Maple syrup may be antioxidant-filled liquid gold
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Friday, April 1, 2011 12:15PM EDT
Been waffling about maple syrup?
Sure, it may not be a low-calorie treat, but the sticky syrup that simply oozes "Canadiana" may also be loaded with lots of healthy compounds and antioxidants.
At least that's the conclusion of research funded by maple syrup growers themselves.
In new data released this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, researchers report that maple syrup seems to have some of the same anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory compounds as other well-known "superfoods," such as blueberries, green tea and flax seeds.
As well, initial studies also suggest that compounds in the syrup may help keep blood sugar levels in check.
All of the research was funded by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, as well as from a grant from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Their research suggests that the polyphenols in maple syrup inhibit enzymes that are involved in the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar. Maple syrup may even have a greater enzyme-inhibiting effect than other healthy plant foods such as berries. But the findings need to be verified in more trials.
The Rhode Island research team said they found that maple syrup contains a wide variety of polyphenols. In all, they identified 54 compounds in maple syrup -- five of which are unique to the sticky stuff.
One polyphenol is of particular interest. It's been given the name of Quebecol, in honour of Quebec. Researchers say the compound is only created during the process of boiling down maple sap into maple syrup.
In a news release from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, lead scientist Dr. Navindra Seeram said maple syrup is "a one-stop shop" for beneficial compounds. But he added that the health benefits of these compounds has yet to be fully explored.
"We don't know yet whether the new compounds contribute to the healthy profile of maple syrup, but we do know that the sheer quantity and variety of identified compounds with documented health benefits qualifies maple syrup as a superfood," he said.
Montreal dietitian Hélène Laurendeau said as part of the news release that the findings underscore the message that food that undergoes little to no processing provides greater health benefits.
"Hundred per cent pure maple syrup is a natural, non-refined product, which gives it an edge over other sweetening agents. We have reason to be proud of our maple syrup, whose unique flavour makes it a versatile addition to countless culinary creations," she said.