Chew on This

Turns out maple syrup has key health benefits, especially for endurance athletes

Maple syrup has nutritional qualities not found in white granulated sugar. Maple syrup contains minerals such as manganese and zinc, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Maple syrup has nutritional qualities not found in white granulated sugar. Maple syrup contains minerals such as manganese and zinc, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. AP

While in Montreal for a food meeting 13 years ago, one of our activities was a dinner excursion to a sugar shack.

Holy maple syrup!

In a rustic building surrounded by maple trees, we were treated to a dinner in which every food was dripping in maple syrup. A few of our courses included pea soup with maple syrup, eggs with maple syrup, and ham and other meats with maple syrup.

The meal concluded outside with maple syrup being poured over mountains of ice, which we eagerly licked up. Not once during the meal did I ever think I was eating for my health.

Fast forward to two months ago when I was invited to a scientific session on maple syrup’s potential health benefits. Maple syrup is a sweetener and although primarily sugar, it has nutritional qualities not found in white granulated sugar. Maple syrup contains minerals such as manganese and zinc, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

And it causes less of a glucose spike when compared with white table sugar.

Since it is a sweetener, you probably would not be eating enough of it to make a significant nutritional difference. That said, it does have a rich taste and a touch of good nutrition so it might be beneficial to use it as a sugar substitute in appropriate recipes. This site explains how to do a baking substitution: https://www.tablespoon.com/posts/how-to-sweeten-with-maple-syrup

Researchers at the meeting also discussed maple-syrup-sweetened sports drinks. A study from University of Montreal showed that maple water, with carbohydrates equal to other commercial sports drinks, can be used effectively during endurance exercise. And the maple water was rated as having a less acidic taste.

There are many foods begging for a drop of maple syrup. I love it on baked salmon. Other options include drizzled on roasted vegetables, added to salad dressing and sprinkled into plain yogurt or oatmeal.

For maple syrup recipe ideas, go to https://www.foodnetwork.ca/shows/great-canadian-cookbook/photos/sweet-and-savoury-maple-syrup-recipes/#!pudding-chomeur

Keith Moore is one of the biggest maple syrup producers in the state. The sap from his Lawrence County maple trees will allow Moore to produce 1000 bottles of bourbon-aged syrup and 1000 bottles of regular maple syrup this season.

Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist on faculty at the Miller School of Medicine

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