Maple syrup and white sugar are both forms of sugar, but they have slightly different nutritional profiles. Maple syrup is a form of tree sap, which can be harvested from the maple tree during the cold months of the year. Northern U.S. states produce maple syrup for domestic consumption and export. White sugar is typically derived from sugar cane, and it is processed and purified before being sold.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrient database reports that maple syrup contains 260 calories in every 100 g . In a 20 g tablespoon of pure maple syrup, there are roughly 52 calories. White granulated sugar has a higher calorie content by weight than maple syrup, with 387 calories contained in every 100 g.
Pure maple syrup is typically unprocessed, but white sugar is typically highly processed in order to remove impurities. Some trace minerals remain in white sugar, however, according to an article in the October 2002 issue of the journal “Food Additives and Contaminants.” This article reports that white sugar processed in European factories was found to contain zinc, copper and iron as trace elements. USDA data indicate that selenium and manganese are also typically present in very small quantities in white granulated sugar. Because maple syrup is not processed, it contains higher levels of potentially beneficial minerals, including calcium, potassium, sodium and copper.
A report in the January 2009 issue of the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association states that maple syrup has a higher antioxidant content than processed pure sugar. Antioxidants are believed to be helpful in preventing health conditions that are based upon oxidative damage to the body — examples of such conditions include cardiovascular disease, cancer and degenerative disorders. Plant saps and syrups such as maple syrup were found to be preferable to processed sugar in terms of antioxidant content, so maple syrup would be a better food choice than white sugar if you want to increase your antioxidant intake.
Both white sugar and maple syrup are virtually fat free, but both forms of sugar are simple carbohydrates. According to Medline Plus, complex carbohydrates are generally believed to be more beneficial to health than simpler forms. Additionally, both white sugar and maple syrup can contribute to dental problems and tooth decay. In order to reduce the risk of dental problems, limit your consumption of maple syrup or sugar, and brush your teeth regularly.
According to the guidelines established by the USDA, both maple syrup and white sugar are categorized as foods of minimal nutritional value. Minimum nutritional values for all foods were prescribed by the USDA as guidelines for food in public schools, and in order to meet these minimum requirements a food must contain a certain amount of protein and certain vitamins and minerals. Maple syrup and white sugar do not contain enough protein per serving to qualify as foods of above-minimum nutritional value. In essence, this means that the overall nutritional profile of either food is not worth the calories it adds to your diet. Maple syrup or white sugar should be used sparingly.