According to a study from the University of Rhode Island published in 2010, maple syrup contains more than 20 antioxidant compounds with potential anti-cancer, antibacterial and antidiabetic properties. Of these, 13 of were newly discovered in maple syrup while eight were found in the maple tree family for the first time. For instance, maple syrup was found to contain phenolic compounds, which are naturally occurring antioxidants that are also found in olive oil and berries.
Maple syrup is unique in that it is the only commercially available dietary product that comes from a tree’s sap. Maple syrup production is unique to the northeast region of North America. Canada is the biggest producer and the U.S. is the biggest consumer.
Plants typically have strong antioxidant mechanisms because they are exposed to the sun throughout their lives. Maple syrup comes from sap located just inside the bark, which is constantly exposed to the sun. The sugar maple tree is wounded when it is tapped for its sap and likely secretes phenolic compounds as a self-defense mechanism. The sap has low concentrations of these compounds to begin with. However, when it is concentrated by boiling down to make commercial maple syrup, it ends up having higher levels of these beneficial compounds.
It has long been known that maple syrup is rich in minerals and an excellent source of manganese and zinc. Manganese is a trace mineral with a long list of health benefits, including maintaining healthy bones and nerves, making cholesterol necessary for cell health, maintaining normal blood sugar levels, and promoting healthy thyroid function. Zinc is an antioxidant and also has heart protective qualities that can slow progression of atherosclerosis. Both these minerals support immune system function.
In spite of its many health benefits, most consumers don't buy pure maple syrup because of its relatively expensive price tag. Instead they settle for ‘maple-flavored syrup’ or ‘pancake syrup’ which often contains the unhealthy additive high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has been associated with a greater risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
In other words if you choose to put syrup on your pancakes, it is a lot healthier to use real maple syrup. As with any concentrated sweetener, maple syrup should be used sparingly, so it's definitely better to get the best quality pure syrup if possible.