Growing up on a maple syrup farm and consuming maple syrup my whole life has been a sweet experience.
For the uninitiated, maple syrup is a pure, un-processed and healthy sweetener that contains organic compounds, including vitamins and minerals like manganese, zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium.
This natural, unrefined sugar comes from the sap extracted from sugar maple trees primarily located in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. It takes about 40 gallons of maple sap and lots of hard labor to make one gallon of pure and natural maple syrup by boiling the sap until the right density is achieved.
Recent studies have highlighted the nutritional benefits of maple syrup.
In 2011, a University of Rhode Island researcher, Dr. Navindra Seeram, identified 54 beneficial compounds in maple syrup. Some of these compounds may act to prevent chronic and inflammatory diseases such as, cancer, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s. Many of these same compounds are found in other foods labeled ‘super foods,’ such as berries, tea and flaxseed. These compounds may even help manage type two diabetes.
Furthermore, Dr. Keiko Abe of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, recently performed laboratory studies which showed that diets high in carbohydrates that were partially replaced with maple syrup performed better in liver function tests than the control groups that were fed with alternative sweeteners.
While traditionally thought of as a Canadian export, maple syrup farms are flourishing today in many states, including Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Connecticut. All grades of maple syrup are made in these various regions and because the product is straight from trees, it is typically organic and vegan.
In general, the darker the grade, the more minerals the syrup will contain.
Maple syrup can also be used as a replacement for other recipes that call for various types of sugars, such as white and brown sugars. It can also be used as a substitute for other types of liquid sugars like agave and corn syrup. Baking with maple syrup is a great alternative sweetener in many foods. It can simplify recipes and reduce the need to use highly processed sugars in your diet, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
In addition to the health benefits provided by maple syrup, the maple syrup producers are critical in protecting large swaths of land in the highly developed northeast United States.
Maple syrup is also sustainably and ethically harvested—unlike other sugars, the producers have a strong incentive to protect and preserve the forests. So the next time you are having a snack or looking for a sweetener, reach for maple syrup to boost your health and maintain your commitment to a sustainable and ethical product.
Winter Mead grew up on a maple syrup farm and has the liquid gold running through his veins. He understands all aspects of the sugaring process and maple business, and is a tireless advocate for increasing amateur and professional production of maple syrup in New England. He works with his family to distribute maple syrup across the United States and internationally under multiple brands, including Mead and Mead’s Maple Syrup, and recently biked across Spain with a flask of maple syrup in his back pocket.
Ed. Evan Livesay
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