syrup alone doesn’t result in a reduced risk for developing cancer, it makes a good sugar substitute since it’s generally a better option than refined sugar or artificial sweeteners.

5. Helps Protect Skin Health

Many people swear by using maple syrup topically, directly on their skin. Similarly to raw honey, it may be able to help to lower skin inflammation, redness, blemishes and dryness. Combined with raw milk, yogurt, rolled oats and raw honey, this natural mixture applies to the skin as a mask can hydrate skin while reducing bacteria and signs of irritation.

6. Alternative to Sugar for Improved Digestion

Consuming high levels of refined sugar can contribute to candida, IBS, leaky gut syndrome and other digestive system disorders. In fact, one of the biggest steps you can take to treat leaky gut and autoimmune disorders is to reduce refined sugar intake and opt for small amounts of natural sweeteners instead.

Most artificial sweeteners also cause symptoms of indigestion, including gas, bloating, cramping and constipation. To keep the digestive tract in healthier shape and free from chemicals and the damage done by a high-sugar diet, maple syrup can be a much better alternative to use in baked goods, yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies.

Is maple syrup a laxative? Some claim that by combining this syrup with lemon juice and cayenne pepper, you can create an appetite suppressant, laxative or diuretic. There isn’t much evidence available showing that maple syrup is effective for weight loss, but if it helps reduce constipation, it’s possible it may lead to less bloating and water retention.

7. Supplies Important Vitamins and Minerals

It’s true that maple syrup is high in sugar in the form of sucrose, but it also contains various other components, such as oligosaccharides, polysaccharides, organic acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It also contains zinc and manganese in fairly high amounts, in addition to potassium and calcium. Zinc can help fight illness and improve immunity since it keeps your level of white blood cells up, while manganese plays a role a crucial role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, blood sugar regulation, brain and nerve function.

8. Healthier Alternative to Artificial Sweeteners

If you typically use artificial sweeteners or refined sugar products likeSplenda, sucralose, agave, aspartame or sugar, you should think about switching these out for maple syrup and raw honey as soon as possible. There’s now some concern that artificial sweeteners, while they may be calorie-free, may be tied to numerous health problems, including weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, short-term memory loss and much more.

It’s possible for existing symptoms and even illnesses to worsen by repeatedly using artificial sweeteners over time. They also show unfavorable results when it comes to weight loss. It’s very possible to form an addiction to artificial sweeteners used in many diet or light foods, since they affect your food cravings and your ability to manage your body’s signs of hunger and fullness.

Maple syrup isn’t linked to any of those health problems. Plus, it triggers more satisfaction because of its natural sweet taste.

9. May Enhance Antibiotic Effects

Antibiotics may seem like quick, easy solutions to a number of different illnesses. However, as new research continues to be released, it becomes harder to ignore the dangers and downfalls of antibiotic use. While targeting bad bacteria, antibiotics can also attack healthy cells. Overuse of antibiotics can result in the creation of “superbugs” that no longer respond to antibiotic treatment as well.

When researcher Nathalie Tufenkji and her team investigated extracts from maple syrup in conjunction with antibiotics ciprofloxacin and carbenicillin, they observed the same antimicrobial effect with upward of 90 percent less antibiotics. In other words, the maple syrup extract helped the antibiotics work better. How? Researchers found that the extract increased the permeability of the bacteria, helping the antibiotics into the interior of bacterial cells.

“There are other products out there that boost antibiotic strength, but this may be the only one that comes from nature,” Tufenkji says.

More research and testing for allergic reactions are still needed before this could become part of a medical protocol, but Tufenkji’s research suggests hope against antibiotic resistance in the future.

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