Maple syrup: more than just sugar and calories

April 6, 2010 by  
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Sticky, sweet and full of calories. That’s how I would describe maple syrup. So how can it be healthy? But this natural Canadian product that goes well with your pancakes or waffles contains, according to a study by University of Rhode Island researchers, certain bioactive compounds that may be beneficial to your health.

So what are these compounds?

Navindra Seeram, assistant professor of  pharmacy at University of Rhode Island identified some 20 antioxidants in the sweet liquid, including 13 which haven’t reported before in maple syrup and reported his findings at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco last March. One of the class of compounds identified was phenolics, antioxidants produced by plants as defense mechanisms. Maple syrup is extracted from the maple tree Acer sp. and the extraction process of the syrup  which requires wounding the plant induces phenolic production.  Further boiling of the sap concentrates the phenolics in the end product.

This is indeed good news for maple syrup lovers as well as manufacturers. Maple syrup has become a symbol of Canada, the world’s biggest producer.

According to Serge Beaulieu, president of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers:

“We are proud that our producers are generously supporting this research, bringing to light a greater understanding of the gastronomic and health benefits of maple products. It is not just for Canada, but for the welfare of consumers around the world.”

Dr. Seeram reported that the compounds he identified have antibacterial, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic  properties. The next step is to determine the concentrations of these compounds in maple syrup and how they can potentially be harnessed as medicinal agents.

One thing is for sure: there is more to maple syrup than just sugar and calories.

Geneviève Béland, federation marketing director says:

Recent research findings, such as those by Dr. Seeram, reveal a whole array of bioactive compounds that promise to offer many health benefits. Our journey to understanding these benefits has just begun.”

The researchers, however, recommend that people should go for the real maple syrup and those (cheaper) products with maple flavoring and or syrup diluted with other liquids.

Dr. Seeram, who is an expert in medicinal plants, is not only looking at maple syrup but at other plants as well. His aim is to educate the public as well as the scientific community about the many benefits of natural food products.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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One Response to “Maple syrup: more than just sugar and calories”
  1. Tara says:

    Once I tried Grade B organic maple syrup I was completely hooked! It’s so hard to find though, since most supermarkets will only carry Grade A.

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