Turns Out Real Maple Syrup Isn't That Much Healthier Than Fake Maple Syrup

Major bummer.

Most of us can agree that pancakes, waffles and French toast make a great breakfast, and they’re made even sweeter with syrup.

But not all of us agree which syrup is best on those breakfast options. Some folks will only let real maple syrup grace their plates. Other people grew up on (and still love) what is known as table syrup, pancake syrup or fake maple syrup. Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Log Cabin are some of the more popular brands.

This Twitter user is on Team Fake Maple:

But those on Team Real Maple feel strongly about defending real maple syrup. Many New Englanders and Canadians stand in that camp.

But what’s the difference?

Real maple syrup is just what it sounds like. It’s syrup made from maple trees. The sap is harvested from the trees toward the end of winter every year, and the process is known as sugaring. It’s a labor-intensive process that results in an expensive finished product (it’s one reason many people opt for table syrup).

Table syrup, on the other hand, is predominantly made with a mixture of corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Preservatives and additives ― such as sodium hexametaphosphate (which is used for texture) and cellulose gum (which is used as a thickener) ― are added to give it an extremely long shelf life and to achieve the right consistency. Artificial and natural flavors are added to create a proprietary “maple” flavor.

Take a look at an ingredient label from a Mrs. Butterworth’s bottle.

In sum, the difference is in the ingredients. Maple syrup has just one ingredient, and table syrup can have a list of more than 10. That’s why maple syrup is labeled as, well, maple syrup ― with varying grades and ambers ― and the other syrup is labeled most commonly as “Original Syrup.”

Does that mean that one is healthier than the other?

The short answer is not really.

“If used sparingly on pancakes and such, I don’t think the health differences between the two are that great,” Charles Muller, clinical associate professor of clinical nutrition at NYU, told HuffPost.

If you’ve been adding maple syrup to your oatmeal in the morning thinking you were making a healthy choice, you might be mistaken. “They’re both simple sugars, and so they’re both metabolize in the body as such,” explained Muller.

They’re both caloric and high in sugar. “Simple sugar is something that should be eaten in real moderation,” Muller advised. No matter if it’s simple sugar that comes from maple trees or from corn with other ingredients.

The World Health Organization recommends limiting your sugar intake to less than 10 percent of your daily energy intake. So if you’re eating a 2,000 calorie diet, that is the equivalent of about 50g of sugar.

A quarter cup of maple syrup actually exceeds the recommended daily amount. One serving of real maple syrup contains 200 calories and 53 grams of sugar. That’s actually more than many fake maple syrups contain. A quarter cup of Aunt Jemima, for example, contains 210 calories and has 32 grams of sugar.

Because of that sugar content, you might think that opting for fake maple syrup is a better way to go, but Muller says not. Instead he explains, “It means you don’t need as much of the real thing on your pancakes,” so you won’t end up using as much.

Muller also said, “In general, eating the real product is perhaps a good habit, as the cumulative effects of preservatives are really unknown.”

Keep that in mind next time you go to top your pancakes.

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