Until a few years ago, the grading systems for maple syrup in the United States and in Canada were different from one another. Nonetheless, the labelling led to some confusion in both countries, which is why it has been modified. For example, the American system used both Grade A and Grade B to label its maple syrup, which led some consumers to believe that Grade B maple syrup was downright inferior. As you might already know, that is not objectively true.
Since then, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have issued new regulations, which make for simpler, more coherent labels through a universal grading scale. The labelling is much clearer and it is now easier for you to find the precise product you are looking for. There are currently four different grades of Grade A maple syrup, as well as a processing grade for products that do not meet the requirements of the former category. The Grade A maple syrups are divided according to their color and their taste, which is reflected by their grade name. The Grade A Golden Color, Delicate Taste maple syrup is, as its title indicates, of a paler tint and its taste is more subtle than the other grades. The Grade A Amber Color, Rich Taste maple syrup is produced a bit later in the spring and is delicious on top of your favorite pancakes recipe. The Grade A Dark Color, Robust Taste maple syrup is of a darker shade and the Grade A Very Dark Color, Strong Taste maple syrup is generally produced at the end of the season.
As we have established in our article “Is pure maple syrup healthy?”, pure maple syrup is a great alternative to sugar as it contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It only comprises natural sugars, unlike refined sugar, which is made of a lot of additives and chemicals. Of course, maple syrup is still sugar, and that is why you should be reasonable when pouring your favorite syrupy treat on top of your food. Furthermore, when it comes to health, you should avoid table and pancake syrup at all costs, as they are highly transformed. It is healthier to stick to organic and pure maple syrup – or “real maple syrup” as it is sometimes called. I personally find that it has a more complex, richer and better taste to it, especially compared to lower-grade options.
Now, is there a difference between the various grades of maple syrup in terms of health? And if it is the case, which grade is the healthiest? Let me answer these questions for you.
As you might have read in our article on what creates the variations between the four grades, the difference in color and taste is explained by the quantity of light that goes through the maple sap. The later in the “temps des sucres” it is produced, the darker and thicker the maple syrup will be. Its taste will also become stronger. After doing a bit of research on the subject, I learned that there is also a nutritional difference between them. Naturally, all grades contain minerals and antioxidants, but Scientifics have proven that these are found in larger amounts in the darker maple syrup grades. For example, the Grade A Amber Color maple syrup comprises 200% more antioxidants than the Grade A Golden Color, while the two darker grades have at least 300% more than their lightest alternative. What’s more? The darker syrup also contains more calcium and phosphorus per serving, with more than two times the total found in the Golden Color, Delicate Taste. Basically, in average, darker grades have roughly 27% more mineral contents than their lightest cousin. But that is not all. The darker ones also contain more phenols, which are molecules generally found in maple syrup. They act as “antioxidants, anti-tumor and anti-cancer agents”.
The lesson to learn is that the darker the syrup, the more it contains stuff that is good for you and thus, the healthier it is. So, yes, there is a difference in terms of health between the four grades of maple syrup. And as we have established, the darker shades seem to be the best option if you want to eat more healthy. But even if it is a natural sugar, you should still use it with parsimony. Instead of adding it to your food, you should simply use it as a replacement for sugar products that you already consume. For example, you can ditch table syrup and over-processed sugar and replace them by pure maple syrup.
Moreover, the darkest maple syrup grades have a more robust flavor to them, which is obviously not for everyone. If you don’t like their stronger taste but still want to make the most of the health benefits provided by darker grades, you can always give the Grade A Amber Color, Rich Taste a try. It is an excellent compromise between tastiness and well-being since it is healthier than its lighter alternative, yet it still has that delicious, sweet taste to it. It also holds more complex hints for you to enjoy, whether it be on a Sunday morning or at any other time of the week.