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A Healthy Pour? Syrup as Superfood

Maple syrup glass light leaf by anolobb, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  anolobb 

If it’s true, it’s nutritional gold for Vermonters and Canucks and everyone in between: maple syrup could be considered the latest superfood. Something supersweet and superhealthy? Only a sap would be unmoved.

It’s smart to be cautious, however. The term “superfood” gets a significant amount of media play, and we don’t want to condone overuse. Such nutritional hyperbole only contributes to confusion when it comes to what is healthy and nutritious. But lovers of this eleven-point leaf may have reason to be guardedly hopeful.

The Road to Super 

First, a look at the superfood nomenclature: We’ve traced the origin of the superfood before, and found nutrition specialist Steven Pratt MD, at the source. In his 2004 book, SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life, he identified key nutrient-rich foods deserved of the superfood label. Foods included on the Superfoods List were all powerfully nutritious and were chosen for their particular ability to prevent disease and support optimum health.

Foods like blueberries, particularly wild blueberries, are widely known as one of the most popular superfoods due their very high levels of antioxidant phytonutrients, which have been proven to help prevent and, in some cases, reverse the well-known effects of aging, including cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers. Wild salmon, tomatoes, and walnuts were also on the list, and these original superfoods continue to be lauded for there healthful properties.

The super potential of maple syrup, according to researchers from the University of Rhode Island, lies in the detection of previously undiscovered chemical compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, similar to those found in blueberries. Also, part of the interest surrounds the existence of a potential anti-diabetic compound in maple syrup that could help control the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar.

An Anti-Diabetic Compound

It’s true that the data was collected during a research study funded by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. And, the benefits must be confirmed. But putting aside the source for a moment, any contribution to the research concerning how to reduce the risk of diabetes is exciting.

There are 25.8 million children and adults in the United States – 8.3% of the population – who have diabetes.  Canada itself is no exception. The country has unprecedented numbers when it comes to diabetes, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association – one in four Canadians are affected by the disease. While further study is called for, reports indicate that there are “potentially significant implications” to the research that point to maple syrup as a potential new superfood.

Not Far From the Tree

If the news is substantiated, blueberries and syrup — already a perfect combination thanks to the world’s favorite pancake – could be a better one. We advise not going ape (or mape?) with maple syrup until we know more about its benefits, but since we’re just leaving the tree-tapping season, there’s no better time try these blueberry and syrup combinations. In moderation, there’s little doubt that they are mighty super already.

Blueberry Bread Pudding. Served hot, this dish offers a beautiful blue take on a favorite. Make it with frozen wild blueberries, and top with local syrup if you happen to live near bountiful trees.

Wild Blueberry & Maple Breakfast Quinoa With Toasted Pecans. Today, quinoa is a hot ticket—it’s both hip and healthy. Complete with pecans, this is a morning treat that shines with a hint of maple.

Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberries. Here’s the classic combo with a cheesy addition courtesy of Giada de Laurentis, and purported to be excellent in taste and satisfaction.

Baked French Toast With Blueberries. A mix of healthy fruit on top will add a heap of nutrients to this indulgent dish. Make it beforehand for overnight guests who love hearty and healthy.

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