Comparison of maple syrup and date syrup and which is best for nutrition and digestion based on chemical structure and mineral composition.
When it comes to healthy whole sweeteners, I receive a lot of questions on the difference between maple syrup and date syrup.
I use both of these sweeteners in a number of traditional dessert recipes on this site, so which do I choose and why in a given situation?
Let me go over my thought process to give you some idea of which syrup to use for the best results and optimal digestion!
When it comes to nutrition, hands-down, date syrup is the winner.
As you can see from the chart below, date syrup contains far more minerals per serving than maple syrup. (1)
This is not to say that maple syrup is “bad”. I love maple syrup and use it often for my baking needs.
However, comparing strictly from a nutritional perspective, date syrup is the better choice if mineral content is your primary concern.
High ORAC Value
In addition to vitamins and minerals, you can see from the chart above that date syrup has an exceptionally high ORAC value compared to maple syrup.
What is ORAC?
This acronym stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which measures the antioxidant capacity in a given food. (2)
Higher ORAC values have been shown to contribute to a decreased risk for diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
When it comes to digestibility, I frequently choose date syrup over maple syrup.
The reason is because date syrup is a 100% fruit sweetener. This means that date syrup has the simplest molecular structure as a monosaccharide.
By comparison, maple syrup is a disaccharide sweetener.
While this type of molecule is fine for those with strong digestion, it is not for those with autoimmune issues. Note that unrefined cane sugar (sucanat) and coconut sugar/syrup are also disaccharides.
Given that my husband is on the regular GAPS diet (and has been for a number of years), I choose date syrup so that he can enjoy the occasional sweets I make for our family too!
There is some good research that suggests that date syrup possesses antibacterial properties similar to that of raw honey.
The results revealed that date syrup inhibited the growth of a mixture of disease-causing bacteria.
This includes Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. (3)
By comparison, maple syrup does not offer this type of anti-bacterial action.
Syrup Adulteration Dangers
Both date syrup and maple syrup are expensive sweeteners.
This has resulted in syrup adulteration by some manufacturers to improve profits. These brands largely are distributed within the industrialized food system.
Raw honey has been plagued by this same problem for years. It is frequently watered down with corn syrup.
When it comes to maple syrup, some brands are watered down with cane syrup.
Similarly, date syrup brands can be watered down with cheaper sweeteners as well.
The adulteration issue is particularly concerning for date syrup because if someone on the GAPS diet consumes a brand that is watered down with a disaccharide sweetener like cane syrup, a relapse of symptoms can occur.
Thus, check the brand you choose for both of these sweeteners wisely to ensure it is 100% authentic and pure.
As always, buying direct from the producer of the syrup is a good strategy to avoid this problem!
Which to Choose?
In my home, I use both maple syrup and date syrup. Both are delicious, whole food-based, and traditional.
However, I use date syrup often when family members or friends with autoimmune digestive disorders will be consuming my dishes.
This is because date syrup is easier to digest than maple syrup due to its simpler monosaccharide molecular structure.
Date syrup is also higher in mineral content and offers some anti-bacterial properties that maple syrup does not.
At the end of the day, whichever syrup you choose, it is important to source only 100% pure and authentic brands!
Both of these healthy sweeteners suffer from profit-driven adulteration problems within the industrialized food system.
(1) What are the Healthiest Sweeteners?
(2) USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods
(3) Antibacterial Compounds in Date Syrup