As I've written elsewhere, we're lucky enough to have three maple syrup producers within a five-mile radius of our home. We've been buying the local syrup since we moved here, and we will never again insult our tongues with the likes of Log Cabin, Aunt Jemima, or Mrs. Butterworth. Nothing can compare to real maple syrup, and it's a joy to support the local producers.
So I was happy to learn that researchers at the University of Rhode Island have discovered 54 different beneficial compounds in maple syrup.
"I continue to say that nature is the best chemist, and that maple syrup is becoming a champion food when it comes to the number and variety of beneficial compounds found in it," Seeram said. "It's important to note that in our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses."
Inflammation has been implicated in many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, and Alzheimier's. Maple syrup phenolics, which are anti-oxidant compounds, inhibit certain enzymes that contribute to diabetes. Ironic, isn't it? A sweetener that contains anti-diabetes compounds.
The researchers also found five compounds in the syrup that do not occur in nature. This sounds somewhat ominous, but again, the compounds are beneficial to humans. They are produced in the process of boiling down the sap.
The only fly in the ointment is that the research was financially supported by the Canadian maple syrup industry. I don't know about you, but I get suspicious when those who would benefit from positive findings underwrite scientific research that results in positive findings.
Still, I find a parallel between maple syrup and honey. Honey contains anti-oxidants and several nutrients (sugar has none). These two natural sweeteners seem far preferable to refined sugar.
No one, least of all the researchers, is proposing that we all consume gallons of syrup. Too much sugar, in whatever form, is bad for your health. But if you're going to eat pancakes, eat them with maple syrup.