Maple Syrup- we all know of this delicious substance that comes from the sap of maple trees.
I don’t know about you, but I love it! Especially drizzled over a stack of fluffy pancakes….coconut flour pancakes, that is.
But is it REALLY natural?
It can be….you have to get the right kind.
Isn’t it still sugar?
In a word, yes.
Is it a healthier alternative to white sugar?
I say, yes!
I won’t go into ALL of why I believe a sweetener like pure maple syrup is way more beneficial than using white sugar. But for me, just the simple fact that it contains ANY nutrients at all, makes it a better option than sugar!
In this post, I’m here to give you the facts on maple syrup…..
what kind to buy, what benefits it contains, and how to use in place of sugar.
Aaaand, some delicious recipes that use maple syrup!
First of all, buy REAL maple syrup.
Pure maple syrup is made by collecting sap from sugar maples, and boiling it down to evaporate some of the water and make for a sweeter, thicker end product.
Make sure that what you buy IS this pure syrup. Pancake syrup is NOT maple syrup.
There should be one ingredient, and one ingredient alone, listed on the label. Even if it looks “natural”, and says “maple” on the front of the bottle, just read the ingredients.
Quality (Grade A, or Grade B?)
To reap the benefits of it’s inherent nutrients as an added bonus, its best to get as high quality of syrup as possible. And different grades of syrup will taste different.
Buying directly from a farm (there are a ton you can order from online) will ensure the best quality. Syrup that’s been mass-produced by large companies has the likelihood of containing mostly substandard syrup with just enough high quality added to meet grading standards. When buying directly from the producer, transparency as to methods and any chemicals used, will usually be a non-issue.
Maple syrup varies greatly in color and flavor, depending on when in the season it was harvested, and the tree it came from. Different “grades” of maple syrup provide a consistent description of different color and flavor profiles.
I used to think that grade B was better because it was less refined, thus containing more vitamins and minerals. This makes sense, but I also haven’t looked into it extensively. However, the grading system for maple syrup recently changed back in 2015. “Grade B” doesn’t exist anymore as a labelling term, but you can find that same grade essentially, by looking for “Grade A- dark robust taste [and darker amber color]”.
Here’s a great article breaking down the new maple syrup grading. Just a note: grades are based on color, not necessarily taste, though darker color usually means bolder flavor.
To Buy Organic or Not to Buy Organic (that is the question)
If you ask me, you’re always better off with organic. When it comes to maple syrup specifically, here’s my somewhat lengthy explanation (since I know you LOVE these details as much as I do):
You might think that the production of ALL maple syrup is done in an organic manner.
While this COULD be true, its not, across the board.
Pesticides (including those containing glyphosate) and certain questionable chemicals and synthetic materials are not allowed in the growing of the trees, collecting of sap, or any other part of producing organic maple syrup. For instance, you aren’t allowed to use equipment that contains lead, toxic chemicals to clean the equipment (which happens every day), or chemical anti-foaming agents. In the production of NON-organic maple syrup, some of these same chemicals ARE allowed.
The guidelines for organic maple syrup production also ensure no damage is done to the environment, this promoting the ability to keep producing it in the future.
However, just because a syrup is NOT certified organic, doesn’t mean that pesticides and lead were for sure used to produce it.
The cool thing about buying directly from a farm; even if they’re not certified organic, you can ask about how they produce their syrup. It may turn out that its organically produced anyway!
So, in general, buying certified organic is a way to be sure you getting NO pesticides, and promoting sustainability.
But if organic is out of your price range, at least be sure you’re buying REAL maple syrup.
Nutrition and Mineral Content
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend consuming maple syrup in copious amounts daily to boost your magnesium, there are many beneficial nutrients contained in this sweet substance:
- choline- 1.3 mg
- calcium- 54 mg (5.5% DV)
- iron- 1 mg (5% DV)
- magnesium- 11 mg (2.7% DV)
- phosphorous- 1.6 mg (0.2% DV)
- potassium- 164 mg (4.7% DV)
- zinc- 3.3 mg (22% DV)
- copper- .05 mg (3% DV)
- manganese- 2.6 mg (132% DV)
- selenium- .4 mcg (0.7% DV)
This is all for 1/4 cup of maple syrup (and as with any whole food, EXACT nutrients will vary with every bottle of syrup).
There are also 48 grams of sugar in 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Like I said, not a great source of daily mineral supplementation. 😉
Baking with Maple Syrup
In baked goods, for every 1 cup of granulated sugar:
- Replace with 3/4 cup maple syrup.
- Take away 3-4 tablespoons of liquid from the recipe
- Add 1/4-1/2 tsp baking soda for every 1/4 cup maple syrup used (the reason for this being that maple syrup is acidic, and the baking soda helps neutralize this, making for a better rise).
If using maple syrup in a recipe that calls for honey (or agave nectar), substitute it 1:1, and no need to worry about liquids or anything else!
Note: The liquid ratio won’t matter so much if a recipe only calls for a tablespoon or two of sweetener, whether baked or not.
Cooking with Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is not just limited to baked goods, though.
It can be subbed for other sweeteners in all kinds of recipes.
For instance, these homemade chocolate chunks
There are plenty of savory recipes as well:
- Use it instead of brown sugar in Sloppy Joes
- Use it in place of sugar in Italian breakfast sausage recipes
- Use it in this recipe for Gluten-Free Focaccia Flax Bread
And some recipes are just MADE for maple syrup!
Like these One-Ingredient Maple Candies, or this Maple Sausage, Bacon, & Plantain Breakfast Casserole.
As with any “natural” or “healthy” sweetener, while it IS better than white sugar, MORE is not always better. The fact is, maple syrup is still a source of sugars, and too much is not going to be the best for our bodies.
My recommendation is to use moderation, and have fun experimenting with the unique flavor of maple syrup!
What are YOUR favorite ways to use maple syrup?