Is maple syrup good for losing weight?

Maple syrup is a popular natural sweetener that is often promoted as a healthier alternative to white sugar. Some people believe that maple syrup may also help with weight loss due to its nutritional profile. But is there any truth to the claim that maple syrup can help you lose weight?

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the nutrition facts, calories, and health effects of maple syrup to determine if it’s a smart choice for weight loss. We’ll compare maple syrup to other common sweeteners like honey, agave nectar, and white sugar. And we’ll examine the research on maple syrup and weight loss.

Nutrition Facts of Maple Syrup

First, let’s review the basic nutrition facts of pure maple syrup (1):

Nutrient Amount Per 1 Tbsp (20g)
Calories 52
Carbs 13g
Sugars 12g
Added Sugars 12g
Fiber 0g
Protein 0g

As you can see, maple syrup is high in sugar and calories. There are 12g of sugar and 52 calories in just 1 tablespoon (20g).

However, maple syrup does contain some beneficial antioxidants like polyphenols and minerals like calcium, potassium, and manganese (2).

Compared to white table sugar, which contains no nutrients, maple syrup provides small amounts of micronutrients. But its sugar and calorie content is quite similar to refined sugar.

Maple Syrup vs. Other Sugar Substitutes

How does maple syrup compare to other popular “natural” sweeteners in terms of nutrition?

Maple Syrup vs. Honey

Both honey and maple syrup are high in calories and sugar. They have a similar number of calories with about 60 calories per tablespoon. And both contain around 17g of sugar per tablespoon (3, 4).

The main nutritional advantage of honey is that it contains antioxidant polyphenols, enzymes, and amino acids. Maple syrup contains polyphenols as well, but not as many other beneficial compounds as raw honey.

Maple Syrup vs. Agave Nectar

Agave nectar has a higher fructose content than maple syrup. It provides about 20 calories and 5g of sugar per teaspoon (5).

While agave has a lower calorie and sugar count per serving compared to maple syrup, its high fructose content can be concerning. Fructose does not stimulate feelings of satiety the way glucose does (6).

Additionally, excess fructose consumption has been linked to fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance (7, 8).

Overall, maple syrup is lower in fructose and may be the healthier choice compared to agave nectar. But neither sweetener should be consumed in large amounts.

Calories in Maple Syrup

At about 52 calories per tablespoon, the calories can add up quickly if you overuse maple syrup.

To visualize the amount of calories in common serving sizes:

Serving Size Calories
1 tablespoon (20g) 52
1/4 cup (85g) 223
1/2 cup (170g) 447
1 cup (340g) 893

As you can see, the calories quickly add up if you use maple syrup generously. Consuming large amounts of maple syrup regularly can easily cause weight gain.

Does Maple Syrup Have Any Benefits for Weight Loss?

Proponents of maple syrup for weight loss typically highlight two potential benefits:

Maple Syrup Has Antioxidants

As mentioned earlier, maple syrup contains beneficial plant compounds like polyphenols. These antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body (9).

Chronic inflammation is linked to obesity, metabolic disease, and difficulties losing weight (10, 11). So in theory, the anti-inflammatory compounds in maple syrup could support weight loss by decreasing systemic inflammation.

However, the amount of antioxidants in maple syrup is fairly low compared to other foods like berries, green tea, and dark chocolate. These foods would provide a much greater dietary source of anti-inflammatory compounds.

Overall, while maple syrup does contain some antioxidants, other foods are far better options for reducing inflammation. Maple syrup alone is unlikely to have a major effect on weight loss through this mechanism.

Maple Syrup Has a Low Glycemic Index

Another claim is that maple syrup is preferable to sugar for weight loss because it has a lower glycemic index.

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food increases blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin (12).

In comparison, foods with a low glycemic index cause a more gradual rise in blood sugar. Low GI foods may help control appetite and delay hunger more effectively compared to high GI foods (13).

Pure maple syrup has a GI of about 54, while table sugar (sucrose) has a GI of 65 (14). So maple syrup has a slightly lower glycemic index compared to regular sugar.

But the difference in their GI scores is fairly minor. Both maple syrup and sugar will cause a rapid rise in blood sugar when consumed in large amounts.

Additionally, foods with a low GI are not necessarily helpful for weight loss. Research on GI and weight loss has been inconsistent, with many studies showing no benefit from choosing low GI foods (15, 16).

Therefore, there is no strong scientific evidence that maple syrup is better for weight loss simply due to its slightly lower glycemic index. For most people, maple syrup and sugar will have very similar effects on body weight.

Should You Use Maple Syrup When Dieting?

The main downside of maple syrup is its high calorie and sugar content. At over 50 calories and 12g of sugar per tablespoon, maple syrup can easily lead to excess calorie intake.

To lose weight, you need to achieve a calorie deficit by reducing your calorie intake, increasing physical activity, or both. Maple syrup is a concentrated source of calories and sugar that can inhibit weight loss efforts.

Maple Syrup Won’t Suppress Appetite

One common concern with liquid sugars like maple syrup is that they are less satiating than whole foods. Solid foods take longer to chew and digest, which promotes fullness (17).

In comparison, maple syrup provides calories in liquid form that you consume quickly. Maple syrup is unlikely to curb your appetite and prevent overeating at meals.

So using maple syrup throughout the day could undermine appetite control and lead to passive overconsumption of calories.

For example, if you drizzle maple syrup on your pancakes in the morning, you’ll likely eat just as much at lunch as if you’d had plain pancakes without the extra syrup calories. The added maple syrup provides no nutrition and just leads to surplus calories.

Maple Syrup Has a High Calorie Density

Calorie density refers to the number of calories in a given weight or volume of food. Foods with a high calorie density typically have a lot of calories packed into a small serving.

Maple syrup is a very calorie-dense food. It contains over 250 calories per half cup, compared to about 50 calories in half a cup of most fruits or vegetables.

Research indicates that consuming more low-calorie-dense foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains can help with healthy weight management (18).

So if you’re trying to reduce your calorie intake, maple syrup is one of the worse choices because of its remarkably high calorie density. Even “just a drizzle” of maple syrup can add a significant amount of excess calories.

Maple Syrup Isn’t as Filling as Whole Carbs

Some people use the claim that maple syrup is “better than sugar” or “better than honey” to justify pouring it generously.

But this logic is flawed – just because a food may have some advantage over table sugar doesn’t make it a smart choice for dieting. Maple syrup is still very high in sugar and calories.

Additionally, maple syrup is lower in fiber and protein than complex carbohydrate foods. Fiber and protein help nourish gut bacteria, slow digestion, and promote satiety (19, 20).

Whole carb sources like oats, quinoa, beans, and sweet potatoes can provide lasting energy. Meanwhile, maple syrup offers empty calories and sugar with no staying power.

So maple syrup is one of the least filling ways to get carbohydrates. Using it regularly makes it more difficult to achieve an energy deficit and lose weight.

Healthier Alternatives to Maple Syrup

Instead of maple syrup, use these healthier alternatives to add sweetness without excess calories:

Fresh Fruit

Enjoy fresh fruit like berries or sliced banana on pancakes and oatmeal instead of syrup. The natural sugars provide sweetness along with fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and water.

Unsweetened Applesauce

Applesauce contains just 50 calories per half cup. It provides sweetness from natural fruit sugars.


Sprinkle cinnamon on oats, toast, or yogurt. Cinnamon provides a sweet, spicy flavor with no added sugar.

Vanilla Extract

Add a few drops of vanilla extract to provide flavor. Vanilla extract has just 8 calories per teaspoon.


Stevia is a zero-calorie natural sweetener extracted from the stevia plant. Use stevia syrup on pancakes and oatmeal for sweetness with no extra calories.

Protein Powder

Add a scoop of vanilla protein powder when making oatmeal or smoothies. This amps up the protein to help keep you full.

The Bottom Line

Maple syrup does contain some beneficial antioxidants. But its high sugar and calorie content outweigh any potential health benefits.

When trying to lose weight, maple syrup provides excess calories without doing much to control your appetite or cravings. It has a relatively high calorie density and low fiber and protein content.

For weight loss, it’s best to minimize or avoid maple syrup. Focus on getting the majority of your calories from whole, minimally processed foods with high nutritional value.

While the occasional drizzle of maple syrup is unlikely to sabotage your diet, regularly using syrup as a sweetener is a habit that can lead to overconsuming sugar and calories.

Instead, try fresh fruit, vanilla, cinnamon, stevia, or unsweetened applesauce to flavor your morning oats and pancakes. Saving maple syrup for a special occasion treat is the smartest approach when watching your weight.

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