During the holidays some of us may indulge in pancakes or French toast for breakfast, especially if we have houseguests and want to do something special. I imagine Christmas morning sees a stack of pancakes on the table at more than a few homes.

If that sounds like your family, I hope you’re putting maple syrup on them, and not the fake “maple flavored” syrups. Genuine maple syrup is loaded with nutritional benefits. . .

Studies keep stirring up more and more ways that maple syrup – made from the sap of the sugar maple tree – can improve your health.

Builds strong bodies 54 ways

Research at the University of Rhode Island reveals that at least 54 compounds in maple syrup function as antioxidants or possess anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-pathogenic properties.

The Rhode Island scientists found that maple syrup is a rich source of polyphenols. These are natural antioxidants that have been shown to produce a wide range of health benefits.

“(Maple syrup) is a one-stop shop for these beneficial compounds, several of which are also found in berries, tea, red wine and flaxseed, just to name a few,” says researcher Navindra Seeram. “Not all sweeteners are created equal. When choosing a sweetener, pure maple syrup may be a better choice because of the range of antioxidant compounds not found in other sweeteners.”

Seeram’s investigation shows that these chemicals may help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

“We discovered that the polyphenols in maple syrup inhibit enzymes that are involved in the conversion of carbohydrate to sugar,” Seeram says. “In fact, in preliminary studies maple syrup had a greater enzyme-inhibiting effect compared to several other healthy plant foods such as berries…”

By slowing the action of enzymes that process carbohydrates in the body, maple syrup, compared to sugar, produces a slower and more moderate increase in blood sugar when it’s part of a meal. Consequently it has a lower glycemic index.

Seeram also points out that five of maple syrup’s 54 antioxidants were identified in her research for the first time and have not been found in other foods.

The researchers named one of these unique polyphenols Quebecol – named after the Canadian province of Quebec. Quebecol is created when the sap of the maple tree is tapped from the trees and boiled down during syrup processing.

Tests at the Université Laval in Quebec have shown that Quebecol produces anti-inflammatory effects that may lower the risk of cancer.1 A study in India demonstrates that this polyphenol may also slow the growth and spread of cancer cells.2

Enhanced liver protection

In Japan, researchers at the University of Tokyo have found evidence that maple syrup can also support a healthier liver. The Japanese scientists warn that today about one in four Americans suffer liver problems that are related to being overweight, having high blood pressure and being insulin resistant.

They conclude that choosing maple syrup as a sweetener may provide some degree of liver support and help the liver keep up with its detox responsibilities.3

Maple syrup is not only valuable for your health. Today, as a commodity, a barrel of the syrup sells for about $2,000 – 13 times the cost of a barrel of oil.

But maple syrup is worth the price. I stop short of calling it a health food. You shouldn’t overindulge. But you’ll find that this sweetener is far superior to health-threatening sweeteners like pure sugar or high fructose corn syrup.