Maybe you’ve had a similar experience: I was making a batch of “healthy” zucchini muffins last night and instead of sugar it called for “real maple syrup.” Does replacing real maple syrup really make a recipe healthier? Is it the key to sweet “healthy baking?” Instinctively, it does seem better than putting in a whole heap of white sugar into muffins, but does it really make a difference? Is there a better option?
“Real”, Fake, and Sugar-Free Maple Syrup?
When we grocery shop for maple syrup, we often see three options: artificial syrup, “real”/pure maple syrup, or “sugar-free” maple syrup.
Fake maple syrup often contains artificial and harmful ingredients like corn syrup, caramel color, and food additives. It is anything but natural as it's basically just straight corn syrup. Corn syrup is made by processing corn and separating the sugars until you get a highly concentrated fructose syrup. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has said that consuming high-fructose corn syrup leads to weight gain, obesity, fatty liver, and possibly diabetes. The artificial ingredients also pose a risk to your health! Clearly, artificial maple syrup is not the “healthy choice”.
Real maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees. The sap is boiled to reduce the moisture and concentrate the sugary syrup. Luckily, no artificial ingredients are added and it’s “all-natural”. However, if you’re looking for a “healthy option”, you have to remember that even cane sugar can be “organic” and “all-natural”, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically good for you! Tree sap is basically just SUGAR with one tbsp = 14 grams of sugar! There are some minerals and antioxidants in maple syrup, but they are in such minuscule amounts, that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Maple syrup is high in calories, high in carbohydrates, and high in sugar. Again, real maple syrup is not the “healthy choice”.
Sugar-free maple syrup is a tricky one because there are some good ones and some rotten ones. Many of them have artificial ingredients and harmful sweeteners which end up being just as bad as sugar! Look for a sugar-free maple syrup with natural ingredients and natural sweeteners and it could be your “healthier choice!” (Shameless plug for Lakanto’s maple syrup… it is low calorie, 1 net carb, all natural, low glycemic, gluten-free, lifestyle friendly, tastes like REAL maple syrup. AKA, it’s a good choice.)
Artificial maple syrup is a no go, real maple syrup is a slightly less bad option (basically sugar), and sugar-free maple syrups can be a win-win IF you choose one that has quality, natural sweeteners, and no added junk!
Stay tuned for next week when we discuss honey as a sugar replacement!