Nutrition: Maple Sap and the Promise of Spring, by Julie Daniluk

Editor’s note: We felt this article was ideal for this month’s issue as the flow of maple sap (or other tree saps) is a perfect expression of getting unstuck: starch stored in the tree’s roots for the winter flows upwards with the first thaws of spring.

There is nothing that tastes quite like the promise of spring than sap straight from a tapped maple tree. The cool, refreshing and slightly sweet taste can cleanse the palate and awaken the mind from months of hibernation. Filled with minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc, this low calorie beverage can provide energy without spiking your blood sugar.

The First Nations people harvested maple sap for thousands of years before the settlers landed in North America. It was one of the first tastes of fresh food after the long winter period. Though used primarily as the liquid in cooking, a certain amount of the sap was reduced down to maple sugar through a unique evaporation process. The maple sap was left to freeze overnight and the icy layer of water was removed in the morning. This concentrated sap was then poured into a long wooden trench that was carved from a tree trunk. Hot stones were repeatedly placed into the trench to heat the sap and evaporate the water. What was left from this labor intensive process was a maple sugar that was high in magnesium, zinc and oligosaccharides.

In modern times you may have heard the word oligosaccharides in relation to probiotics. This compound sugar is used for growing lactobacilli in nondairy probiotic formulas. Maple sap is a good source of oligosaccharides and can be used to feed the good bacteria in our gut that help digest our food and strengthen our immune system.

For those of you who can’t get out to tap a maple tree of your own, there’s an exciting new company that can bring you the benefits of maple sap in a bottle. Kiki Sweet Water is a Canadian company that produces non-pasteurized maple sap drinks in a variety of flavours.

The 100% Canadian Maple Sap Smoothie:
All three ingredients are available from Canadian sources. Put them into a food processor and blend until smooth.

300 mL    KiKi Maple Sweetwater
300 mL    Frozen Blueberries
200 mL    Hulled Hemp Seeds

This simple smoothie is an excellent source for the following nutrients:

Maple Sap: Magnesium, Zinc and Oligosaccharides
Blueberries: Vitamin C, Manganese, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin E and the flavonoid kaempferol which helps prevent cancer
Hemp Seeds: Omega-6 Fatty Acid, Potassium, Protein, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Manganese

Julie Daniluk, RHN, hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that highlights the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition by using unique groups such as bikers, dragon boat racers and ballroom dancers to challenge their taste buds with nutritious foods. Julie is excited that her show was chosen to be part of OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network). Similar to Oprah’s book club, programs on OWN explore stories of strength and transformation. Television viewers also recognize Julie from her “busted” segments on The Right Fit (W Network) and The Marilyn Dennis Show (CTV) where she examines the foods people need to stay healthy, acting as a nutrition encyclopedia. Her fun and engaging style comes in handy when she creates a recipe a week that is packed with health tips for Her new book Meals That Heal Inflammation is available in stores now.