Is sugar free maple syrup actually sugar free?

Maple syrup is a popular pancake topping and natural sweetener that comes from the sap of maple trees. Some companies now offer “sugar free” versions of maple syrup. But is sugar free maple syrup truly free of sugar and a healthier choice?

What is maple syrup?

Maple syrup comes from the sap or “blood” of maple trees, primarily the sugar maple tree. The sap is collected through taps drilled into the tree, which allow the sap to flow out. It takes about 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. The sap is then boiled down to make pure maple syrup.

Maple syrup contains two main sugars – sucrose and fructose. A 1⁄4 cup serving of pure maple syrup contains:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 217
Total fat 0 g
Sodium 9 mg
Potassium 112 mg
Total carbohydrate 54 g
Sugars 44 g

As you can see, pure maple syrup is high in sugar, with 44g per serving. The type of sugar is primarily sucrose, which is a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose.

What is sugar free maple syrup?

Sugar free maple syrup seeks to provide the flavor of maple syrup without the high sugar content. Companies like Walden Farms and Maple Grove Farms offer sugar free syrups.

These products are made by extracting flavor compounds from maple syrup, but not the sugars. Sweeteners like maltitol or sucralose are then added to provide sweetness without sugar.

A 3⁄4 cup serving of Maple Grove Farms sugar free maple syrup contains:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 60
Total fat 0 g
Total carbohydrate 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Sugar alcohols 15 g

As you can see, sugar free syrups contain no sugar. Instead, they use sugar alcohols like maltitol, sorbitol, or xylitol to provide sweetness without absorbing and metabolizing like regular sugar.

Pros of sugar free maple syrup

There are some potential benefits to using sugar free maple syrup instead of regular maple syrup:

  • Lower in calories and carbs – Sugar free maple syrups are lower in calories and contain no sugar or carbs, while regular maple syrup is high in both.
  • Lower glycemic impact – The glycemic index of sugar free syrups is 0, while real maple syrup has a glycemic index of about 54. This may be beneficial for blood sugar control.
  • Doesn’t promote tooth decay – Bacteria in the mouth feed on regular sugars and produce acids that decay teeth. Sugar free sweeteners like xylitol do not break down and can help prevent cavities.
  • Maple flavor without the sugar – You can get the distinctive maple taste with less sugar.

Cons of sugar free maple syrup

However, there are also some downsides to choosing sugar free maple syrup:

  • Artificial sweeteners – Most sugar free syrups contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, or acesulfame potassium. There are mixed opinions on the health effects of these.
  • Sugar alcohols – Sugar alcohols like maltitol can cause digestive upset in some people, especially in large amounts.
  • Less authentic maple flavor – Extracting just the flavor compounds may not fully replicate the complex flavor of maple syrup.
  • Higher cost – Sugar free maple syrup tends to cost significantly more than regular pure maple syrup per ounce.

Is sugar free the same as calorie free?

When looking at sweeteners, it’s important to distinguish between sugar free and calorie free. Just because a syrup is labeled as sugar free doesn’t necessarily mean it’s devoid of calories.

Most sugar free maple syrups replace the sugar with sugar alcohols like maltitol and sorbitol. While sugar alcohols don’t count as sugar or carbs on nutrition labels, they can still contribute calories:

  • Maltitol – 2.1 calories per gram
  • Sorbitol – 2.6 calories per gram
  • Xylitol – 2.4 calories per gram

So in large amounts, sugar alcohols can still result in calorie intake similar to sugar. For example, a cup of maple syrup contains 60g of sugar and 240 calories. A cup of syrup sweetened with maltitol still contains 126 calories.

For true zero calorie sweetness, you need an artificial sweetener like sucralose or aspartame, which are not sugars or sugar alcohols. However, these do not provide the bulk and texture that sugar alcohols do.

Is sugar free maple syrup keto-friendly?

The ketogenic or “keto” diet restricts carb intake to 20-50g daily. The goal is to reach a metabolic state of ketosis for fat burning.

Regular maple syrup is not keto-friendly, since a 1⁄4 cup serving contains about 54g total carbs. However, some consider sugar free maple syrup a good keto sweetener option since it contains no sugar or carbs.

However, this varies depending on the specific sugar alcohol used:

  • Maltitol – Glycemic index of 36 and can spike blood sugar in some people, so many avoid it on keto.
  • Erythritol – Glycemic index of 0 and does not affect ketosis. Most keto-friendly choice.
  • Xylitol – Glycemic index of 13, but uptake and effects on ketosis unclear.

The safest bet for keto is to choose a syrup sweetened mainly with erythritol rather than maltitol. But portion size still matters – overdoing sugar alcohol intake can prevent ketosis.

Is sugar free maple syrup gluten-free?

Most sugar free maple syrups are labeled as gluten-free. Maple syrup does not naturally contain gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye.

The sugar alcohols used in place of sugar, like xylitol and maltitol, are also free of gluten. Companies also typically avoid adding thickening agents with gluten.

However, the FDA does not regulate use of the term “gluten-free” on foods. If you have celiac disease or an intolerance, it’s still best to look for brands that are certified gluten-free to be 100% sure.

Those with celiac disease must avoid any cross-contamination. Some facilities process both gluten and gluten-free foods. So even if a syrup has no gluten ingredients, cross-contact is possible.

Does sugar free maple syrup go bad?

Like regular maple syrup, sugar free maple syrup has a relatively long shelf life. An unopened bottle can last 12-24 months past its “best by” date.

Once opened, sugar free syrup will last 3-6 months when properly stored in the refrigerator. Keep it in a tightly sealed container.

Signs that sugar free maple syrup has gone bad include:

  • Mold growth
  • change in consistency – becoming thick and gummy
  • Strange odor
  • Change in taste – salty, bitter, sour, or “off” flavor
  • Discoloration

If you see any of these changes, it’s best to discard the syrup.


Sugar free maple syrup allows you to enjoy the signature maple flavor without all the sugar. It provides sweetness, but without adding carbohydrates or significantly impacting blood sugar.

Potential benefits include lower calories, improved glycemic control, and avoiding tooth decay compared to regular maple syrup. It can be a good option for low carb or keto diets when you want that sweet maple taste.

However, drawbacks include use of artificial sweeteners, lesser maple flavor, and the laxative effect in some people when overdone. It’s also more expensive than regular maple syrup.

For those monitoring carbs or calories, sugar free maple syrup can be used in moderation as a substitute for regular syrup. But it shouldn’t be thought of as a free food to pour liberally. As with any sweetener, portion control is still important.

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