Here at the Vermont Evaporator Company, we love substituting maple syrup for white sugar in our recipes. We hear often that maple syrup is better for your than sugar, and wanted to know if that was really true. Turns out, it is! After some research, we’re confident that maple syrup is a healthier choice than white sugar.
Sugar and Nutrition
The science of nutrition is always changing. As we learn more about how our body works, scientists are better able to understand how our diet impacts our health.
Most nutritionists, scientists, and health professionals agree that too much sugar is bad for the body. Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and liver disease are just a few of the consequences of too much sugar in your diet. But eliminating sugars from your diet completely is almost impossible and not at all fun. Nutritionists are working to figure out exactly how much sugar is healthy, and what types of sugar are better than others.
Many of us are trying to follow this nutritional advice and are eating less sugar in our diet. However, sugary foods are really yummy, and our delicious homemade maple syrup—made on our Sapling Evaporator—is no exception! Many websites say that maple syrup is better for you than sugar. Does substituting maple syrup for white sugar get us any closer to a healthy diet?
Glucose, Fructose, Sucrose… Oh My!
Our diets contain many types of sugar or sweeteners The three main sweeteners are glucose, fructose and sucrose. The main difference between glucose, fructose and sucrose are their basic shapes, which impact how they are digested and interact with our body.
Glucose is a simple sugar, the sugar you learn about in middle school biology. Our bodies need and use glucose to perform basic functions, giving us energy to perform our everyday tasks. We get glucose from many everyday items like bread, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Due to its shape, glucose quickly enters your bloodstream and is distributed throughout your body to provide you with energy. When your blood sugar levels rise, your pancreas then produces insulin to help bring down the blood sugar level.
Fructose is another sugar found naturally in fruits, honey and agave. It is the sweetest of the sugars. You first digest fructose in your liver before it enters your bloodstream and used for energy throughout your body. Digesting fructose causes a rise in your blood sugar levels, but the rise is much slower than glucose. Commonly fructose is considered an “added sugar” to many processed foods, including the infamously unhealthy high fructose corn syrup.
Sucrose, or table sugar, is a combination of both fructose and glucose into one larger sugar molecule. Your mouth, stomach and small intestine work hard to break down sucrose into glucose and fructose, which acts in the body as described above. It is sweeter than glucose, but less sweet than fructose. Sucrose is the white or table sugar that is called for in most baking recipes.
The Health Benefits of Maple
So how does our homemade maple syrup fit in? Maple syrup is typically about 50-75% sucrose, less than 10% glucose and less than 4% fructose. That’s still a whole lot of sugar. But what those numbers don’t show are the benefits you get from all of the minerals in maple. Maple syrup contains Calcium, Potassium, Iron, Zinc and Manganese. In fact, 1/4 cup of maple syrup contains over 100% of your recommended daily value of Manganese!
The Breakdown on Maple Syrup
The takeaways from our research are:
What makes maple syrup so sweet is sucrose, the same type of sugar found in table sugar.
However, maple syrup provides essential minerals that table sugar does not (for example: Calcium, Potassium, Iron, Zinc, and Manganese).
Too much sugar is bad for your health, regardless of the type.
So, here at Vermont Evaporator Company, we will continue to substitute maple syrup for table sugar to add those essential minerals in our everyday cooking (while begrudgingly continuing to reduce our overall sugar intake. Maybe.) For some inspiration on how to substitute maple for sugar in your cooking, check out our blog post!
We hope that this gives you a bit more confidence to make the best choices for your family, and inspires you to make your own maple syrup. Read more about how to get started making your own maple syrup here! If you already make your own, we hope you learned a bit more about why that sweet stuff is worth all the work!
~Nikki and Kate