By Cheryl Player
Pure maple syrup was once a staple of
the American kitchen until convenience caused us to replace this wholesome
sweetner with refined sugars void of any nutrition. Nutrients are absorbed best
in the form of foods because they are diluted and dispersed among other
ingredients that may better facilitate their absorption. This makes the vitamins
and minerals more easily assimilated in the body. Pure maple syrup is composed
of balanced sugars, minerals, vitamins and amino acids which makes it unique
from other sweetners.
The majority of the minerals making up pure maple syrup are potassium, calcium,
magnesium, and manganese. Minerals provide both specific and nonspecific roles
in the body. Potassium plays a major role in maintaining cell integrity and is
also critical in keeping the heartbeat steady. Calcium owns the distinction of
being the most abundant mineral in the body. When there is a deficiency of
calcium in the body, the bones will be the first to lose this vital mineral.
Magnesium is critical to the operation of hundreds of enzymes. Magnesium acts in
all the cells of the soft tissues, where it forms part of protein-making
machinery and is necessary for the release of energy. Magnesium helps relax
muscles after contraction and promotes resistance to tooth decay by holding
calcium in tooth enamel. Only 20 milligrams of manganese is present in the human
body. Studies suggest that manganese cooperates with many enzymes, helping to
facilitate dozens of different metabolic processes.
The vitamins present in pure maple syrup are PP (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid),
B2 (Riboflavin), Folic Acid, B6 (Pyridoxine), Biotin, and Vitamin A. Vitamins
are essential, organic nutrients that serve as as helpers in cell functions.
Niacin participates in the energy metabolism of every body cell. Niacin is
unique among the B vitamins in that the body can make it from protein. Two other
B vitamins-pantothenic acid and biotin-are also important in energy metabolism.
Pantothenic acid was first recognized as a substance that stimulates growth. It
is a component of a key enzyme that makes possible the release of energy from
the energy nutrients. Riboflavin also facilitates energy production in the body.
Vitamin B6 has long been known to play roles in protein and amino acid
metabolism. In the cells, vitamin B6 helps to convert one kind of amino acid,
which the cells have in abundance, to another, which they need in larger
amounts. Vitamin A is a versatile vitamin, playing diverse roles in vision,
mantnance of body linings and skin, and immune defenses.
Maple syrup not only contains trace amounts of these vitamin and minerals, but
also amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Doesn=t it make sense
to to use a sweetner which has so much more to offer than just a wonderfully
rich, robust full of flavor taste?
The maple syrup sold in regular supermarkets is composed of corn syrup with 20%
maple syrup sugar, artificial flavor and color and two preservatives. You can
taste the difference. To make pure maple syrup, an average of 40 gallons of
clear, barely sweet sap are boiled down to produce one gallon of syrup.
Various techniques have been used to speed up or increase the collection of sap.
Paraformaldehyde pellets may be inserted into the tap holes to kill germs and
prevent sap from clotting and clogging the holes. Some residues of this poison
may be present in the maple syrup and the treatment may also shorten the
lifespan of the trees. Another potential hazard in maple syrup is excess lead
concentration. Maple sap collectors often use metal pans and buckets whose seams
and patches are soldered with lead. The syrup can also pick up lead from the
seams of metal containers used for storage and packaging. If the syrup is sold
in glass bottles, the risk will be minimized. When shopping for pure maple
syrup, be a conscientious consumer.
Maple syrup has many uses outside the breakfast table. Try substituting pure
maple syrup in recipes calling for sugar or another sweetner. Use 3\4 cup of
pure maple syrup in place of each cup of sugar and reduce the liquids in the
recipe by three tablespoons. It's also delicious used in coffee, tea and cereal.
Small substitutions such as these are a good way to incorporate a little more
nutrition into the foods we prepare. After all, if we are to take control of our
own health we need to upgrade the choices we make in eating.
Cataldo, De Bruyne, Whitney. Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 1995 by West
Publishing Company, New York
Hamilton, Whitney, Sizer. Nutrition-Concepts & Controversies, 1988 by
West Publishing Company, St. Paul
Meredith Mc Carty Sweet and Natural, Feb. 1999 by St. Martinís Pressn