I don’t know about you, but I always welcome news that something I like is good for me. Much of the advice you get from alternative health experts is in line with the famous quip, “Anything in life that’s any fun is either illegal, immoral or fattening.”
So I rejoice to report there’s a growing number of studies to show maple syrup can limit inflammation and help feed the probiotic bacteria in your digestive tract.
One of the reasons for the benefits is that maple syrup undergoes almost no processing. It contains a large number of natural substances from maple trees that do good things for your body – and they aren’t removed in a factory before they reach your table.
Here’s a quick rundown on those good things. . .
Maple syrup gets its sweetness from sucrose, the sugar that combines fructose and glucose. It’s the same stuff contained in cane sugar, which means you shouldn’t consume huge amounts of maple syrup. But if you do need a touch of sweetness in your food (count me in), a little maple syrup is a much better choice than just about any other sweetener.
For one thing, because of the natural compounds of the maple tree, maple syrup doesn’t spike your blood sugar the way refined sugar can. According to research, some of the phytochemicals dissolved in the syrup influence our enzymes in a way that slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. As a result, it has a lower glycemic index – a measure of how a food boosts blood sugar – than other sweeteners.1
According to scientists in Japan who have reviewed the studies on maple syrup, it contains phenols – natural chemicals from plants that influence health. Those found in this sweetener act as antioxidants, lower the risk of cancer, fight inflammation, kill pathogens and protect the nervous system.2
Here’s an interesting sidebar: The maple tree has another health benefit you would never expect.
Scientists at the University of Rhode Island have discovered an extract from maple leaves that may be useful to prevent wrinkles as we get older.3
According to researcher Navindra Seeram, “Native Americans used leaves from red maple trees in their traditional system of medicine, so why should we ignore the leaves?”
Dr. Seeram explains that the elasticity of our skin depends on proteins like elastin, a springy substance the body makes in the skin. But the body also makes an enzyme called elastase that increasingly destroys elastin as we get older.
In their tests, Dr. Seeram’s group found that compounds called glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs) in maple leaves block the activity of elastase and may keep wrinkles form forming. Plus, other tests show that GCGs hinder inflammation in the skin and can lighten up age spots and other dark skin areas.
The most recent studies of the effects of natural chemicals in maple syrup continue to turn up impressive health effects. . .
Protection of the brain’s neurons: Tests have shown that the antioxidant compounds in maple syrup can help keep neurons functioning better. And at least part of the benefit to neurons may be linked to keeping microglia – immune cells in the brain – from causing inflammation.4
Lowering the risk of cancer: A study at the University of Quebec shows that chemicals in the syrup can inhibit cancer cells from reproducing and spreading.5 Plus, a study in Japan shows that syrup substances can also slow down colon cancer cells from forming tumors, hindering their ability to coordinate their destructive activities with each other and keeping the cancer from invading the lining of the colon.6
Promoting better liver health: About 25% of Americans now have liver issues caused by being overweight, having high blood pressure and being insulin resistant. Researchers in Japan have found that maple syrup can support better liver function and improve its ability to detox the body.7
It’s pretty obvious that when it comes to sweeteners, maple syrup should be your sweetener of choice. Remember not to overdo it – it does contain sugar. And choose the darker variety in the grocery store – the one that’s labeled Grade A Dark. That contains more beneficial phytochemicals than the types that are lighter in color.
If you’re one of those sad, poorly informed souls who still use synthetic syrups like Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth’s on your pancakes and French toast, maple syrup tastes sooo much better, I guarantee you will never go back to the fake stuff once you’ve tried it.