Not all maple syrup is made equally good, so here’s a short guide on what to look for when shopping for this sweet product.
Maple Syrup and Pancake Syrup Aren’t the Same
First things first, we need to clarify that maple syrup and pancake syrup aren’t the same. Yes, they typically sit side by side on a grocery shelf, and you use them both for your favorite breakfast food, but they couldn’t be more different.
The best pure maple syrup is made from maple tree sap that’s boiled down to a syrup. The water from the sap evaporates, and the natural sugars caramelize into the well-known golden color and characteristic flavor. Maple syrup is processed minimally.
In contrast to maple syrup, pancake syrup is a highly processed sweetener. It’s made primarily from corn syrup or corn syrup rich in fructose. It also has added coloring, flavors, and preservatives.
The syrups also differ in flavor. Fresh maple syrup has a clean maple flavor with a hint of vanilla, caramel, or prune. Unlike its maple counterpart, pancake syrup has a noticeably artificial flavor.
Who Should Use Maple Syrup?
Maple syrup is the right choice for everyone who wants to add a bit of sweetness to their food or meal replacement shakes without using too much processed sugar. It’s considered safe for everyone, even children and pregnant women.
It’s also suitable for anyone following the paleo diet and anyone who needs a replacement for cane sugar.
How to Find the Best Maple Syrup in the World
Unfortunately, not all maple syrup is 100% natural, so you should pay attention to a couple of things when looking for maple syrup:
Natural and Non-Natural
Now, a syrup of the highest quality should consist of 100% natural ingredients. Natural maple syrup is minimally processed. Hence it’s the healthiest option.
Unfortunately, many companies make false claims that their maple syrup is natural or organic. It’s always a good idea to check the product for certifications and go through the ingredients list.
Non-natural maple syrup often contains artificial sugars and fructose, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes.
The syrup’s origin is more important than you might think. Best-quality maple syrup comes from Quebec, Canada, and Vermont, US. These locations are widely known as the home of maple syrup.
The Grading System
The traditional grading system recognizes grade A and grade B maple syrup. It’s confusing to many people because it looks like the grades evaluate the syrup’s quality.
However, that’s not the case, as the grades refer to the syrup’s color and flavor.
Grade A maple syrup has a lighter color and a mild taste, while grade B maple syrup has a deep, dark color and intense flavor. Which one is the best maple syrup grade depends on your preference. Still, people usually prefer the more intense, grade B flavor.
The US Department of Agriculture changed the labeling system in 2015 to avoid any further confusion. There are now four labels that describe the syrup according to its flavor and color:
- Grade A Golden Color/ Delicate Taste
- Grade A Amber Color/ Rich Taste
- Grade A Dark Color/ Robust Taste
- Grade A Very Dark Color/ Strong Taste (former grade B).
However, despite the new labeling system, most maple syrup brands still use the traditional grading system.
People usually don’t give the bottle much thought, but the type of bottle can affect the syrup’s taste and shelf life. Maple syrup is typically packed in a plastic or glass bottle.
A plastic bottle is more durable and convenient for shipping, but it can change the taste of a syrup slightly in some cases. It can also shorten the life shelf of the syrup.
That said, a glass bottle is delicate, but it doesn’t affect the shelf life or the syrup’s flavor.
Good maple syrup shouldn’t have any additives. Sadly, many companies add various preservatives, artificial sweeteners, coloring, and flavors to make their syrup taste or look better.
Benefits of Consuming Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener, so it’s slightly better than regular sugar. It boasts incredible properties, including the ones below:
- Maple syrup is less processed than regular sugar. The process of making maple syrup doesn’t involve chemicals.
- Maple syrup is rich in manganese. One tablespoon of maple syrup provides 33% of the recommended daily intake of manganese. This mineral is essential for bone health, but it also eases osteoarthritis symptoms, and it is used in treating anemia.
- The best natural maple syrup contains 22% of zinc’s RDI.
- Maple syrup is rich in antioxidants. Researchers have found more than 20 different antioxidants in the syrup. They also discovered that darker-colored maple syrups are richer in antioxidants, hence have more anti-inflammatory benefits.
Possible Side Effects
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener, but it’s still sugar. Lots of minerals and antioxidants are great. But, consuming too much maple syrup, even the most organic pure maple syrup, can cause some side effects.
Consuming too much sugar (not only maple syrup) can cause or worsen:
- Heart disease
- Type two diabetes