"Two hundred years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year. In 1970, we ate 123 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year. This is equal to 3 pounds (or 6 cups) of sugar consumed in one week!" [source]
That's total insanity, no wonder we have obesity rates at the highest its been and why not only adults, but children are also facing diabetes at alarming rates.
So, must we give up all the sweet things we love to bake? Certainly not but there is an alternative that is not only a healthy replacement to sugar, but also has health benefits when it is consumed.
The answer comes from the colder parts of the country, and despite the name, sugar making, the only sweetness here is from maple trees.
Before we start:
This herbal information is just that, information. This blog post and I do not intend to treat, cure, or diagnose any disease or illness. This is for informational, education and entertainment purposes only. Please consult a physician before using herbs medicinally.
This post also contains affiliate links throughout. Translation: We get a little kick back for sharing certain products, at no additional cost to you, should you choose to purchase said items. And - thank you for supporting our farm and family! Read the full disclaimer here.
Let's back track a bit there before we carry on with all the maple goodness.
For those of you who may be new here, we are a small family farm sharing our adventure in tea making, homesteading, herbal medicine and healthy, whole food recipes. Our journey was motivated by many reasons, but one of those was health. We have fought cancer, autoimmune disease and for our adopted children's health in various forms.
Those health issues lead us to cut out sugar, or cut it down, in the Farmer's case (my husband). I'm personally allergic to sugar, but this tea time loving mama, wasn't about to give up her sweet treats. So what was this mama to do?
Maple to the rescue!
Many of those real food recipes sweetened with maple are shared here on the blog including our Maple Carrot Cake Recipe and our Maple Lemon Curd Recipe.
Maple is a staple in our kitchen! (sorry, had to! Get it, maple... staple) While Maple has a fantastic flavor it is little trying to work with. After all, baking with a liquid is not the same as baking with a dry sweetener.
The health benefits outweigh the challenges of learning to bake with a liquid though. Especially when one has a fabulous guide and mentor like Michelle Visser.
Michelle is the author of one of the newest released books in the self-reliance and cooking section of the book world. Michelle and her family have many acres in the middle of a New England Sugarbush. They not only homestead, raise and grow their own food, but they also tap their own maple trees to make their own maple syrup.
I had the pleasure of being introduced to Michelle by Jill Winger when we teamed up to create Tea Time on the Prairie. (Our e-book that comes with The Prairie Homestead Cookbook.
Michelle not only has a wealth of knowledge on kombucha (even maple kombucha!) but in-depth knowledge on what it takes to tap one's own maple syrup, as well as bake with it too.
The first pages of this lovely book introduce you to the lovely lady behind Sweet Maple, Michelle Visser, but also the rest of her family. It shares the story of how they came to own their own sugarbush and all of the things that make them who they are.
As a truly devoted family to self sufficiency and the homesteading life is what earned Sweet Maple it's forward written by none other than Joel Salatin himself.
Joel shares his own family's story about tapping for liquid gold (a.k.a. maple syrup) and how it was part of their entrepreneurial journey to their now famous farm in Virginia. Virginia isn't even a common maple tapping region! Which inspires this little farm loving and tea sipping lady... because Oregon isn't typically maple tapping country either. I'm also inspired to learn that not only maple trees may be tapped but also walnuts, birch and sycamores.
Maple Syrup for Better Brain Health
Aside from all the lovely farm stories and recipes, Michelle also shares how using real maple syrup can be beneficial to our health, including our brain health! Evidence even suggests that maple syrup could be beneficial in preventing alzheimer disease.
This Canadian and US study found that the antioxidants contained in real maple syrup may be equally beneficial as those found in green tea ( not my tea!), blueberries, red wine and other berries.
Another Canadian study shows that real maple syrup contains 24 antioxidants.
The reason all of these antioxidants are so important is because they chase out free radicals from the body and they also help fight inflammation. Less inflammation could also mean benefits for arthritis, IBS and Heart Disease. [source]
Maple Syrup for Better Gut HEalth
Michelle shares in her book how maple syrup is an inulin acting as a pre-biotic (food) for the probiotics (good bugs in our gut). We write a lot about probiotics here on our blog especially when sharing about how to DIY kombucha, brew herbal kombucha and make peach kombucha ritas.
Those good bugs are so important to our gut health, but they must also have food to keep them alive!
While white sugar and other processed sugars may contribute to IBS, Chrons, gas, bloating and constipation maple syrup can help mediate those issues and actually promote the growth of good probiotics. [source]
This is another big reason that we use maple to bake with on the farm instead of processed sugar.
Possible Cancer Preventor
While there are so many health benefits to using maple syrup instead of refined sugars, the possibility of it being a cancer fighter is huge. There is lots of information and evidence showing that it is likely processed sugar causes cancer as seen here, but there is also overwhelming evidence showing that maple syrup may have the opposite effect. Due to the large amount of anti-oxidants as well as benefits to intestinal health. One study showed that maple syrup may be helpful in battling colorectal cancer.
All of that aside, it seems that the benefits of baking with maple outweighs the use of refined white sugar.
Sweet Maple the book is the first step to take when replacing refined sugar with maple. Baking with maple can have a bit of a learning curve, but with a resourceful book like Sweet Maple, Michelle Visser is there on your counter top to walk you through the process. From tree to tap to baking, and even making your own maple sugar!
She is so sweet that she has even allowed me to share her Maple Scone Recipe from the book with you all! While this does have a wee bit of white sugar in it, it can be easily replaced with maple by using her handy maple conversion chart (found in the book) or with some homemade maple sugar!
Photo by Michelle Visser
This book is such a wealth of information that we wanted to share not just a post about it and the health benefits that come with maple, but we are also giving away a copy of Sweet Maple by Michelle Visser! As well as a set of the teas complete with a maple leaf/bucket infuser (available in our farm store November 1st 2019) which we created to go with the launch of this wonderful book! Enter below for a chance to win until October 1st 2019.
For those of you finding this post after the give away had ended (as well all of our readers) grab some Sweet Maple Libation Recipes in our free members area found by signing up on our main page at the top right corner.
We hope that you have found new uses for real maple syrup in your kitchen and might even try taping a tree to make your own!
My name is CeAnne, wife to my Farmer and mama to 4 adopted kiddos. I help farm lov'n mama's (and grandmas) turn common herbs into powerful medicines without being overwhelmed. Here you will find all sorts of nourishing goodness on natural medicine, herb gardening and wholesome real foods. Read more about our farm HERE.