Maple water has been touted as the next best thing since coconut water (although even that trendy beverage wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.)The clear liquid, which flows out of maple trees when they’re tapped during the spring thaw and then is usually boiled down into maple syrup, has hit the beverage market in a big way. Almost overnight, several Canadian and American companies have sprung up selling this sweet “sap” as a healthy beverage.Maple water marketers claim the drink is low in calories, all natural, loaded with micro-nutrients, organic compounds and antioxidants and can even help in the treatment of serious diseases, such as diabetes.For example, BetterSweet maple water, which comes from Vermont, is certified organic and hits all of those hot “free” phrases: GMO-free, cholesterol-free, lactose-free and saturated fat-free and trans fat-free. Though having zero fat and cholesterol is no big surprise since that’s the case with most plant-based products. BetterSweet’s maple water also contains vitamins and minerals, including calcium.
Seva maple water from Quebec’s Laurentian Forest claims to help fight diabetes because it contains absicic acid, which has been shown to improve glucose tolerance. The makers also say the beverage boosts immune health and gives vegetable-haters a leg-up, claiming that Seva maple water has an antioxidant capacity comparable to broccoli.Maple, an aptly named American-based company, says it contains 46 nutrients that have potentially anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also full of electrolytes, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan—again, not surprising, since it does come from a tree—and has more manganese than a cup of kale. Maple also claims the drink helps control blood sugar levels.So is maple water really a health beverage? Tina Ruggiero, a nutritionist and author of “The Truly Healthy Family Cookbook,” isn’t convinced. “It’s more hype than help,” she says. “Its makers claim the drink has anti-inflammatory properties and can improve muscle performance, but I haven’t seen a study proving that yet.”Ruggiero suspects that rather than discovering the proverbial “next best thing,” beverage marketers are attempting to create it—for enhanced profits. “The beverage industry in general is struggling,” she points out. “Sales of juice in cartons is down and people are avoiding sodas, but bottled waters are huge money makers. People are jumping on the maple water bandwagon to make more money.”Some of the maple water makers naturally compare the beverage to its most obvious competitor: coconut water. While maple water does have, on average, half the calories and half the sugar of coconut water, making it the more appealing option of the two, maple water isn’t a miracle elixir. And guess what? You can quench your thirst with zero calories and no sugar simply by drinking a tall glass of water.Adds Ruggiero, “Do we really need a new water? Traditional water is free and we’re fortunate to have access to clean water.”The bottom line: Stick with plain water and squeeze in some lemon or lime for a flavor boost.