Why Maple Syrup & Honey are not the Same as Sugar.
I didn’t eat sugar for almost 4 months.
Of course, everyone knows that sugar is in EVERYTHING. If you are eating in America, you are eating sugar. They put it in chips. They put it in breads. They put it in cereal. They put it in MEAT. They put it in EVERYTHING (especially the corn derived variety they call syrup – gag).
So, you may be thinking that I just THINK I haven’t had any sugar in a month – but the truth is, that I probably HAVE had some form of sugar.
I went on a personal challenge to eat only foods that I raised, grew, harvested, or gathered with my own hands for 101 days. I don’t grow sugar beets or sugar cane so I really haven’t had any sugar.
No sugar. I had no sugar for 101 days.
And it’s quite the thing.
I’m convinced that I was completely addicted. The first week was horrible. Beyond cravings. Beyond total thought consumption. I was in physical pain because I didn’t eat any sugar.
The truth is that it took 6 weeks before I stopped wanting to eat sugar every day all day long. Ugh. I didn’t bake with sugar. I didn’t buy sugar. I didn’t allow it (or anything containing sugar) to come near my homestead. There were 3 occasions throughout the entire 101 days when I had to touch sugar. One was a birthday party. The second was our annual summer bash. The third was a family dove hunt.
Once the cakes, pies, etc were baked and in my possession I actually had to hide them. I did not have the self-control to be trusted in the same house with a chocolate sheet cake or a Derby pie. Really, I couldn’t. Once they were tucked away out of sight, I could deal.
The sugar desires & obsession was whack.
The only experience I can compare this whole sugar crash to is my accidental withdrawal from caffeine (because that’s the only drug I do besides sugar).
I once bought decaf accidentally. I thought I had a brain tumor. I thought I was dying. I had a splitting headache for 7 days straight. Then I noticed the “decaf” in small print on my coffee bean bag. Forehead slap. All that pain and suffering was over a little caffeine? What the WHAT? My (caffeine-free) friend said the headaches only last 10 days & I was 3 days away from breaking my caffeine habit. I couldn’t take one more hour of that pounding pain – I bought the strongest, darkest roast I could find and guzzled 3 cups immediately. Oh sweet relief!
So, the sugar crash was very similar to my caffeine withdrawals, except worse. Instead of just a splitting headache that ibuprofen could handle, I had additional problems. I was nauseous. I was weak. I just wanted to go to bed. AND I wanted to eat a 45 oz tub of Nutella.
This is not good.
During the first week of the challenge I really, really, really thought this 101 day thing was going to end after 2 weeks and be a disaster. I could not live tired, weak, nauseous and with a pounding headache for 3 months. Nope, I have 4 children, 60 chickens, 3 pigs, 8 cows, 3 gardens and an unknown number of rabbits to take care of. I must be well.
Lucky for me and anyone else addicted to sugar, the headaches & general misery went away after 5 days. Not only did I no longer feel like dying, I had more energy & I felt great.
I was shocked. I had no idea coming off sugar would be such an ordeal. If I hadn’t told the world I was going to do this, I probably would have grabbed a bucket of Nutella and quit. Thanks to the internet and me being stubborn, I have remained faithful.
During this entire process I have been consuming real maple syrup and a little honey (only in small amounts).
We have been known to tap maple trees and do some maple sugarin around here, so maple syrup was on the menu. All the honey brought into this house during the 101 day challenge came from a local hive.
Interesting Life Fact: Maple syrup and honey do not seem to have the gripping, addictive, craving hold on me that sugar did.
I don’t crave them in the afternoon. I don’t want them in the evening before bed. I’m not nauseous, headachy or exhausted if I don’t consume honey or maple sugar. I can go days and not even think about them.
Sugar was an obsession that I was in agony without (at least for the first week).
So, I set out to find out “Why?”
There are plenty of folks out there who tout that sweeteners are sweeteners and whether you chose table sugar, turbinado, maple syrup, corn syrup or honey it doesn’t matter it’s all calories & sugar & horrible & we should use in moderation.
I don’t believe them. I feel like maple syrup & honey are not sugar and my body knows the difference.
Here’s some interesting facts I’ve learned about real maple syrup & honey.
Maple syrup (and honey) are natural
We tap our own maple trees & have made syrup. You can’t believe how simple the process is. Drill a hole in a maple tree. Collect the water that runs out. Boil the water & you have syrup. That’s it. To see how we do it go here.
When I buy syrup, I only purchase the real, organic stuff. Maple Syrup is super sweet. It is sweeter than sugar: when baking with maple syrup the measurement is reduced by 1/3 (if a recipe calls for 1 cup sugar I use only 2/3 C Maple Syrup).
Honey is bee vomit and is even superior to maple syrup. As long as the bees are continuing to thrive on honey, the honey from that hive is a natural super-food. If the bees are being fed corn syrup or sugar then the resulting honey will be an inferior product. source
Sugar goes through more of a process than maple syrup and honey. I saw how sugar was made on “How it’s Made” a couple of years ago. It was eye opening. Even the “raw cane juice” crystals are pretty darn worked over. When you look at the cane growing and you look at a bowl of sugar, you can see that some changes have really happened to that plant to turn it into sugar.
Maple syrup is different. Maple syrup is just tree juice. Really it is. It’s more like “tree water” when it first comes trickling out of the tree. To turn the “tree water” into “maple syrup” all you do is boil it for….. all day. Trust me, I know. Maple syrup is just reduced tree juice. It’s not only all natural, it is filled with all sorts of nutrients that are good for you. When my body gets “tree-juice-reduction” it knows what to do with it. It recognizes it as a natural substance that can be used for energy and food and all things good. It is healthy.
Honey is different. It is simply bee vomit. Honey is to bees what milk is to cows. A wonderful, healthy bi-product that comes from inside the animal (or insect).
Maple syrup contains 1/3 less sugar than table sugar
When baking, the amount of sweetener is reduced by 1/3 if maple syrup is used instead of sugar because maple syrup is sweeter than sugar.
Additionally, maple syrup contains 1/3 less sugar content than sugar itself. (source)
I’m no mathematician, but between using 1/3 less sweetener and the sugar content in the maple syrup itself being 1/3 less, it seems to me that I am consuming significantly less sugar. Which is always good.
Maple syrup (and honey) contain some minerals and antioxidants
Keep in mind that maple syrup doesn’t contain very many minerals, and should not be considered health food – but it does contain some nutrition whereas, sugar does not. Another point for maple syrup.
100 grams of maple syrup contain (source):
- Calcium: 7% of the RDA.
- Potassium: 6% of the RDA.
- Iron: 7% of the RDA.
- Zinc: 28% of the RDA.
- Manganese: 165% of the RDA.
Not only does maple syrup contain these nutrients, it also boasts a bunch of antioxidants. Antioxidants are good, reduce our risk of many diseases and we want them. Nuts, berries and vegetable tops (turnip greens, radish tops, etc) are some of the best sources of antioxidants. Syrup is not the best way to get these superheroes in your diet – but if you are going to sweeten something – you may as well use the sweetener that has some benefit.
“Several studies have found that maple syrup is a decent source of antioxidants. One study found 24 different antioxidant substances in maple syrup.” – Authority Nutrition (source).
Darker syrups (grade B) were higher in antioxidants than the lighter syrup (grade A).
Honey is a rock star in this department. It contains: Vitamin B6, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin. It also boasts many minerals: copper, zinc, sodium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese and iron. In addition to these vitamins and minerals honey is also a carrier of phenolic acids & flavonoids (antioxidants, baby). source
The precise amounts of these will change depending on the type of honey and what is blooming around the area.
Maple syrup (and honey) have a lower glycemic index than sugar
The glycemic index of maple syrup seems to be around 54, compared to table sugar which has a glycemic index of around 65.
Honey’s glycemic index can be as low as 31 or as high as 78 depending on the type of honey (I’m gonna guess if you are feeding your bees sugar or corn syrup you could end up with a higher score?)
I am not an expert here either, but I do understand that the higher the glycemic index the faster that sugar raises your blood sugar. Syrup is not going to skyrocket you as quickly as table sugar – which is better. Best would be neither, but ‘ya know….. a girl’s got to put something in her latte.
Maple syrup (and honey) are handled differently than sugar in our bodies
It’s true. Plain old, refined table white sugar can do bad things when it hits our system, like spike our blood sugar. Natural sweeteners like honey and Maple Syrup don’t wreak quite so much havoc.
Honey is on the same playing field as Maple Syrup and possibly even better. It is natural. It contains nutrients. It is rich in antioxidants. It has even been proven to lower cholesterol. (source)
Yes, a lot of sugar is bad for you. Yes, a lot of Maple Syrup & honey is also bad for you.
BUT I think it’s safe to say that Maple Syrup & Honey are “less bad” for you than sugar. If I am going to grab a sweetener, I am going to reach for one that has some benefits, rather than the one that is nothing but sweet.
Have I gone back to consuming sugar now that the 101 day challenge is over?
Uuuuuum. Yes and no.
I’m still using maple syrup and honey to as my go to for my daily fix (think coffee, loaf bread & muffins).
I think that I will reach for the raw cane juice crystals for special occasions. Those times when I want to make a nice dessert (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays, Friday nights- LOL).
I’ve found that depriving myself of sugar for 3 months has really changed my palate. The few desserts I’ve tasted since the challenge ended have been too sweet to enjoy. One bite does it for me.
When I do make a coffee cake – I’m probably still gonna make it with my raw sugar. Sorry.
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Stay Healthy Everyone!