Sugar is enemy number one these days and the really tricky thing about sugar is that it is seriously addictive, making giving it up all the harder. For those trying to cut back on sugar, sweetening food without using refined table sugar can be quite the challenge. Maple syrup has become a really popular natural sweetener and alternative to table sugar. When I first started cutting refined sugar from my diet, I started reaching for the bottle of maple syrup on a regular basis trying to convince myself that it was healthy and guilt-free, using it as often as I liked and without paying attention to the quantity. However, I was fooling myself as maple syrup is still sugar, albeit a natural sugar. Just because something is natural doesn't make it good for us. So as I have become more and more determined to cut back on sugar, my sweet tooth has lessened and I use maple syrup less and less. I now use it very sparingly and only on rare occasions.
So what is maple syrup? Maple syrup is made from the sugary sap of maple trees. The sap is boiled to evaporate off the water and what is left is a golden syrup. If you thinking of using maple syrup, it is important to buy 100% organic maple syrup as opposed to a maple syrup flavoured sweetner as the latter is not maple syrup at all - rather is is most likely made from highly processed sugar that is articifically flavoured with maple syrup, devoid of nutrients and highly processed.
If you have a crazy sweet tooth and you are trying to cut back on your sugar intake and the thought of going cold turkey is too frightening, I think maple syrup is a really good ingredient to start using in place of table sugar. The glycemic index of maple syrup is 54 while refined table sugar is 68 meaing maple syrup raises blood sugar slower than refined table sugar. As your sugar cravings lessen, you can hopefully start to reduce your use of maple syrup too.
So as I have already mentioned, the thing to remember with maple syrup is that it contains quiet an amount of sugar. It is mostly sucrose - the same type of sugar that is in ordinary table sugar. Given the high sugar content of maple syrup, I do not count it as a health food. For sure, it contains anti oxidants and minerals and is better than refined table sugar which has zero nutritional value. However, due to the high sugar content in maple syrup, I use it sparingly and usually only when cooking desserts for a dinner party or something along those lines. The minerals and anti oxidants that maple syrup contains can be found in other sugar free plant based foods and so I opt to obtain them in that way rather than along with a sizeable dose of sugar.
So if you are craving a little sweetness and in the full knowlegde that maple syrup is sugar, how do you use maple syrup in food? I limit it to occasional desserts. It can be used to stew fruit and berries for a healthier version of a fruit and berry crumble. It can be drizzled over gluten, sugar and dairy free pancakes. It can be added to energy balls for extra sweetness. I very occasionally use it as a sugar substitute in baking. When I use maple syrup, I usually restrict the amount to a tablespoon or two per dessert.
For me the thing about maple syrup is that I sometimes see it touted as being healthy and guiltfree - now this totally depends on what your opinion of guiltfree is. While for most, there is nothing wrong with having a little sweetness now and again, it's all about being aware when you are eating sugar and being concious of that, rather than mistakenly thinking we are eating something sugar free when in fact we are not.