Alright. The cat is out of the bag…IF you didn’t already know, I am an ice-in-the-blood Canadian.  I mean, really Canadian, born in the nation’s capital (Ottawa); on what was apparently a terribly cold February night. My parents had to plug the car in to be able to start it to get to the hospital it was so cold. For those of you who have seen an electrical plug hanging out the front grill of a car and wondered what the hell that is for, that’s for the block heater. Northerners of a certain age are very familiar with the usefulness of a block heater.  And while I have been fortunate enough to have been raised as a more or less global citizen living overseas in my early years and traveling a lot since then, I have never, EVER lost my love for maple syrup and absolutely WILL NOT accept any of those nasty syrup substitutes in it’s place.

The sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees that produce maple syrup are indigenous to North America, and most trees in production grow in New England, New York, Ontario and Quebec.  A hole is drilled into the trunk of the tree in late winter when the daylight hours start increasing and the weather starts getting warmer.  As the sap rises from the roots, it is collected and then boiled down to make the syrup.  This practice was adopted by early settlers to North America learned from the indigenous peoples they met here upon their arrival.

Maple syrup comes in grades corresponding to its color.  It used to go from a light “Fancy” grade, to Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber and Grade B, which is the darkest.  Now, they have changed the labeling to Grade A Golden Color with Delicate Taste, Grade A Amber Color with Rich Taste, Grade A Dark with Robust Taste, Grade A Very Dark with Strong Taste.  As all the grades of syrup are produced in the same way, there is no difference in quality.  Color of the syrup varies largely based on weather and a single tree is capable of producing sap that will boil down to a different color from one day to the next. It really comes down to a preference for how strong you like your syrup to taste.  In many cases, I find that there is really only one type available at the store anyway, so that’s what I buy.

Good news is that the syrup produced in Canada, Vermont and New York all have to be made exclusively of maple sap to be labeled as maple syrup…so if you are buying it and it was produced there, you are not going to be getting any nasty fillers.

Why do I think it is a good sweetener to use in small amounts as an alternative to cane sugar?  Maple syrup is a more unrefined sweetener than cane sugar, which means it retains more of its beneficial nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) than white sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  The glycemic index is slightly lower than table sugar, which means it impacts your blood sugar levels slightly less.  It also supplies some trace minerals like manganese, zinc, calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium.

The medical journal Pharmaceutical Biology says:

Pure maple syrup contains up to 24 different antioxidants, in the form of phenolic compounds.

These compounds are beneficial for reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation.  Some are: benzoic acid, gallic acid, cinnamic acid and flavanols such as catechin, epicatechin, rutin and quercetin. These compounds can reduce oxidative stress that is responsible for aging and weakening the immune system. (This must be why I rarely get sick and appear so young?? LMAO)

How do I use this Nectar of the Gods, Dawn?

I am so glad you asked. Maple syrup is a heat-stable sweetener so it is great in many recipes. It’s wonderful in marinades, dressings, glazes, in baked goods and as an alternative to sugar in your coffee or tea.

-add it to your homemade bbq sauce for a smoky-sweet flavor
-put a TBSP in your Dijon vinaigrette salad dressing to balance the flavors
-rub on rainbow trout with salt and pepper (skin and meat sides) before you pan fry in butter for a fabulous protein with your breakfast…don’t knock it until you try it.  Trout and eggs are a wonderful breakfast!
-rub on salmon with a bit of coconut aminos, garlic powder, pepper and toasted sesame oil for an Asian-type explosion of flavor.  Chopped ginger would be good here too.
-If you are making a pan jus after searing meat/chicken etc and again need to add a bit of sweetness to balance the flavors, then I suggest a bit of maple syrup.
-use it to sweeten whipped cream
-brush some on bacon part way through baking it in the oven for a maple bacon treat
-pour that sh*t on your pancakes, my friends!  And your French toast, crepes…yum
-pour some on carrots and/or parsnips with garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper and roast those veggies until there’s a bit of golden colour on them

For those counting macros and needing some post-workout simple carbs:
Use it to get your simple carbs in a post workout beverage if you are rolling with the RP Templates and like me, cannot fathom why ANYONE would consume crap like Gatorade or Koolaid…here’s the breakdown:

1 TBSP of maple syrup = 52 calories, 0g fat, 0g protein, 13g total Carbohydrates

My “Complete Book of Food Counts” says that a ¼ cup of maple syrup has between 200-210 calories and 53g of Carbohydrates.  When you do the math, they work out to the same thing as the breakdown above.

A post-workout electrolyte plus simple carbohydrate beverage could be as simple as:

Filtered water, juice of a lemon, however many tablespoons of syrup you need to hit your sugar count, ¼ tsp of baking soda and a pinch of Himalayan salt to add in some other trace minerals and electrolytes.

For the record, if you look at the ingredient list of various flavors of Gatorade (and Powerade), you will find items like Brominated Vegetable Oil (a substance banned in several countries), some artificial colors known to affect people with allergies (Yellow #5) and ADHD (Red #40), high fructose corn syrup. Linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, ADHD, thyroid issues and hyperactivity.  Not sure it’s worth it, when you can make a recovery drink using fruit juices or as in the above example, maple syrup with a few other little adds.  You decide.  I know where I would lean in this, especially if you are using a template to improve your overall health and performance…

Fair winds and following seas…