Pancakes are a breakfast favorite, but adding the traditional topping of maple syrup can add a lot of sugar that might not be in line with your health goals. The good news is that pure maple syrup is a natural, healthy pancake syrup in some ways, but if you want to cut down on the added sugar, you might have to get a little more creative.
Melted peanut butter, keto-friendly syrup alternatives and cinnamon butter can all step in as a healthy substitute for syrup. If you're not concerned about the added sugar but want a healthy syrup alternative for a different reason, honey is another suitable choice.
Choose Healthy Pancake Syrup
There's a big difference between commercial pancake syrup and pure maple syrup. A lot of the pancake syrup found on the store shelves is a mixture of high-fructose corn syrup, water and artificial colors and flavors that give it a maple taste, but are far from natural.
On the other hand, pure maple syrup is a healthy maple syrup that comes directly from the sap of maple trees. Although drizzling pure maple syrup on your pancakes will add sugar, it also comes with some pretty powerful health benefits, unlike white sugar.
According to an October 2016 report in Trends in Food Science and Technology, even though pure maple syrup contributes calories and added sugar to your pancakes, it has a lower glycemic index than refined white sugar, so it doesn't affect your blood sugar as significantly. The report also notes that natural sweeteners like pure maple syrup also contain nutrients and plant compounds, like phenols, that have their own health benefits.
A September 2016 report in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis chimes in, describing pure maple syrup as one of the most desirable natural sweeteners for human consumption. That's because, according to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, maple syrup is rich in:
- Folic acid
- Vitamins B2, B5 and B6
- Amino acids
So, if you're looking for a healthy maple syrup instead of a processed version, check your store shelves for one that's 100 percent pure. Better yet, support your local farmers and buy some that's collected locally, if you can.
Opt for Honey
Another natural, healthy syrup alternative is honey. But like maple syrup, there's processed honey, which is made from artificial syrups, and real honey that comes from honey bees. If you're looking to replace your maple syrup with something that's healthy and natural, you'll need to read your labels and choose pure honey.
Like maple syrup, honey doesn't just add a touch of sweetness to your pancakes, it also has some health benefits, too. According to a report that was published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity in July 2017, natural honey contains enzymes that help you digest other sugars and starches more easily, and minerals, phytochemicals and flavonoids that improve digestion in general.
Real honey also has bactericidal properties that can help fight off potentially disease-causing bacteria, like Salmonella, E.__coli and Shigella, and can prevent infection.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Sweeteners
Go for Low-Carb Options
If you're looking for a healthy substitute for syrup that doesn't contribute any added sugar and fits into a low-carb or keto diet plan, you'll have to skip the pure maple syrup and honey, but you can opt for some melted nut butter instead.
Two tablespoons of melted peanut butter only adds 1 gram of sugar to your pancakes but will give you 8 grams of protein and 16 grams of healthy fats. If you don't eat peanut butter, you can opt for almond butter, which has an identical macronutrient profile, instead. After you add the melted nut butter, you can sprinkle some cinnamon on top for a little extra flavor boost.
- Trends in Food Science and Technology: "The Role of Sugars and Sweeteners in Food, Diet and Health: Alternatives for the Future"
- Journal of Food Composition and Analysis: "Comparative Analysis of Maple Syrups and Natural Sweeteners: Carbohydrates Composition and Classification (Differentiation) by Hpaec-Pad and Ftir Spectroscopy-Chemometrics"
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: "Maple Syrup"
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: "Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Creamy Natural Almond Butter"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Natural Creamy Peanut Butter"