Maple syrup is a popular sweetener that's commonly eaten with breakfast foods like pancakes and waffles. It's produced by draining the sap of specific breeds of trees like the sugar maple and the black maple.
These trees are indigenous to Canada and northern regions of the United States. But maple syrup is enjoyed all over the world. After the sap is collected, it's heated and concentrated into a viscous liquid that is very high in sugar.
Because maple syrup is a “natural” sweetener, many people with diabetes assume that it must be safe to eat. The instant thinking is, “it must be better than sugar, right?”
Not exactly. That is a common misconception. As already stated above, it is very high in sugar.
The reality is, maple syrup is just pure sugar!
A one tablespoon serving of the sweet syrup has zero fiber, zero fats, and zero protein, all the things that help balance your blood sugar levels.
The lack of fiber makes syrup a poor choice for people with diabetes because there is nothing to slow that sugar down when it enters your blood stream – plain and simple.
Compared to table sugar, maple syrup does contain trace amounts of some nutrients – potassium, magnesium, and calcium. But not nearly enough to justify eating 13 grams of sugar per serving.
Sure a serving of maple syrup may provide you with 42 mg of potassium…but if you swap that syrup out for half an avocado you get almost 500 mg of the same mineral, but with none of the sugar!
Maple syrup is around 40% fructose and we've covered the topic of fructose before and why it should be avoided.
When consuming sweet syrups like maple syrup, it is often difficult to stick to just one tablespoon. Instead, people tend to smother their pancakes or waffles and can easily push their sugar intake up even more.
Breakfast Toppings Compared
While maple syrup is a popular topping for breakfast foods, it is not the only choice available.
Take a look at the following chart:
If you swap out that syrup for a spoon full of unsweetened peanut butter, you end up with only 3 grams of carbohydrates, a lower GI of 14, and 4 grams of protein that will keep you feeling fuller much longer than a breakfast topped with sugary syrup.
Myths and Truths About Maple Syrup
The myth: An organic maple syrup that is “100% pure” is a healthy sweetener that I can use in abundance without any worries.
The truth: There is a common misunderstanding that food products with claims like “pure,” “organic,” or “all natural” are automatically healthier for you.
Yes, a maple syrup that is sourced organically and that has been minimally processed is certainly less unhealthy than a severely processed syrup that has “added” sweeteners, artificial sweeteners or chemicals.
However, just because something is less bad, that doesn’t make it good either!
In terms of diabetes, the amount of sugar/carbs you eat is what matters, and the sugar content in a batch of relatively “clean,” organic syrup is just as high as it is in a cheap syrup.
Research on Maple Syrup and Type 2 Diabetes
A growing amount of evidence suggests that a low carb diet is the best option for type 2 diabetics who are looking to improve their condition. And quite simply, maple syrup just doesn’t fit into a low carb diet plan.
On top of improving blood sugar and A1c levels, reducing insulin production, improving insulin sensitivity, a lower carb diet has also been shown to improve cardiovascular risk factors such as improving cholesterol profile, along with better weight loss results, especially loss of abdominal fat.
In terms of fructose and diabetes, the food and the condition just don't make a good match. Maple syrup is lower in fructose than honey (80%) or table sugar (50%), but it does still contain around 40%.
Consumption of fructose has been linked to increased weight gain, higher triglyceride levels (cholesterol), high blood pressure, insulin resistance, higher small dense LDL cholesterol and fatty liver – none of which will help improve your type 2 diabetes!
What’s the Final Word on Maple Syrup?
The votes are in and the winner is…not maple syrup!
It is clear that maple syrup has no place in a low carb diabetic diet because it is very high in sugar/carbs and it has no real value to offer in terms of nutrition.
Next time you’re tempted to pour some syrup on your breakfast, why not opt for a topping that is high in protein and healthy fats, like almond butter instead?
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