Blueberries, broccoli and fish rich in Omega 3 are among the best known superfoods. But now something rather sweeter can be added to the list of healthy foods containing high levels of antioxidants that boost the immune system.
Maple syrup is even being described by scientists in America as a ‘one-stop shop’ for beneficial compounds.
Tests on the syrup, which is made by boiling sap from the maple tree, found that it contains compounds which could help manage Type 2 diabetes, as well as acting as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents.
Researchers identified 54 compounds, twice as many as the syrup was previously thought to have. Five were found to be unique to maple syrup.
Several of the syrup’s polyphenol, or water-soluble, compounds inhibited the enzymes that convert carbohydrates to sugars, raising the prospect of a new way of managing Type 2 Diabetes.
They also found that many of the antioxidant compounds, which prevent the oxidation and ageing of the body’s cells, aren’t found in other natural sweeteners.
Dr Navindra Seeram, who led the research at the University of Rhode Island, said: ‘We don’t know yet whether the new compounds contribute to the healthy profile of maple syrup.
‘But we do know that the sheer quantity and variety of identified compounds with documented health benefits qualifies maple syrup as a champion food.
‘It is a one-stop shop for these beneficial compounds, several of which are also found in berries, tea, red wine and flaxseed, just to name a few.’
Explaining the science behind the findings, he said: ‘We found a wide variety of polyphenols in maple syrup. We discovered that the polyphenols in maple syrup inhibit enzymes that are involved in the conversion of carbohydrate to sugar.
‘In fact, in preliminary studies, maple syrup had a greater enzyme-inhibiting effect compared to several other healthy plant foods such as berries.’
‘By 2050, one in three people will be afflicted with Type 2 diabetes, so finding a potential anti-diabetic compound in maple syrup is interesting for the scientific community and the consumer.’
The findings of Dr Seeram’s team were presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in California.
Genevihve Biland, marketing director for the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, one of the sponsors of the research, said: ‘Given its amazing potential for human health and great nutritional value, maple syrup is a natural choice for a healthy lifestyle.’