Before answering the question, let’s first get to know what veganism means.
Veganism is about reducing harm to animals as much as humanely possible. So, veganism, or being vegan is a lifestyle where a person does not consume any products made from animals or animal derivatives.
Veganism has been rising in popularity and since vegans are constantly looking for alternatives, maple syrup happens to be a great substitute for honey, which is generally not considered vegan.
Maple syrup is generally obtained and made from the xylem fluid of black maple, red maple, or sugar maple trees. All the maple syrup is produced in Canada and the United States.
So, is maple syrup vegan? Maple syrup is a vegan syrup that while sugary, it’s still quite rich in B vitamins and minerals such as calcium and iron. Given that is extracted from maple trees, and no animal needs to die during such a process, maple syrup is 100% vegan.
What is Maple Syrup?
Maple syrup is a concentrated sugary liquid that might vary in taste and color but has a very similar consistency to honey and it also has a very distinct flavor and aroma that is quickly recognizable and appealing to many.
It is made from the xylem sap of different maple tree species but the most common kinds are red maple, sugar maple, and black maple.
Oftentimes, the problem with certain byproducts is that they’re extracted/produced in a way that isn’t vegan-friendly or might involve the use of animal products.
Well, maple syrup’s extraction process doesn’t seem to put animals in danger it works in the following way.
The light energy absorbed by the leaves of the maple trees during summer is converted into glucose through photosynthesis. Just before the winter season, the maple trees send the glucose down to the trunk and roots via their branches in the canopy.
The roots save them from the end of the autumn season to the beginning of the spring season as the trees shed their leaves during autumn which leaves them unable to perform photosynthesis. So, there is no glucose production during this time of the year for which the trees need to store glucose for its maintenance and growth (for example, repairing and controlling damage caused by a parasite attack or breakage of a branch in a storm).
The stored energy allows them to grow leaves in the spring season. During the spring season, the maple trees begin to transport the sap up towards the tree’s branches. It is during this time some of the sap is tapped (siphoned off) to make maple syrup.
Maple tapping is a process where holes are made in the maple tree trunks and the leaking sap is collected and later concentrated by heating (evaporating the water content or moisture in the sap). A mature maple tree can produce twenty liters to sixty liters of xylem sap in one season and this amount will keep on varying according to the age and size of a maple tree and also the weather conditions.
How Is Maple Syrup Made After Sap Extraction?
The sap that is collected from the maple tree is colorless. The final maple syrup that is produced contains twenty to fifty times less volume than the originally collected sap’s volume.
The extracted sap is boiled so that the excess moisture or water content gets evaporated to obtain the desired sugar content and syrup concentration. The syrup is then classified or graded according to its strength and color (Canada’s maple syrup is slightly different from that of the United States).
What Should Pure Maple Syrup Look Like?
The Canadian government has maple syrup regulations that state a list of conditions that have to be met to classify the maple syrup as a Grade-A syrup.
Maple syrup should be made exclusively through maple sap concentration or by diluting any maple product in potable water, other than the sap. Thus, in Canada, if any added ingredients are introduced to the maple syrup, they do not consider it maple syrup any longer and it cannot be mentioned or described as maple syrup on the packaging.
Grade-A maple syrup has 4 subcategories separated by quality and purity but they can slightly differ in flavor and color according to the tapping season. The subcategories are;
- Delicate taste with golden color
- Rich taste with amber color
- Robust taste with dark color
- Strong taste with extreme dark color
The early maple tapping season produces milder and light-colored syrup whereas in the late maple tapping season the color turns darker and the taste is stronger.
Can Anything Make Maple Syrup Non-Vegan?
There is a process where the maple syrup is de-foamed and there are reports that some of the producers of maple syrup use fat obtained from an animal in this process.
If your bottle of maple syrup contains a label warning stating that it contains traces of milk then beware, your bottle of maple syrup might not be vegan. It means that some kind of dairy-based product might be used in the de-foaming process.
If your bottle of maple syrup contains added sugar in it then the maple syrup might not be vegan as well. Many sugar suppliers use crushed, burned animal bones (bone char) to refine sugar and give it a more white, pristine appearance. Therefore, it’s always better if you go with pure maple syrup.
Is Maple Syrup Good For Your Health?
Maple syrup is not as bad as other sweet alternatives, particularly because it has nutritional value, which means that compared to other sweeteners, maple syrup contains micronutrients.
Yes, it’s still sugar and you should only consume it in moderation, but it has vitamins such as B2, B5, B6, niacin, biotin, and folic acid, as well as minerals such as calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. You’re also able to find trace amounts of amino acids— the building blocks of protein.
Compared to honey, maple syrup has fewer calories. Honey contains 330 kcal per 100 grams whilst maple syrup contains 250 kcal per100 grams. Maple syrup also has a lower GI (glycemic index) than honey. So, if you want an alternative to honey, maple syrup is an option you should consider.
At least you can rejoice as no bees were harmed in the production of maple syrup.
To sum everything up, maple syrup is a great and healthy vegan alternative to honey.
Also, always be careful of brands that claim to be selling pure maple syrup, as it’s common for different additives to be added, particularly outside Canada.
In Canada, they have legal regulatory bodies that verify the purity standards of their maple syrup, which means that it’s way more likely for the maple syrup to be solely made from the maple tree’s sap.
As a vegan, it’s better to have maple syrup that is solely derived from sap, rather than finding out that it contains refined sugar, which just means it’s a lower quality product sans the nutritional benefits.