Is there such a thing as a healthy sweetener? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Is there such a thing as a healthy sweetener?

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It's sweet and it's flavor says Vermont. And some researchers say maple syrup could pack some health benefits, from antioxidants to the mineral manganese.

The Washington Post touted grade B maple syrup and blackstrap molasses as "sweeteners with health benefits" this week. Blackstrap molasses has iron, calcium and magnesium.

"Sugar is still sugar," said Cathy McIsaac, a clinical nutrition manager at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. "Just because you're getting a little extra magnesium or manganese does not mean you can freely drink out of the gallon of maple syrup and become healthier."

She says it's because of the calories. Two tablespoons of maple syrup is 75 calories-- less than two tablespoons of refined white sugar, which is 92 calories.

"If you're pouring out of a pitcher on your pancakes, you could probably easily pour twice this," McIssac said. "It adds up quickly."

Vermont has one of the lowest obesity rates in the nation, at 24 percent. But health experts say even that's too much. And added sugars, even sweeteners with some nutrients, carry too many calories to consume without caution.

She says watch your intake of all sugars, but if you are using sweeteners, she suggests using the less refined molasses and syrup. She says an added benefit-- their strong flavors may allow you to use less, cutting calories.

"Is it a great way to use your local grade B syrup-- sure!" McIssac said. "Versus some white sugar, I think that would be fine."

McIsaac says the key is moderation and that a healthy sweet treat is fruit, which packs far more nutrients and fiber per calorie.

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