Today we will be talking about whether pure maple syrup is better than sugar. We will go through the differences and health benefits compared to each other.
What is Sugar?
Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food. Simple sugars, also called monosaccharides, including glucose, fructose, and galactose. Compound sugars, also called disaccharides or double sugars, are molecules made of two monosaccharides joined by a glycosidic bond.
What is Maple Syrup?
Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, although it can also be made from other maple species.
What does Sugar do to your Body?
Despite the negative connotation, your body actually needs sugar to function. Sugar is a carbohydrate found naturally in various foods that provides energy to your cells. However, when you eat too much sugar, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect your arteries all over your body. It causes their walls to get inflamed, grow thicker than normal, and stiffer, this stresses your heart and damages it over time. This can lead to heart disease, heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes.
What is Healthier? Sugar or Maple Syurp?
While comparable in calories and carbs, maple syrup has a lower glycemic index than sugar. Also, because maple syrup tends to be sweeter, theoretically you can use less of it. But moderation is key, as it is with any sugar. Of all the sugars available, I like maple syrup because of the nutrients it provides. It can be used with whole grains for fiber to prevent blood sugar and insulin swings.
Sugar vs. Maple Syrup Nutrition Facts
A tablespoon of sugar has 12.6 grams of sugar, 48.9 calories and 12.6 grams of carbohydrates, according to the USDA. It also has a glycemic index of 65.
A tablespoon of maple syrup has 52 calories, 12.1 grams of sugar and 13.4 grams of carbohydrates. It has a glycemic index of 54.
As you can see, maple syrup is lower on the glycemic index than table sugar, meaning it doesn’t spike blood sugar as quickly. The next time you use sugar, look at the label and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything of value; calories, carbohydrates, and added sugars are the only nutrition facts with a number other than 0.
As empty as sugar is for your body, maple syrup contains some small added value. Maple syrup comes from tree sap and because trees contain minerals, the syrup has antioxidants and a prebiotic called oligosaccharides that assists with gut health rather than table sugar.
One tablespoon of maple syrup contains 33 percent of your daily value of manganese, a mineral found in your bones and organs that helps form connective tissue and bones and helps with blood clotting. Maple syrup also has 15 mg of calcium and 45 mg of potassium, which amounts to about 1 percent of your daily recommended value. It also has trace amounts of zinc, copper and iron.
Is Maple Syrup the Better Choice?
Added sugars, whether found in nature or refined, are still sugars. Your body treats them as such. Even though maple syrup primarily consists of sucrose, along with trace amounts of fructose and glucose, all sugar eventually converts to glucose in the intestine before traveling into the blood. And while maple syrup may have a lower glycemic index than table sugar, it still raises your blood sugar — albeit more slowly.
The bottom line is natural doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. Yes, pure maple syrup is less processed than other added sugars. Yes, it has more antioxidants and minerals than table sugar. So, should you add maple syrup to your diet because of this? No, but if you’re going to use sugar in a recipe, you might as well substitute in maple syrup since it’s slightly better for you than refined sugar.
The reality is maple syrup is still high in sugar. It would be very unhealthy to eat several tablespoons of maple syrup per day to add calcium or potassium to your diet. The more appropriate way is to add whole foods to your diet, not more sugar. And take everything in moderation.