Move over beer: Is this the Real Canadian Superfood?

Maple syrup antioxidants

Perfect timing!  As we finally thaw from winter’s grip, and the sap gets flowing again, any loyal Canadian’s thoughts turn to one thing:  maple syrup! It couldn’t be a coincidence that news hit the presses this week about some exciting research findings about the health properties of this liquid gold.

It turns out that there are tons of naturally occurring chemicals in pure maple syrup that have antioxidant properties – yup, just like those that have long been famous in red wine, green tea, blueberries and other “superfoods!”

Apparently some of these compounds have also shown anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, and anti-diabetic properties as well!  The news gets even better, because many of these substances have never been identified in any food before – true Canadian originals!  They even named one of the new compounds “Quebecol,” after that fair province that produces so much of the sweet stuff.

Now wait just a minute.  Before you run out and start tapping your own trees or chugging gallons of syrup, there are a few things I’d like to point out.  As I wrote yesterday, research results are complex, and need to be carefully interpreted.  The news may be good, but we have to consider the whole picture.

First of all, just because there are some powerful chemicals in maple syrup, that doesn’t change the fact that it is still essentially one thing: sugar! When it comes right down to it, sugar is still sugar.  The fact that there are some trace amounts of healthy compounds in this particular type is nice, but it still packs more than 50 calories in a tablespoon.  Its major component is sucrose – the  same stuff as those white crystals in the bowl.  If you eat lots of any sugar you will likely gain weight from the extra calories, right?

Secondly, it’s nice to hear about some new and exciting antioxidants, and its great to have one named after a Canadian province, but these types of compounds are not at all rare.  In fact, the plant world is loaded with them!  If you have a rainbow on your plate at every meal, then you are already eating a diet that is loaded with antioxidants and superfoods!  They are all important, and most of the powerful compounds in fruit and vegetables don’t come along with as many calories as the ones in maple syrup.

So what’s the bottom line?  I love maple syrup as much as anyone, but it is something that should be enjoyed in moderation.  It is a source of national pride, it reminds me of spring, and it tastes great.  Use just a little to flavour your oatmeal, pancakes, baking, sauces and and other recipes, just as you would use any other food that is essentially sugar!

Most importantly, when you eat it, enjoy!

If you’re like me and think that pancakes are the best partners for maple syrup, then skip the mix and make your own.  Here’s a basic recipe that I’ve used for years.  I think credit goes to Jane Brody, one of the original “real food” people.  As with all my recipes, use this as a base and then get busy and make it your own.  Try different types of flours.  Use some spices for extra flavour (I love cardamom in mine!)  Add chopped nuts or seeds, bananas, blueberries, apple slices or whatever you can think of.  Have fun with it!

Send me a picture of your creations!

Multigrain Pancakes


Dry mix:

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup flour of your choice (oat, cornmeal, barley etc.)
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt (if desired)

Wet mix:

1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup skim milk
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ teaspoon vanilla


Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
Beat the wet ingredients together in a small bowl.
Add the wet mix to the dry and stir until combined.  Add more milk as needed to make a thin batter.
Pour a large spoonful onto a greased griddle or frying pan on medium heat.  Cook until the surface is dry and small bubbles have appeared on the top.  Flip and cook for a few more minutes, until lightly browned.

Drizzle with pure maple syrup and enjoy!!


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