Sometimes, you just don't want to take your coffee black. Heck, maybe you never want to take your coffee black. And so, you might sweeten things up with sugar and add a splash of cream. In general, it's not a habit you necessarily need to shake.
"I prefer that people avoid added sugar in their coffee, but I also understand that some people don't care for the taste of unsweetened coffee. And if you aren't enjoying your food or drink, then it makes your days less enjoyable," Lauren Manaker, RDN, a registered dietitian in Charleston, South Carolina tells LIVESTRONG.com.
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So if you've only used white sugar, maybe consider maple syrup next time. And we're talking 100 percent maple syrup — not a squeeze bottle of pancake syrup, which is typically made with corn syrup and flavorings. Pure maple syrup will contain one ingredient — surprise! — maple syrup.
Here's why you might want to swap it with sugar in your coffee if you already sweeten your coffee.
The Potential Benefits of Maple Syrup in Coffee
Maple Syrup Offers Some Nutrients
Maple syrup is a solid choice as a sweetener because it contains some micronutrients (such as calcium, magnesium and potassium) as well as antioxidants, "making it a slightly better choice than table sugar," says Manaker.
Still, even though you may be getting a bit more nutrition with maple syrup, it helps to keep things in perspective: You're not dumping a ton of maple syrup into your coffee (right?), and so you won't get a ton of minerals or antioxidants from a single teaspoon.
The other foods you're eating for breakfast, like whole-grain toast, eggs, fruit or yogurt, will supply far more of these nutrients and should be the foods you rely on for your vitamins and minerals.
Maple Syrup Contains Antioxidants
When you think about it, it's not a huge surprise that maple syrup may pack some antioxidants, considering the syrup is made from the sap of a sugar maple tree. (Basically, it's a vegetable. Kidding. It's not.) But it does have those health-promoting antioxidants.
Manaker points to a July 2011 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that shows Canadian maple syrup contains more than 67 different polyphenols, which are plant compounds with antioxidant properties.
Maple Syrup Is Lower on the Glycemic Index Than Table Sugar
In addition, maple syrup has a lower glycemic index compared to refined white sugar, adds Bianca Tamburello, RDN, a registered dietitian with Fresh Communications in New York City. That means that refined table sugar will spike your blood sugar higher and faster compared to maple syrup.
But there's a catch: Because maple syrup is still sugar, you will still experience a rise in your blood glucose when consuming it, Tamburello says. How high your blood sugar rises also depends if you're drinking coffee with food and what types of foods you're eating, Tamburello says.
How Much Maple Syrup Can You Add to Your Coffee?
Maple syrup is sugar. That's true even if it is less refined than white table sugar. The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day, depending on your daily caloric intake and activity levels.
It's important that any sugar you add to your coffee aligns with your sugar limits for the rest of the day. "Even though maple syrup may be slightly more nutritious than table sugar, it still 'counts' as added sugar," says Manaker.
Problem is that it's easy to add a lot of sugar to balance out coffee's natural bitterness. And sweetened coffee or coffee drinks (think: lattes and frappes) at coffee shops are notorious for adding a lot of sugar.
"Leaning on super-sugary coffee drinks first thing in the morning can leave people feeling sluggish later in the day," she explains. That's due to a blood sugar spike from the sugar, followed by an energy-sapping crash. This can happen regardless of the sugar you choose to eat.
Also, maple syrup has a different taste compared to table sugar and it's also a liquid rather than a crystallized granulated (table) sugar, and so maple syrup tends to blend really well in drinks. That may also help you use a little bit less sugar than you otherwise would.
If you prefer the taste, then go for maple syrup, but if you're not into it, absolutely do not pressure yourself to include maple syrup in coffee. More important is the amount of sugar you're eating throughout the day, says Tamburello.
"Coffee with a little bit of sugar can be OK, especially if you are eating a balanced breakfast with your coffee that contains protein and healthy fats, and your overall diet is low in added sugar," says Manaker.
"If you must have your coffee on the sweeter side, using maple syrup instead of regular sugar may give your body a small boost of nutrients to help you start your day out on the right foot," she says.
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Further investigation into maple syrup yields 3 new lignans, a new phenylpropanoid, and 26 other phytochemicals.”
- Journal of Functional Foods: “Quebecol, a novel phenolic compound isolated from Canadian maple syrup”
- Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters: “Anti-inflammatory properties of quebecol and its derivatives”
- Diabetes Care: "Food Order Has a Significant Impact on Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Levels"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars."