December 17: International Maple Syrup Day
Celebrating International Maple Syrup Day and digging a little deeper into the benefits and recipes using maple syrup.
A drizzle of syrupy goodness over your warm fluffy pancakes is an excellent way to kick start a Sunday. However, maple syrup is so much more than a fancy ingredient in your kitchen. The sap of sugar maple, black maple and red maple trees are extracted to produce this syrup. Though several of the maple tree species are native to Asia, there are several varieties that are found in Europe and North America.
With the dawning of winter, the maple trees start to store starch in their xylem layer to prepare themselves for the cold harsh winters. The onset of spring triggers and it breaks the starch by converting to sugar which is then pushed through the tree. This sugar acts as food for the sprouting of new leaves and once the temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it transforms to sap. The trees are tapped and the sap is collected over a period of weeks which is then processed into maple syrup.
North America is dominating the global maple syrup market due to the increasing demand from consumers. The growth is also because maple syrup is no longer considered a topping but it is also used as a food that provides tons of nutrients and health benefits.
The Legend of the Origin of Maple Syrup
As dramatic it may sound, the narrative goes back to the early 1600s. The native Americans were the first to find maple syrup. The Chief Woksis of the Iroquois accidentally threw his tomahawk at a maple tree on a cold winter evening and the following day discovered the sweet sap flowing from its trunk. His wife collected the sap and cooked some meat with it, which tasted delicious and was enjoyed by the locals. Later this process of extraction of sap became popular among the natives and they adapted it as a part of their lives.
The Process of Making
The process of making maple syrup is equally engaging as the legends. The Maple trees are first tapped by drilling holes in the trunks. Next, the sap (95 percent water 5 percent sugar) is collected and then boiled to evaporate water from the liquid leaving just the concentrated syrup. Then the syrup is fingered, colour graded, packed for the market.
The Grades of Maple Syrup
Maple Syrup is graded based on its colour and flavour. It is determined factually, when was the syrup made from the tree sap. The early season syrup is comparatively lighter in colour than when the weather is warmer and the colour of the syrup is dark. They also differ in flavour. While the lighter colour syrup has a mild taste, the darker syrups are strong in flavour. There are four grades under which the maple syrups are categorized i.e. Golden, Amber, Dark and Very Dark.
Here are the nutrients of 1 tbsp of maple syrup
- Calories: 52
- Protein: 0 gram
- Carbohydrates: 13.4 gram
- Fat: 0 gram
- Fibre: 0 gram
- Manganese: 0.58 mg
- Zinc: 0.29 mg
- Potassium: 42 mg
- Iron: 0.02 mg
- Calcium: 20 mg
- Magnesium: 4 mg
Health Benefits of Maple Syrup
There are various health benefits that you can receive from maple syrup. The syrup is rich in antioxidants and has a low Glycemic Index, making it consumable for diabetic patients too.
1. Boosts Immunity
Maple Syrup is a good source of zinc and manganese which is responsible for the production of immune cells like T-cells and white blood cells. Strengthening the immune system will also help the resistance against illness and diseases.
2. Supports Male Reproductive Health
This concentrated sugary syrup is also known to improve male reproductive health. Zinc deficiency can cause low testosterone levels, poor sperm quality, and an added risk of male infertility. Since maple syrup is rich in zinc, it could significantly help in the normal functioning of the reproductive system.
3. Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases
Maple Syrup also benefits the heart. Zinc content in maple syrup protects and prevents the heart from various diseases like stroke, atherosclerosis etc. The presence of inflammation-reducing polyphenol antioxidants also contributes to a healthy heart.
4. Protects Against Cancer
There are around 24 antioxidants present in maple syrup. These antioxidants help protect the cells from DNA damage and mutation. Studies suggest that these antioxidants are also responsible for hindering the growth and process of cell division in cancerous cells.
5. Low Glycemic Index Score
Maple Syrup has a low glycemic index score as compared to other sweeteners. It is also helpful in preventing type 2 diabetes. It manages the blood glucose levels and its antioxidant polyphenols improve the body’s sensitivity to sugar spikes, regulating hormonal insulin.
Can Maple Syrup be a Substitute of Sugar?
When the world is submerged under packaged and canned foods, diabetes has creept up to become a global issue. Also, refined sugar is playing a major role in triggering chronic diseases and causes of various ailments. So, yes you can substitute your white refined sugar with pure maple syrup. Even maple sugar is a great alternative to add to your teas and beverages. Quantity is still the key, so make sure you measure your tablespoons.
Is Maple Syrup Vegan?
Veganism had emerged as a lifestyle that attempted to put an end to animal abuse and cruelty in terms of food, clothing or any other by-products. So, to answer the question, yes, pure maple syrup is vegan. The trees aren’t harmed during the extraction process and thus the concern of exploitation is dismissed.
There are certain precautions that must be taken when consuming maple syrup.
1. Tooth Decay
Excessive consumption of this syrup can cause tooth decay. The highly concentrated syrup can cause bacterial growth and multiplication in the mouth and cause cavities. So, maple syrup intake in moderation is advised to all who have a sweet tooth but wish to stay healthy.
2. Weight Gain
Mind the quantity of maple syrup before going overboard with it. Though it contains fewer calories than refined sugar, one may easily add a little extra, considering they are eating healthy. Consuming an excess of maple syrup can also have the same consequence as any other sweetener and would add to your weight.
3. Raise Blood Sugar
As mentioned above, maple syrup manages blood sugar levels and prevents type 2 diabetes. However, it is essential to be cautious as it may contribute to a spike in your body glucose level. Keep a check on your sugar levels, if you consider adding maple syrup to be a part of your daily life.
Also, consult your doctor if you have your doubts or you have oral allergy syndrome.
Listing down some delicious winter special recipes that are healthy and make a flavoursome meal.
1. Maple Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes
Cooking Time: 1 hr 40 mins.
- Boneless Chicken: 1.5 kgs (cut to medium-sized pieces)
- Yellow Onion: 1 (cut to wedges)
- Sweet Potatoes: 2 (washed, peeled and cut to medium-sized chunks)
- Olive Oil- 1 ½ tbsp
- Black Pepper: ½ tsp
- Maple Syrup: 2 tbsp
- Thyme: 3 sprigs
- Salt: Per taste
- Put the oven to preheat setting at 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 204 degrees Celsius
- Wash the chicken pat it dry
- Lay down a baking dish and put all the ingredients into the dish
- Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper
- Toss and make sure you cover everything
- Add the maple syrup over the chicken, potatoes and onions
- Trop it up with fresh thyme
- Roast for 1 hr 15 mins and stir occasionally till the chicken is cooked
- Serve warm with some seared vegetables.
2. Pumpkin Butter with Maple Syrup
Cooking Time: 20 mins
- Pumpkin: 1 (small-sized, diced and then pureed)
- Maple Syrup: 2 tbsp
- Lemon Juice: 1 tsp
- Cinnamon Powder: 1 ½ tsp
- Cloves Powder: 1 tsp
- Place a deep bottom pot on the stove over medium heat
- Add in the pumpkin puree and let it cook thoroughly
- Meanwhile, add the other ingredients into the pot
- Cook the puree till the excess liquid is evaporated and you are left with a heavy cream-like consistency
- Let it cool off for 10 mins
- Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate
You can store this for up to 3 months and add it to your oatmeal, pancakes, toasts or unsweetened yoghurt.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Is maple syrup healthier than sugar?
A. Maple syrup has a low glycemic index as compared to sugar. It also has lower calories and carbohydrates. So, you can say it is healthier than sugar if consumed in moderation.
Q. Is maple syrup good for health?
A. Yes, maple syrup has many health benefits like it boosts immunity, regulates blood sugar levels, improves male reproductive health etc.
Q. Can maple syrup be used in teas?
A. Substituting white sugar with maple syrup is an excellent idea to continue having your hot or iced teas without obsessing over health troubles.
Q. What trees make maple syrup?
A. Maple syrup can be extracted from any variety of maple trees. However, the most popular ones are the sugar, black and red maple trees.
Q. Which maple syrup grade is the best?
A. The grade A maple syrup, which is golden in colour and has a mild flavour is preferred by people over the other three. Moreover, research suggests that the darker the colour the higher antioxidant content the syrup constitutes.