Does The Complexity of Canadian Maple Syrup Show That Low Carb Advocates Are Completely Incurious?

We’ve already done honey (another sort post coming on that, specifically).

The Health Benefits of Maple Syrup: Why You Should Replace Processed Sugar with Maple Syrup.

This time, let’s put the references right up top.

  1. Nahar, P.; Driscoll, M.; Li, L.; Slitt, A.L.; Seeram, N.P. Phenolic mediated anti-inflammatory effects of a maple syrup extract against RAW264.7 macrophages, Journal of Functional Foods, 2013, in press.
  2. Yuan, T.; Li, L.; Zhang, Y.; Seeram, N.P. Pasteurized and sterilized maple sap as functional beverages: Chemical composition and antioxidant activities. Journal of Functional Foods, 2013, in press.
  3. González-Sarrías, A.; Ma, H.; Edmonds, M.E.; Seeram, N.P. Maple polyphenols, ginnalins A-C, induce S- and G2/M-cell cycle arrest in colon and breast cancer cells mediated by decreasing cyclins A and D1 levels. Food Chemistry, 2013, 136, 636-642.
  4. Seeram, N.P.; Xu, J.; Li, L.; Slitt, A. Mining red maple (Acer rubrum) trees for novel therapeutics to manage diabetes. Medicine and Health Rhode Island, 2012, 95, 283-284.
  5. González-Sarrías, A.; Li, L.; Seeram, N.P. Anticancer effects of maple syrup phenolics and extracts on proliferation, apoptosis, and cell cycle arrest of human colon cells. Journal of Functional Foods, 2012, 4, 185-196.
  6. González-Sarrías, A.; Li, L.; Seeram, N.P. Effects of maple (Acer) plant part extracts on proliferation, apoptosis, and cell cycle arrest of human tumorigenic and non-tumorigenic colon cells. Phytotherapy Research, 2012, 26, 995-1002.
  7. Li, L.; Seeram, N.P. Further investigation into maple syrup yields three new lignans, a new phenylpropanoid, and twenty-six other phytochemicals. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2011, 59, 7708-7716.

Got it? Still interested in just only finding out what healthylowcarblifestyle Jimmy (or his speed dial of suckup sycophant “experts” he hauls out when he’s dumbfounded) has to say about it? Or do you have your own brain cells?

Some money quotes:

Maple syrup is one of the many wonders of the world and far more than a simple sweetener. Maple syrup is not only rich in essential nutrients such as manganese as well as zinc, but 34 new beneficial compounds discovered just a few years ago have been confirmed to play a key role in human health.

The process of making maple syrup is an age-old tradition of the North American Indians, who used it both as a food and as a medicine. They would make incisions into trees with their tomahawks and use birch barks to collect the sap. The sap would be condensed into syrup by evaporating the excess water using one of two methods: plunging hot stones into the sap or the nightly freezing of the sap, following by the morning removal of the frozen water layer. […]

Maple syrup was the main sweetener used by the colonists since sugar from the West Indies was highly taxed and very expensive. Eventually, inferior forms of sugar with no nutritional value became cheaper to produce, it began to replace maple syrup as a relied upon sweetener. In fact, maple syrup production is approximately one-fifth of what it was in the beginning of the 20th century. […]

Maple syrup was known to have naturally occurring minerals, such as zinc, thiamine, and calcium. Seeram was enlisted to study the plant’s antioxidants, known to exist in plant structures such as the leaves and the bark, and found 13 that were not previously known to be in the syrup. Several of those had anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, and anti-diabetic properties.

A previous study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 found that maple syrup contains polyphenols such as abscisic acid (ABA), which is thought to stimulate insulin release through pancreatic cells very much the same way berries increase sensitivity of the fat cells to insulin, which makes the syrup beneficial for those with metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

“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.”

As part of his diabetes research, Seeram has collaborated with Chong Lee, professor of nutrition and food sciences in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences. The scientists have found that maple syrup phenolics, the beneficial anti-oxidant compounds, inhibit two carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes that are relevant to Type 2 diabetes management. […]

The pilot study, conducted by Dr. Keiko Abe of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, showed that healthy laboratory rats fed a diet in which some of the carbohydrate was replaced with pure maple syrup from Canada, yielded significantly better results in liver function tests than the control groups fed a diet with a syrup mix containing a similar sugar content as maple syrup.

Or, you know, “”The paleo Diet” guru, Cordain, just came out against honey, even though primates going as far back as possibly 5 million years have co-evolved with a bird that leads them to honey in exchange for honey. The Hadza still do it to this day, though they find they get even more honey if they don’t reward. Stingy bastards.

I’ll have a mildly snarky post up about all that early next week, so that you can forever dismiss Cordain as a dishonest opportunist, which he is to the core. …Worthless in terms of anything new, and long past due. Stick a fucking fork in him.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Michelle on January 9, 2015 at 20:07

    What about maple water (aka maple sap?) Last year I was at a food show where they tried to sell me on the benefits of Canadian Maple water. My response at that time was ‘I don’t do sugar’ but your posts are making me think differently. Here’s a link to one example of this product

    Is this the maple equivalent to sugar cane water?

    I only use #3 dark maple syrup – it’s the most flavourful. Apparently it’s produced at the very end of the season so I don’t know if contains anymore or less nutrients than the other grades. Dinner tonight: plantain pancakes with butter, cinnamon, berries and #3 dark.

    • Phil on January 10, 2015 at 07:08

      Yes, my hunch is that unprocessed maple sap is healthier than commercially processed maple syrup, though it’s just a hunch.

    • Phil on February 18, 2015 at 16:13

      I just tried this maple water product that a local market started carrying:

      It’s not sugary at all. It tastes like water with a hint of non-sweet flavor. It’s way lower in carbs than the #3 dark maple syrup you’re already eating: 3 grams of carbs per 8 fl oz, which is the same carbs per ounce as heavy whipping cream, according to

      I prefer the taste of Gerolsteiner myself, but sugariness is not a problem with this beverage.

      It’s not completely unprocessed, as they mention that it’s “thermally processed.” So it’s heated some, though not nearly as much as maple syrup, in which the maple water is boiled down extensively until the thick syrup remains.

  2. gabkad on January 9, 2015 at 16:59

    Never tried it but there’s a Quebecois recipe for poaching eggs in maple syrup.

    • gabkad on January 9, 2015 at 17:06


      1 cup maple syrup

      1/4 cup water

      About 4 eggs, depending on how many people you’re feeding

      Pour the maple syrup and water in a very small saucepan (the smaller the better as more of your eggs will be submerged in the syrup). Bring the syrup to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Crack the eggs directly into the gently simmering maple syrup (you may wish to poach 2 eggs at a time so they aren’t too crowded). As they cook, spoon a little of the hot syrup over the yolks every now and again. Poach for about 3 minutes if you like your yolks soft, and longer according to your personal preference. Serve the eggs in a generous pool of maple syrup. Bon appétit!

  3. Bret on January 9, 2015 at 17:33

    Shit, man. I am headed out the door for a gut-busting Chipotle burrito (with guac). I think I am going to have to stop by Whole Foods on the way and get some honey, if they have anything suitably un(or minimally)processed.

    …so that you can forever dismiss Cordain as a dishonest opportunist, which he is to the core. …Worthless in terms of anything new, and long past due. Stick a fucking fork in him.

    Hear, hear! Same for all the other disingenuous, self congratulating VLC goons.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 9, 2015 at 18:34

      Last I looked, my WF had a great selection of raw honey, even some local ones.

    • Bret on January 9, 2015 at 19:18

      Scored me a jar. Madhava brand, and the label left to right reads, “Organic Very Raw Honey Unfiltered 100%.” It’s thick as a turd. You turn the jar upside down and you don’t see an air bubble moving around in it like with the others.

      That trip quickly went out of control, with me like a kid in a candy store. Couldn’t just stop at honey. Had to grab some grass-fed raw cheese. And some grass fed milk, and a jar of anchovies. And some salmon caviar, because why the fuck not? There’s $49 I’ll never see again (until it’s time to eliminate on the commode).

  4. tatertot on January 9, 2015 at 17:44

    Here’s my thought. When man left Africa, he knew what he wanted and looked for new sources. Four things he needed most: meat, edible plants, sugar, and starch. The meat was a no-brainer. With plants, they probably went by taste and whether or not they died when they ate it. Starches were found in cattail roots, sago palm, and various tubers they came across.

    I’ll bet anything as sweet as honey was really prized! But where do you find anything as sweet as honey in the wild world?

    Someone probably figured out that they could cook down the somewhat sweet sap of certain trees and, viola, maple syrup.

    Then man’s brain got bigger and bigger and he learned he could transform sugar cane and sugar beets into purified white sugar. Even smarter people learned to make a high fructose corn syrup.

    I supposed our taste for ‘sweet’ is just pica for honey.

    • Phil on January 10, 2015 at 07:11

      Raw tree saps were likely consumed right along with raw tree honeys for millions of years before the process of boiling maple syrup was developed.

    • Phil on January 10, 2015 at 07:20

      I’ll bet that maple trees would fare a lot worse if their raw saps were replaced with cooked and concentrated maple syrup, and my hunch is that humans also fare worse, though we are likely more adapted to cooking than trees (though probably not fully adapted).

    • Gassman on January 11, 2015 at 12:40

      I was thinking along those lines, as in why not drink the raw sap? While the syrup is more concentrated with nutrients, the raw sap is probably very good for the body if taken regularly. Could be the next recovery drink, as in coconut water or nature’s gatoradr.

  5. golooraam on January 9, 2015 at 17:52

    oh f ya! I love maple syrup!

    stacked with my cooled and rebaked taters! I’m set!

  6. gabkad on January 9, 2015 at 18:30

    ….just great. Bloody great. All I had to eat today was two bowls of homemade chicken soup. Feet and head in the pot too. Beak to claw dining. Well, actually I added a bunch of extra feet. Still and all, I’m feeling deprived.

    I am suffering from maple syruplessness.

    • tatertot on January 9, 2015 at 19:00

      We tried making maple syrup once when we were kids in Ohio. We gathered like 10 gallons of sap with aquarium tubing and glass pop bottles. Put it in a big pot on a fire. Boiled it all afternoon.

      We got like a pint of syrup, but it burnt right at the end. So we never even got to try it.

      Lots of effort!

    • John on January 10, 2015 at 04:25

      I love the episode of the show Good Eats where he goes to the maple farm and shows the process.

  7. Padraic on January 10, 2015 at 06:23

    I’ve read you can make a similar syrup from birch sap. Birch don’t have quite the same sap yield, which I guess is why it’s not a common product like maple syrup. I’d love to try it…birch trees everywhere here, but loads of work to tap, collect, boil down and keep from inoculation by unhelpful bacteria.

    Love maple syrup, especially the b grade stuff. Even in my most paleo, sugar abstaining days, I would cheerfully knock back a tablespoon or two right from the bottle. It’s never cheap, but I live in New England, so it is plentiful and local. I like driving around in March and seeing the taps and lines all set up in groves of sugar maples. Sap season is “Winter’s-Almost-Over” season, good time of year.

    I want the really dark, thick stuff, the maple “molasses,” but I have never seen it…the yield is probably pretty prohibitive to actually producing a product with limited sale appeal.

    • tatertot on January 10, 2015 at 10:57

      I’m surrounded by birch trees as well. There are some locals who make and sell birch syrup, but it’s always very thin and watery and not all that great as compared to maple syrup, in my opinion.

      I think the true value instead lies in the birch water. It seems to be poised to replace coconut water in the consumer marketplace.

      I’ve ordered this kit from Amazon, it’s made for maple syrup collection, but will work for birch water. Just drill a small hole, attach the tap and hose and catch water in a container of some sort.

      Not sure how long the water lasts, I imagine it needs to be drank fairly quickly. There are probably some cool microbes swimming around in it, too.

      I supposed that turning it into syrup would make it last a long time and give you something to satisfy your sweet tooth.

      $40 bucks for equipment to tap 10 trees.

    • Phil on January 10, 2015 at 15:03

      Tater, Do you know what happens exactly when glucose-rich saps like maple sap or sugarcane juice go “bad”?

    • tatertot on January 10, 2015 at 15:28
    • Padraic on January 11, 2015 at 08:33

      That’s pretty cool, and tempting to go out this early spring to tap a few trees. Put it up there with spruce needle tea as a natural tonic I can source from my backyard.

      About once a year, I get a hankering for old fashioned birch beer, and I wonder if birch water is an origin thereof. Better flavor than cocnut water, anyway!

      Amazon shows birch syrup exists as a commercial product, but yow, the cost. I read it used to only really exist up in Alaska, but small scale production is available many places that already do maple.

  8. J. B. Rainsberger on January 10, 2015 at 06:52

    Low-carb eating helped me re-sensitise to sweet flavors. If it weren’t for that, then eating real sweet food would continue to be a disaster for me. 🙂 I’m not saying it’s the only way to get there, but it sure as hell worked.

    I wish I’d seen this before hitting the farmer’s market today. I would have come home with some local maple syrup and experimented a little. As long as eating a little doesn’t make me suddenly want to drink a liter, I’ll be fine.

    I never thought in my life that I’d be happy putting 1/2 tsp of honey on my food. I used to laugh at people satisfied by so little sweetener. Now a full tsp tastes way too sweet to me, and I love that. I recommend it to anyone: do whatever you need to sensitise yourself to sweet flavors.

    • J. B. Rainsberger on February 1, 2015 at 08:54

      Quick follow-up: 2 weeks of about 70 mL maple syrup per week, mostly to sweeten coffee/tea. No ill effects; no disruption to weight loss; no obvious health benefits. For me, at least, a safe option alongside honey and xylitol.

  9. Gemma on January 10, 2015 at 09:10

    A careful reader might have noticed in the article that maple syrup contains abscisic acid (ABA), which is the main plant hormone – involved in protection of plants from stress.

    And as another example of shared signalling, this plant hormone influences animals too. ABA is also expressed by animal tissues including humans, with anti inflammatory, protective effects.

    The plant hormone abscisic acid increases in human plasma after hyperglycemia and stimulates glucose consumption by adipocytes and myoblasts

    Drink the trees 🙂

  10. Phil on January 10, 2015 at 14:54

    Richard wrote on Jan. 5: “I’m way less into the drama. It’s difficult to explain because I still get enraged often enough. It’s more like I can set it aside pretty quickly and the thought of making a blog out of an outrage that’s not really pronounced kinda nauseates me now.”

    Then wrote on Jan. 9: “I’ll have a mildly snarky post up about all that early next week, so that you can forever dismiss Cordain as a dishonest opportunist, which he is to the core. …Worthless in terms of anything new, and long past due. Stick a fucking fork in him.”

    Looks like the nausea didn’t last long? It’s your blog and you’re free to do what you want. I’m just hoping that the less-drama Richard will win the Jekyl/Hyde battle in the longer run. 🙂

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