As many of you may know, I grew up in a rural area showing livestock, baling hay and working for the man (my dad). Part of living on a small farm was helping with everything that needed to be done, and now that I am older, it’s something I can really appreciate! Although, put lightly, our family of 4 had some major bonding experiences…
One of the hobbies my dad got into years ago was harvesting maple syrup from our maple trees! We started with just a small pop up tent in our driveway, and now we have an AWESOME sugar shack in the woods. It has turned into such a fun thing to do with friends and family during the spring! The process is literally taking sap that runs from trees and boiling the water off of it down to a specific sugar content that is defined as syrup! We just finished for the season about a week ago.
5 things you didn’t know about Maple Syrup!
- It takes ~40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of actual syrup
- The time of year to harvest may change depending on the year, but sap runs best when it’s below freezing at night and above freezing during the day
- It actually carries more vitamins/minerals than some other sweeteners
- 1 tablespoon has about 50 calories
- Maple syrup still is considered an “added sugar” from a regulatory standpoint even though it is derived from nature and contains only one ingredient…
“Added sugars” are a new addition to the Nutrition Facts Panel as a part of the FDA label reform. This is meant to inform consumers of how much sugar is added to a food vs. how much was in there to begin with. There will still also be a total sugars line that adds both natural and added sugars together.
Foods that have naturally occurring sugars are foods like milk, yogurt and fruit.
Added sugars in foods come in the form of honey, table/white sugar, molasses, corn syrup, maple syrup etc. meaning that its sole purpose in that food was to sweeten it. So if you add fruit to a bar, that does NOT count as added sugar. Here is a quick look at the differences you will be seeing in Nutrition Facts Panels from now until 2020.
It’s important to remember a few things when thinking about sugar in general:
- Judge sugar by the “company that it keeps”..meaning, is there anything positive coming from eating this particular food? An apple and a small glass of apple juice may have similar sugar content, but the whole apple contains fiber. Juice is basically just the sugar squeezed out of the fruit.
- Sugar is sugar when it gets down to the molecule level. So using the same example above, if the sugar alone were extracted from the apple and the juice they would be the same exact sugar. But the context in which you eat them has an impact on how that sugar will effect you. Same goes for if you combine that sugary food with another food group that may block some of the absorption etc. Sugar itself is not contributing to chronic disease, it’s sugar’s contribution to overall calories and excess energy, along with lack of exercise.
- Don’t freak out about sugar as being evil – you be the judge of what things matter to YOU. I don’t drink regular pop because I don’t want to “waste” my sugar on something like that, some people do and that’s okay. (although it’s a super concentrated source of sugar.) I would rather use it on fruit, bars, dark chocolate, good cereals, milk smoothies, MAPLE SYRUP ICE CREAM (below)…things that have more to them or things that mean something TO ME.
It’s still recommended by the Dietary Guidelines of America that you consume no more than 10% of your calories from added sugar. Basically they are giving you a pass on sugar that comes from a natural source because at least you are getting other beneficial/positive nutrients along with those foods.
Example: So if you are someone who should be consuming 2000 calories per day, 10% of that is 200 calories, there are 4 calories/gram of sugar (carbohydrates), so that equates to 50g sugar daily. This is a pretty lenient number if you ask me. But if you do eat/drink something regularly that IS concentrated source of sugar, it’s very easy to exceed this. For example, 1 can of Coke has 39g of sugar and you can see the daily value % next to it tells you how much of your daily allowance you are “spending” on that food or drink. Make sense?