Maple Syrup: Real vs Artificial

Maple Syrup - Little Spoons and Spice

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “maple syrup is a sticky, sweet liquid produced from maple trees and used to flavor foods.  100% pure maple syrup does come from maple trees, but where does the artificial syrup come from??  When you check the ingredient list, it appears to come from corn, in the form of high fructose corn syrup.  So it doesn’t exactly fit the definition of maple syrup.

Maple syrup has received a lot of attention lately, and some nutritional studies have indicated antioxidant benefits.  Further research is needed to fully evaluate the properties of pure maple syrup and its health benefits.

Whether you use real or artificial maple syrup, keep in mind that they both contain a high amount of sugar, estimated around 50 grams in ¼ cup.  So they do need to be used in moderation.  The sugar in both pure and artificial syrup will still increase your blood sugar and insulin levels, whether it comes from a tree or corn.  If you are diabetic or need to follow a sugar free diet, artificial sugar free syrup would be recommended.

When shopping for maple syrup, there are so many options, which can leave you a little overwhelmed.  How do you even know what’s pure and what’s artificial?

I’ve found that pure maple syrup is often above the artificial syrup on store shelves, and commonly on the top shelf.  The location could also be related to price.  Pure maple syrup is significantly higher in price than artificial, even as much as $15-20 per quart.  If you’ve tasted the real thing, you know it’s worth the price. If you’re still not convinced about the price or just want to do it yourself, you could always tap your very own maple trees and boil it down.  Producing your own maple syrup is not only a great family hobby, but educational for the kiddos. 🙂

As I look at all the labels of artificial maple syrup on the store shelf, I noticed one commonality, they’re not called “maple syrup”. Common names for artificial syrups are “original syrup”, “light syrup”, “maple flavored syrup”, “low calorie syrup”, “low sugar syrup”, “breakfast syrup”, and “pancake syrup”.

If you want the real deal, look for “100% pure maple syrup” or “pure maple syrup”.

Let’s compare a few common artificial syrups with 100% pure maple syrup.


Original syrup:
½ cup (60mL) – 210 calories, 0g fat, 120 mg sodium, 52 g carb, 32g sugar, 0g protein

Original Lite syrup:
¼ cup (60mL) – 100 calories, 0g fat, 190 mg sodium, 26 g carb, 25g sugar, 0g protein

Sugar free:
2 Tbsp (30mL) – 15 calories, 0g fat, 50 mg sodium, 5 g carb, 0g sugar, 0 g protein

100% pure maple syrup:
¼ cup (60mL) – 210 calories, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 53g cab, 53 g sugar, 0 g protein


Original Syrup: Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum, caramel color, salt, natural and artificial flavor, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, sodium hexametaphosphate.

Original Lite Syrup: High fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum, salt, natural and artificial flavor, caramel color, sorbic acid, sodium benzoate, sodium hexametaphosphate.

Sugar free: water, sorbitol, contains 2% or less of: cellulose gum, salt, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, xanthan gum, sorbic acid, sodium benzoate, acesulfame potassium, potassium chloride, sodium hexametaphosphate, phosphoric acid, sucralose.

100% pure maple syrup: maple syrup

It’s important that we, as consumers, understand what we’re buying.  Even if you read the ingredients and nutrition labels, can you say with confidence you know what’s in that product? It’s not crystal clear. And honestly, the labeling is often pretty misleading.

We need to take the time to understand what we’re eating and what we’re offering to the little bodies of our kiddos.

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