When settlers first arrived in North America, Native Americans were already processing maple syrup by collecting sap from maple trees and boiling it down into sweet syrup. Until the United States Civil War, maple syrup was the primary sweetener of choice, only to be usurped by sugar cane. Analysis of maple syrup shows it may have a nutritional edge on other sweeteners, including white sugar, according to the University of Vermont Library.
There are various grading systems of maple syrup. Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as Ontario, Canada and New York have their own grading system, although they are fairly close in structure to the basic standards set out by the USDA. The lighter in color the syrup, the more refined the taste of the syrup. As the syrup cooks, the taste becomes heavier and the color darker. The most desired syrup is the lightest in color. It is referred to as fancy, grade A light amber or no. 1 extra light. Heavier and darker syrups with more full-bodied tastes are graded as grade B, no. 2 amber or no. 3 dark. All maple syrup grades have basically the same nutritional value.
Maple syrup varies slightly in taste and nutritional level each year, depending on when the sap is harvested and the weather. One tablespoon of maple syrup has about 52 calories, 0.01 gram of fat, 12.09 grams of sugar, 20 milligrams of calcium, 0.02 milligram of iron, 4 milligrams of magnesium, 42 milligrams of potassium, 2 milligrams of sodium, 0.29 milligram of zinc, 0.582 milligram of manganese, 0.013 milligram of thiamine, 0.254 milligram of riboflavin, 0.016 milligram of niacin, 0.007 milligram of pantothenic acid and 0.3 milligam of choline, according to the USDA.
White sugar contains a negligible amount of nutrients. Unlike most syrups that contain 100 percent carbohydrates, maple syrup only contains 68 percent carbohydrates, notes the University of Vermont.
The quality of pure maple syrup depends on the weather, the time of season the syrup is collected and processing techniques. Most pure maple syrup is organic, whether it is labeled or not because it is usually collected in the deep woods where no pesticides or herbicides are used, reports the Cornell University Sugar Maple Research and Extension Program. However, organic certification depends on the certification organization. In general, organic certification guarantees that pesticides and fertilizers are not used in the production of the syrup that would, in any way, change the nature of the syrup.
Pure maple syrup is a natural sweetener that contains more nutrients than most of its peers. In that sense, maple syrup may have more nutritional value to offer as a type of sugar. Maple syrup can also be stored in your freezer in a sterilized jar for use any time of the year. Pure maple syrup does not freeze solid and will be ready for use in about an hour left at room temperature. What you don't use may be returned to the freezer. If mold develops on the top, remove it, boil the syrup, skim the surface of the syrup and put it in a sterilized jar.
- syrup image by Edvin selimovic from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.