Eat Smarter Special


1. Health Benefits of Maple Syrup
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1. Pure Maple Syrup is a Healthy Alternative Sweetener!

What products are considered a sweetener?

A sweetener is a product that is added to a drink or dish to give it more of a sweet taste. Adding table sugar to a product such as coffee is an example of a sweetener. Many products that are considered “artificial sweeteners” are now very popular, due to their sweet taste and little to no calorie content. However, many of these sweeteners are produced synthetically and may not be very good for you.

What is wrong with eating artificial sweeteners?

According to Harvard Medical School, we aren’t quite sure yet, but it might be best to play it safe.

Natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup, honey, and agave nectar are becoming trendy as more and more people choose to avoid processed sugar. According to Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, the writer of Feed the Belly, Americans typically will “eat 165 pounds of added sugar [in their diets] each year”. That is a whole lot of sugar to be eaten as an additive to your diet.

Artificial sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium, which is found in soft drinks, gum and frozen desserts have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They are safe in moderation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that these processed sugars are something you should eat constantly.

The bottom line is that all of these artificial sugars are not created equal. The Food and Drug Administration has approved of 5 artificial sweeteners. These include acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose. The popular “natural” exception that has also been approved is stevia.

Studies have found that overweight and obese people who drink “diet” beverages, including diet soda, are more likely to gain weight and eat more calories than those who drink sugary drinks. The thought process behind this is that people believe by choosing a “diet” drink they have chosen the healthier option, and then can eat more solid food. While more research is needed, it is suggested that foods containing artificial sugars may unintentionally lead to weight gain.

Another important study has linked artificial sugars with addiction. In a study that gave test rats the option to freely choose between cocaine and saccharin, a sugar substitute, rats chose the saccharin for its sweetness. This study revealed that sweetness can surpass cocaine as a reward. It is thought that sugar-rich diets generate a reward signal in the brain, one that can override self control mechanisms and can also lead to addiction.

Why is maple syrup a good alternative to other sweeteners?

Pure maple syrup in particular is a good alternative to other sweeteners. Maple syrup can be measured in grades and can also be refined, so make sure you are choosing unrefined Maple Syrup. Used in moderation, maple syrup is much better than cane sugar due to its nutrient content and the fact that it is unprocessed. Unrefined maple syrup goes through a significantly less complex production process that regular sugars.

In regards to glycemic content, maple syrup places lower on the glycemic index than cane sugar. Maple syrup is at 54 on the glycemic index, whereas cane sugar is at a 65.

The glycemic index measures the ranking of carbohydrates in foods in relevance to how they affect blood sugar levels. This is extremely important for diabetics. Carbohydrates that are lower than the ranking of 55, like maple syrup, are typically approved for diabetics in moderation because they are slowly digested and cause a slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels.

Pure maple syrup is a good alternative choice to sugars because it has more nutrients than other sugars, has a lower glycemic index, and is significantly less processed.

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Pure maple syrup is a great choice as an alternative sweetener to your morning coffee. In its natural form, maple syrup is significantly less processed with far fewer additives, meaning that it is better for your digestive system. Maple syrup is also lower on the glycemic index than cane sugar, and contains beneficial nutrients that make it a healthy choice.

2. Maple Syrup is High in Antioxidants!

What are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are natural compounds that inhibit oxidation and can neutralize free radicals in our bodies.

How are Antioxidants Anti-Inflammatory?

Antioxidants interfere with the inflammatory process of the body. Inflammation and oxidative stress occurs due to an imbalance in the body. Antioxidants produce a defense mechanism that prevents and slows the formation reactive oxygen species (which play a role in forming inflammation).

What Antioxidants are in Maple Syrup?

When you think about antioxidants, you typically think about berries and vegetables. However, maple syrup contains antioxidants that are found in berries, vegetables, teas, and even red wine!

Grade B maple syrup is thought to contain over 24 different antioxidants! (For more information on the “grading” of maple syrup, click here!). In regards to antioxidant content, maple syrup can be comparable to red Gala apples, bananas and broccoli. In this case, you don’t even have to get your antioxidants from fruits and veggies! It is thought that ¼ cup of maple syrup (which is larger than the recommended portion) is comparable to one fresh red tomato! Despite being a sweet substance, this natural syrup is packed full of nutrition. The best way to determine if you are getting a high amount of antioxidants in your maple syrup is to choose a maple syrup that is dark in color. The darker the maple syrup, the higher the antioxidant content!

So what antioxidants are in maple syrup?

While quantities vary, you can typically find high amounts of flavanols, including catechin, epicatechin, rutin and quercetin. These are known for their ability to aid in heart health, including lowering hypertension and fighting heart disease.

Maple syrup also contains benzoic acid and gallic acid, which are known for their treatment of fungal diseases as well as having anti-viral properties.

It appears having maple syrup with your pancakes isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Just aim for a darker and higher grade of maple syrup, as well as making sure you use it in moderation!

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Maple syrup is a great choice for your sweetener in comparison to agave syrup or other natural syrups due to its antioxidant content alone! Choose darker grades of maple syrup for higher antioxidant activity.

3. Maple Syrup Might Help Fight Against Inflammatory Diseases!

What is an inflammatory disease?

An inflammatory disease or disorder is typically classified as when the immune system attacks the body's own cells or tissues. This causes inflammation that may result in chronic pain, swelling, stiffness and other painful side effects. Examples of inflammatory diseases include inflammatory bowel disease and joint issues including arthritis.

How does maple syrup help fight inflammatory diseases?

Maple syrup contains over 24 antioxidants, which are known for their inflammation fighting abilities. When the cells or tissues in the body become injured or infected, our bodies react to the problem with inflammation.

Inflammation can be both good and bad. If you get a paper cut, or a small injury, your bodies “swelling and redness” response is a good thing! This is your body sending white blood cells to the problem. These little white blood cells work to repair your body and fight off any infection or bacteria that may try to infect that opening.

Inflammation gets more common with age, as your body begins to get older your body uses inflammation to cushion worn joints or other areas. Smaller infections can become bigger problems, as your body sends more white blood cells to the scene of an incident. This is when your immune system gets exhausted, and you become susceptible to other ailments and problems. When your immune system is depleted, other more serious diseases can set in, like cancers.

Antioxidants work to interfere with that process. Areas of your body that suffer from oxidization, essentially breeding grounds for illnesses to set in, are counteracted by the actions of antioxidants.

Foods high in sugars are thought to be linked to oxidative stress and inflammation. However, when these sweet foods are matched with antioxidants, it can aid in counteracting that sugar. Natural sugars, like those found in fruits and maple syrup, can provide your body with the stamina and energy you need - as well as providing you with antioxidants.

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Maple syrup can’t solve inflammatory disease issues, but it may aid in fighting them due to its high antioxidant  content. Maple syrup is an ideal sweetener over other choices because its sugar content can be counteracted by its high amount of antioxidants.

4. Maple Syrup is Excellent for your Skin!

How is maple syrup good for my skin?

For many people, sugary foods can be a death sentence for clear, unblemished skin. However, much like honey, many people swear by maple syrup for good skin health.

So how does this sugary syrup aid in keeping your skin clean, clear and breakout free?

Maple syrup is hydrating and full of antioxidants that are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

Maple syrup is hydrating when consumed and as a topical ointment. Commonly used in homemade sports drinks, maple syrup provides a boost of nutrition because it is packed full of manganese and zinc. (Thus, why it is used in the millennial “Lemon Juice Cleanse” fad as a core ingredient!) Not only that, but “maple water” is now becoming a popular drink in health food stores. Maple water is also known as sap, and is vaguely similar to maple syrup, but much less thick. People drink maple water like they do coconut water, for its beneficial electrolytes and vitamin content that enables your body to hydrate and recover quicker. When maple syrup is used as a topical ointment is acts like honey to hydrate your skin by trapping the moisture in and aiding you in retaining water. Maple syrup also acts as a humectant, meaning that it attracts water and moisture.

Sure, maple syrup hydrates your skin, but how exactly does it keep away zits and blemishes when it has a high sugar content?

Similar to honey, maple syrup is high in antioxidants that are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Pure maple syrup is high in the antioxidants benzoic acid and gallic acid which are known for treating acne. These antioxidants allow maple syrup to fight bacteria on your skin that causes breakouts. Not only does maple syrup act as an acne preventative, it also acts to heal breakouts. The anti-inflammatory properties in maple syrup help to keep down the redness and swelling associated with blemishes.

As with any skin product, test a small amount on a patch of skin before using it liberally. If you have any adverse reactions like a rash or irritation, quit use and seek medical attention if necessary.

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Pure maple syrup can help you keep your skin clear and healthy due to its hydrating, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties! Just be sure you use a high grade of maple syrup with no added sugars for optimum results.

5. Maple Syrup is being Researched as a Possible Alzheimer’s Treatment!

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease is a mental deterioration disease that occurs later in life in humans. The disease is progressive, meaning that it occurs gradually, and eventually leads to dementia. Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, but scientists are having success in finding treatments to slow the progression of mental deterioration.

How does maple syrup treat Alzheimer’s Disease?

Canadian studies have found that specific extracts of maple syrup can prove beneficial to brain health, specifically in slowing the formation of plaque that is prominent in Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

One of the problems that occurs during the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia is that proteins that are found in brain cells begin to malfunction. These proteins misfold and begin to clump together, which causes huge problems for the firing of brain synapses.

The two specific proteins that the extract of maple syrup is found to effect include the beta amyloid cells and tau peptide cells.

How exactly does this maple syrup extract affect these cells?

The extract is found to prevent the fibrillation of these protein cells. Essentially, that means that the extract prevents the cells from tangling and “misfolding” which leads to the cells clumping together.

Studies found that the extract also had neuroprotective effects, meaning that it helped to preserve nerve structure and function!

However, keep in mind that these are all preliminary studies that have been found in a lab, and have not been tested on humans. (As of July 2016!). However, this could prove to be a huge stepping stone in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia related disorders.

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Extracts of maple syrup are proving to be beneficial in preventing the formation of plaque that contributes to Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases in studies. While maple syrup hasn’t officially been cleared as being beneficial for Alzheimer’s treatment, it has definitely gained publicity and is giving people hope.

6. Maple syrup Contains Compounds that Benefit Heart Health!

How does maple syrup benefit heart health?

Maple syrup benefits heart health because it contains the antioxidants catechin, epicatechin, rutin and quercetin as well as high amounts of the mineral Zinc!

What antioxidants in maple syrup help protect your heart?

Catechin - Catechins are most well known for their prominence in green tea. This natural antioxidant is thought to have protective cardiovascular properties. These flavonoids are thought to decrease low-density lipoprotein oxidation (the bad type of cholesterol that causes heart disease!) as well as improve your brachial artery dilation which promotes blood flow to the heart and prevents atherosclerosis.

Epicatechin - This antioxidant helps to protect your heart by reducing lipid peroxidation which can lead to damage of cell membranes. Epicatechin can also aid in blood vessel dilation by helping to regulate nitric oxide which signals your muscles to relax. Signaling your muscles to relax is very important for heart health - because it helps to keep your blood pressure in check.  

Rutin - This antioxidant has been proven to have cardiovascular protective properties in scientific experiments on rats. In one study, rats were given high doses of rutin after being induced with cardiotoxicity. The study confirmed that rutin has protective effects on heart mitochondria, as well as aiding in the prevention of cardiac mitochondrial dysfunction. It is thought that rutin has properties that could prevent myocardial infarction, also known as heart attacks.

Quercetin - This antioxidant is known for its appearance in red wine. It has been proven to be very beneficial in aiding against heart disease. Diets high in antioxidants, specifically high in quercetin, have been shown to significantly decrease the chances of mortality from heart disease or stroke.

How does Zinc help protect your heart?

The mineral Zinc is protective against cardiovascular disorders because it can help your endothelial cells by protecting them from damage. Endothelial cells are found in your blood vessels. These endothelial cells are at risk of being damaged by excess cholesterol.

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: In moderation, maple syrup provides many beneficial nutrients for a healthy heart. The antioxidants found in maple syrup, along with the mineral zinc, help aid the heart by maintaining a healthy blood pressure and fighting “bad” cholesterol.

7. Maple syrup is Extremely High in Manganese!

What is Manganese?

Manganese is a mineral that plays a role in calcium absorption, blood sugar regulation and the metabolism of other nutrients.

How much manganese does a serving of maple syrup have?

One cup of maple syrup contains 10.6 mg of Manganese. That is 531% of an adult’s recommended daily value! While a cup of maple syrup is a far larger serving than you should have, it definitely gives you an idea of how much Manganese is in maple syrup.

Why is manganese important?

The mineral Manganese is very important for your body. In fact, manganese is necessary for normal brain and nerve function. Alongside that, manganese aids in fat and carbohydrate metabolism which is essential for life. This “jack of all trades” mineral aids in forming your connective tissue and bones, blood clotting, and the formation of sex hormones. Manganese also acts as a component of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) that helps fight free radicals, which are responsible for letting illnesses set in.

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Maple syrup is extremely high in manganese, which is a micronutrient that is essential for a healthy life. Manganese is a “jack of all trades” and helps your body in various processes.

8. Maple Syrup is a Great Source of Zinc!

What is zinc?

Zinc is an essential mineral that aids in our cellular metabolism!

How much zinc does a serving of maple syrup have?

One cup of maple syrup contains 13.4 mg of Zinc. That is 89% of an adult’s recommended daily value! While a cup of maple syrup is a far larger serving than you should have, it definitely gives you an idea of how much Zinc is in maple syrup. 

What else does zinc do?

Specifically, zinc aids in the metabolic processing of over 100 enzymes! It also plays a role in our immune system, which is why throat lozenges commonly contain zinc.

This essential mineral also plays a role in wound healing, cell division, and DNA synthesis.

Zinc also has the unusual role of aiding us in our ability to taste and smell. It also supports the growth of a baby during pregnancy and adolescence.

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Maple syrup is a great source of Zinc, which is a very important mineral that our body needs, but is not capable of storing. Zinc plays many roles in the body, but is very important in over 100 metabolic processes!

9. Maple syrup is a good source of calcium!

How much Calcium is in a serving of maple syrup?

One cup of maple syrup contains 216 mg of Calcium. That is 22% of an adult’s recommended daily value! While a cup of maple syrup is a far larger serving than you should have, it definitely gives you an idea of how much Calcium is in maple syrup.

Why is Calcium important?

As a kid, drinking milk is associated with growing up big and strong because it is high in calcium.

Calcium is utilized in almost every cell of the body - from building strong bones to muscle contractions. The body stores calcium in our bones, and extracts it when it is needed. Osteoporosis is a condition that develops later in life from weak and brittle bones - so make sure you get your calcium and exercise!

EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Maple syrup is relatively high in calcium for non-dairy product, and is a good addition to a healthy diet in moderation!