There's just something about Canadians and maple syrup. It's delicious. It's natural. Cold winters are absolutely required to produce it. And … it's healthy.
Canadians and Maple
A few days ago, a friend of mine grumbled that “Sometimes I think some people believe Canadians all have pet moose and eat maple syrup on everything.”
The other two of us looked at her and said in unison “What's wrong with maple syrup on everything?”
After a moment, she said, “Well, no pet moose!”
There's just something about Canadians and maple syrup. It's delicious. It's natural. It's so natural that it comes from trees growing out in the woods! Cold winters are absolutely required to produce it.
And … it's healthy. No – really! I'd never joke about something this serious.
Mandatory disclaimer — I am NOT a doctor. I'm simply a Canadian who loves my pure maple syrup and spent some time researching why everyone should eat more of it. (It's part of my plot for Canada to rule the world!) If you have health problems that limit sugar, or are concerned about any of this, talk to your doctor. That's what she is there for.
Yes, healthy! And as I said, Canadians and maple syrup – I would never lie to you about something this serious.
I swear by my pet moose, crossing my heart with my Canadian Tire hockey stick …
Okay, maybe it doesn't stack up to a big bowl of steamed vegetables (and I don't actually have a pet moose), but there are very definite health benefits to replacing some or all of your white sugar with maple.
Personally, I'd take maple syrup over honey any day.
If you are from warmer area and are not entirely familiar with maple syrup, it comes from trees. Maple trees.
At least the watery sap comes from trees. (Maybe you knew that?) Black and sugar maples are the best. You can still make syrup from red or silver maple, but it will be cloudy and definitely not the best quality. A maple tree must be at least 12″ wide, or about forty years old, before it can be tapped, and even the largest trees shouldn't have more than two taps. (Some people do up to three, so, you know, there is disagreement on this.)
It takes a lot of maple sap to make your bottle of syrup, which is one reason it costs what it does, because maple sap is more than 65% water.
It takes 40-45 gallons of pure sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup, and requires a lot of boiling and stirring to evaporate all of that water! Making maple sugar or hard candies requires even more boiling and evaporation.
Nutrients in Maple Syrup
Unlike white sugar, maple syrup actually has nutrients. As I said, it's not like eating a plate of vegetables, but it's not totally 'empty calories', either. The sugar in it is sucrose, just like table sugar, so don't drink it by the bottle, okay?
While it can vary, maple syrup typically has calcium, potassium, manganese, iron, and zinc, as well as minerals and loads of antioxidants.
Alternative to Sugar
It really is a fabulous alternative to sugar. It's more expensive than your typical bag of white sugar, which is an incentive to use less! With slightly less calories per teaspoon than honey, but loaded with health benefits, you're winning.
How to Use Maple Syrup as an Alternative to Sugar
So, how do you replace sugar with maple syrup?
It's not hard, but the quantities are a bit different. You can't just replace it cup for cup – nor would you want to, considering the price of maple! In general, you'll want to use 2/3 cup maple syrup for every cup of sugar, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons, and lower the baking temperature slightly. Remember that liquid syrup is going to work differently than dry sugar.
Recipes That Work Great with Maple Syrup
To be honest, the sky is the limit.
If you can put white sugar or honey in the recipe, you can use maple syrup.
It's a wonderful sugar replacement in your coffee or tea and also can be blended into a milkshake.
I have used it in bread recipes that call for honey. The quantities are the same, so just scratch out honey in your recipe and write in maple syrup.
Almost any cookie, donut, cake, cupcake or muffin recipe can be changed to use maple syrup, and it's absolutely divine in cornbread.
Maple syrup even shines in savoury cooking.
Maple-glazed meat – ANY meat from ribs to chicken to ham to seafood – is delicious. It is also great in some soups, especially creamy soups made with sweet potatoes, squash or beets. Leave a comment on my Facebook page if you want me to get you some yummy, nummy maple syrup recipes.
Yes, I'll make that sacrifice and test out maple recipes for you because I love you. Just drop me a note and let me know if you want me to do that.
And the list of desserts that can be made with maple syrup? I don't have room to list them all! I've never tried making Sugar Pie with it, but one of these days I'm going to try. (Wouldn't that taste incredible?)
Maple Syrup is an Antioxidant
Let me make this really clear – I'm talking about real maple syrup. The stuff that comes out of trees. Nothing added. Nothing except water taken away.
Pure, natural, delicious … and packed with antioxidants.
If it says Aunt Jemima on the package, or you made a recipe you found because someone said you could “make your own maple syrup at home”, it's not maple syrup. It's a simple white sugar syrup with a bit of maple flavouring (and who knows what else) added. If it has added sugar, it's not maple syrup.
Unless you are tapping that sugar maple in your backyard, you can't make your own maple syrup at home. #sorrynotsorry
What are Antioxidants?
Do you nod when people talk about antioxidants, but you really have no idea why they're recommended and supposed to be so good for you? They're in fruits and vegetables, and they're healthy. But what are they?
Antioxidants are a combination of nutrients and vitamins that help protect your body from free radicals, which means you are better able to fight many diseases and even cancer. But that raises the question – what are free radicals?
The simplest answer is that they are molecules with unpaired electrons. If they aren't dealt with, they run amok through our bodies, attacking healthy cells. This can lead to minor things like temporarily weakening our immune system so that we get a cold or flu, or very serious things like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The good news about free radicals is that our bodies are great at dealing with them – so long as we have a regular intake of antioxidants.
Antioxidants in Maple Syrup
In maple syrup, the antioxidants are varied, but often include polyphenolsm, the same antioxidants you find in foods like blueberries and green tea.
I don't know about the green tea, but including maple and blueberries in my diet makes this Canadian girl happy.
It Helps to Boost Your Immune System
Not only does maple syrup have antioxidants, but many other nutrients in the syrup can also help to boost your immune system.
Zinc is absolutely vital to a healthy immune system, and 1/4 cup pure maple syrup will give you 18% of your daily value. It gets better, though, because it contains 100% of the manganese you need to maintain energy production and efficient antioxidant defense. It even provides 37% of the riboflavin you need to keep a strong metabolism.
Years ago, a naturopathic doctor asked me a question. “Have you ever noticed that two people can be exposed to the exact same virus and only one of them gets sick? Why do you think that is?”
The difference, of course, is in their immune systems. Viruses don't make us ill – weak and unhealthy immune systems make us ill.
Of all the ways that you can boost your immune system, a little bit of maple in the morning tops my list.
Male Reproductive System Benefits
NOT what you probably think of, but maple's nutrients are great for male reproductive health. Men who are struggling with fertility might want to consider looking at maple.
Nutrients for Male Reproductive Health
So, how does maple syrup help with male reproductive health?
For that, we have to look back at the zinc it contains. That's a metal that contains a lot of trace elements. It helps with your immune system, but these trace elements also help to balance out your hormones. For men who are low in testosterone or other male hormones, it can work with other treatments to boost natural fertility.
Aside from the help with your reproductive health, zinc can also help to fight the common cold, as well as reduce inflammation in your body and fight free radicals, making it vital for overall health.
Get a Healthy Heart
The nutrients and antioxidants that have been discussed above have other health benefits, including boosting heart health.
Even if you're healthy, maintaining heart health is important! The problem with most heart-related condiitions like high blood pressure and heart disease is that they show little or no symptoms. Go in to your doctor for a routine visit, or land in the hospital for something really serious, and then you discover that your blood pressure is very high, or get bloodwork done for something minor and find out that your cholesterol levels are much too high.
EJ discovered his high blood pressure while training to be an emergency first responder. They were learning to use the blood pressure machines and his partner thought the machine was broken. A few diet changes and medication has brought it under control, with many added benefits.
If you're going to be removing salt and excessive fat from your diet, it's nice to know that maple syrup can remain. Enjoy a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and be sure to put some maple on your breakfast oatmeal.
Maple Syrup for Proper Heart Health
Again, we can thank those antioxidents and that miracle-working zinc. They fight free radicals that can damage the membranes of your heart. They also boost your good cholesterold (LDL) and decrease the bad cholesterol (HDL).
And of course, maple is far more natural than white sugar, which is never good for you.
Improve Your Skin
When we think of acne and other skin breakouts, we often blame sugar. There's certainly plenty of evidence that white sugar and bad skin often go hand in hand.
But we're not talking about white sugar, are we?
You don't want your teen guzzling it out of the bottle, but if they need to make dietary changes, it's nice to know that maple is still there for them.
Maple is always going to be there for you …
Maple Syrup for Your Skin
So there's the thing – antioxidants don't just help your physical, internal health. They are wonderful for your skin and your general appearance. Part of the reason they are link to anti-aging is that they reduce the internal and external damage from free radicals and protect your skin from environmental conditions.
Using Maple Syrup
You're getting those antioxidants when you eat maple syrup, but you can also use it directly on your skin. There are a variety of different creams, masks, and scrubs that contain actual maple syrup to clear your skin, help slow the appearance of aging, moisturize and generally make your skin look and feel better.
Not only will you be getting those antioxidants by consuming maple syrup more often, but you can actually use it right on your skin. There are a variety of different creams, masks, and scrubs that contain a small amount of syrup to help with anti-aging and to clear your skin. It will also be great for moisturizing the skin and offering a youthful glow.
The simplest way to try maple for skin care is to mix 1 teaspoon each of pure maple syrup and aloe vera gel. Rub it into your skin, let it dry for about fifteen minutes and then wash off. You'll love how your face feels.
Another easy idea is to blend a little syrup with raw oatmeal and scrub your face. Rinse with warm water.
As always, you want real, pure maple syrup, not “pancake syrup” or anything that requires a bit of fake flavour to convince you that it's maple.
The last health benefit of maple syrup to think about is that it can help reduce inflammation in your body and your skin.
This once again is due to those beautiful antioxidants. What could be better than using maple syrup for your tea, coffee, or baked goods, and knowing you are also helping your physical health and beauty?
Inflammation is often linked to medical conditions and diseases that you want to avoid, such as heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis. It is often linked to skin issues, so if you want to help your skin and have a more youthful, glowing appearance, it doesn’t hurt to add a little more maple syrup to your diet.
Healthy Ways to Use Maple Syrup
Here are a few ideas to try out:
Enjoy a little maple syrup in your coffee or tea
Have a bowl of fruit with a teaspoon of maple syrup, instead of a bowl of ice cream
Put your syrup on 3-ingredient pancakes made with eggs, bananas, and cinnamon
Top your overnight apple cinnamon oats with maple syrup and lots of fresh fruit
Make a smoothie with greens, fruit, Greek yogurt, almond milk, and maple syrup
As you can see, there are a lot of options available to you. You can benefit from maple syrup by getting zinc, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals, while having something delicious that goes great with a wide range of recipes.