Many people are avoiding processed sugar and are replacing it with natural sweeteners, including maple syrup, honey, and cider syrup. Granulated sugar, also known as sugar or table sugar, is processed and very few minerals or antioxidants remain. Natural sweeteners contain far more beneficial minerals and antioxidants than sugar.
Pure Vermont maple syrup contains great amounts of calcium, manganese, potassium and magnesium and is full of beneficial antioxidants—up to 54 different types of antioxidants that help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals. Damage caused by free radicals may lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and degenerative disorders. Antioxidants are also known to strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, and slow the effects of aging1. Maple syrup has a low glycemic index of 54, which refers to how quickly the food spikes blood sugar levels once ingested. Foods are considered as having low glycemic index levels if they measure 55 or lower.
Honey is a sweet and tasty natural energy source. Each tablespoon contains roughly 17 grams of carbohydrates, making honey ideal for working muscles2. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel the body uses for energy and are often stored. Sports nutritionists recommend eating carbohydrates prior to physical activity to ensure the body has enough energy. The fructose and glucose in honey enter the bloodstream directly to deliver a quick boost of energy. Consuming honey during exercise can help keep the muscles nourished longer and delay fatigue, and consuming a combination of protein and carbohydrates post-exercise can refuel the body and decrease the start of muscle soreness. Like maple syrup, honey also contains rich antioxidants. Honey is cholesterol free, and is also known to help reduce cholesterol levels. It has been used for centuries to help alleviate the symptoms of sore throats caused by viruses by coating the throat to soothe irritating pains and symptoms. A spoonful of honey before bed or as needed
can help suppress cough symptoms. Honey also has a low glycemic index of 55, much lower than sugar’s glycemic index of 68 which is considered medium.
Cider syrup, also referred to as “boiled cider” or “apple molasses,” begins as fresh apple cider and is boiled down until it becomes thick and syrupy. The syrup has a strong apple flavor which should be considered when using it as a sweetener in recipes but it can be used the same way you’d use honey or maple syrup. It maintains most of the nutrients and vitamins from the apples in the syrup-making process. The nutrients act as antioxidants to protect the body from harmful agents and toxins. The fiber, mostly found in the apple skin, supports the digestive system3. Apple cider has an extremely low glycemic index of <15; although as the syrup is more concentrated, the index may be higher.
1 Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association http://vermontmaple.org/
2 National Honey Board http://www.honey.com/