Molasses 101: Types, Proven Benefits, Uses and More (Science Based)

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Molasses 101: Types, Is It Good for You and More
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Molasses, also called treacle, is a thick dark sweet syrup that is a byproduct of the sugar making process. It is used to sweeten drinks and flavor many foods. Molasses contains many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are good for you. There are different types of molasses with blackstrap molasses being the healthiest and most popular variety.

Molasses is good for you in moderation because it contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and other minerals. The health benefits of molasses have been linked to good bone health, addressing iron deficiencies, and good vascular health. When used as a replacement for sugar, molasses can help with weight management and balance blood glucose levels.

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In this article, you will learn why molasses is good for you when consumed in moderate amount and some precautions you need to consider. You will also find out about the best type of molasses with benefits for your health.

What is Molasses?

Molasses (in some countries called treacle) comes from processes involved in refining sugar. The name molasses comes from the Latin word “mel” which means honey.

Molasses is made from juice that is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets during the sugar making process. The juice is boiled down to create a thick dark syrupy substance called molasses. Molasses contains many of the nutrients from the raw materials that are nonexistent in refined sugar.

Blackstrap molasses is claimed to be the healthiest type of molasses you can buy. Sugar cane is the raw ingredient used to make blackstrap molasses. To make sugar, juice is extracted from sugar cane. Blackstrap molasses is the result of boiling the sugar juice 3 times. This process extracts much of the sugar from the sugar juice and leaves behind a black syrup (blackstrap molasses) that is rich in minerals.

Molasses has many uses, and the lighter, sweeter varieties are often used in baking as a sugar replacement and to enhance the flavor. Dark molasses is not as sweet and has a deeper, richer flavor.

Types of Molasses

Molasses comes in different varieties depending if it’s made from sugar cane or sugar beet. Also, the refining process can greatly influence the color, nutritional content, and sugar content of molasses.

Blackstrap molasses. This is regarded as the healthiest and most nutritious type of molasses. Three rounds of heating sugar cane are required to make blackstrap molasses. It is the thickest, darkest, and most nutrient-rich of all molasses varieties.

Light and dark molasses. Molasses from sugarcane is used as a natural sweetener and comes in light and dark varieties. Molasses from the first boiling is generally sweeter and lighter than sugarcane molasses that has been produced by boiling it twice. Light molasses has a mild sweet taste with darker varieties having a less sweetness and more body to the flavor.

Sugar beet molasses. This is similar to sugarcane molasses but produced from sugar beet. Molasses derived from sugar beet may have less nutritional value than sugarcane molasses. (1)

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Sulfured or unsulfured molasses. Sulfur is sometimes added to molasses to preserve it longer. However, unsulfured molasses is the preferred type to consume as some people may develop allergic reaction to it. Unsulfured molasses is also sweeter and keeps its rich flavor.

Other Types of molasses. These include molasses made from pomegranates, grapes, sorghum, carobs and dates.

Molasses Nutrition Facts

Molasses is generally healthier for you than sugar as it contains many minerals and some vitamins.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a tablespoon of molasses contains 58 calories and 15 grams of sugar. This serving of molasses also contains 15 grams of carbs. Therefore, all of the energy in molasses comes from sugars, most of which is sucrose. (2)

Molasses is also a good source of magnesium, potassium, manganese and vitamin B6. There are also trace amounts of iron, calcium, copper, selenium, and phosphorus. (2)

When comparing regular molasses nutritional value with the blackstrap variety, you can easily see which is superior. Blackstrap molasses has 58 calories per tablespoon, but only 10 grams of sugar which is 5 grams less than regular molasses.  It also has 14 grams of carbs. (3)

Blackstrap molasses also contains significantly higher levels of calcium, iron, copper, manganese, and potassium than regular molasses.

The glycemic load of molasses is 13 for a 1-oz. (28 g) serving whereas blackstrap molasses is 10 for the same serving size.

Molasses vs. Honey

Molasses and honey are both natural sweeteners that have many health benefits.

One tablespoon of molasses (regular or blackstrap) contains similar amount of calories as honey – 58 in molasses and 64 calories in honey.

Regular molasses and blackstrap molasses have less sugar content than honey. A tablespoon of honey has just over 17 grams of sugar whereas the same amount of molasses (blackstrap) has just 10 grams.

One of the differences between molasses and honey is the mineral content.

Molasses has a better nutritional profile than honey due to having more vitamins and minerals. For example, blackstrap molasses is a good source of calcium, iron, and magnesium and honey is lacking in these nutrients.

However honey too is a good sugar substitute that has many benefits which you can find in this article.

Molasses vs. Sugar

Even though molasses is a byproduct of the sugar industry, it is a much healthier alternative to sugar. Refined white sugar contains no nutrients and has been linked to the increase in chronic disease and obesity.

So why choose molasses as a natural sweetener rather than sugar? Studies have shown that many health benefits of molasses come from antioxidants in the syrupy food. A study found that the antioxidant potential of sugarcane molasses could even rival vitamin E. (4)

Other studies have shown that molasses also contains antibacterial properties. (5)

Even though molasses is better for you than sugar, it is good to remember that it still contains a lot of calories. When enjoyed in moderation, molasses can be a sweet source of certain minerals and vitamins.

Other sugar substitutes you may consider are stevia and maple syrup.

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Molasses and Diabetes

You may be able to enjoy minimal amounts of dark or blackstrap molasses if you have diabetes.

It’s important to remember that molasses does contain a high number of carbs, mostly from sugars, and doesn’t contain any fiber. Therefore, molasses isn’t as nutritious as other complete foods such as fruits, vegetables and complex carbs which release energy slower.

Molasses Benefits

Let’s look in more detail at the many benefits of including moderate amounts of molasses syrup in your diet.

Molasses is Rich in Antioxidants

Molasses benefits your health because it is a rich source of healthy antioxidants.

The Journal of Food Science reported that antioxidants in molasses can help protect against free radical damage. The researchers described molasses as a free radical scavenger with significant antioxidant activity. (6)

Some studies have shown that sugar beet molasses is a functional food that increases antioxidant levels in the body. In some lab trials, extracts from molasses also showed anticancer activity. (7)

Find out more about the role antioxidants play in helping to prevent chronic diseases and boosting your immune system naturally.

Molasses Promotes Healthy Bones

Molasses is a good source of minerals that are important for good bone health.

Studies into the nutritional sources of calcium cite molasses as a good source of this important mineral for your bones. (8)

A 1-tablespoon serving of blackstrap molasses contains 100 mg of calcium which counts towards 10% of your daily calcium needs. You also get minerals such as potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron – all of which are important for bone health. (3, 10)

Learn about other foods that are good for keeping bones strong and how to get calcium in your diet from plant sources.

Molasses is Good for Managing Blood Glucose Levels

Using molasses in moderate amounts as a natural sweetener can help prevent blood glucose spikes after eating in healthy people.

Molasses has a lower glycemic index than sugar and slows down glucose metabolism. Researchers found  in 2016 that consuming breakfast with sugarcane molasses helped stabilize blood glucose levels in healthy people. This also had a positive impact on insulin production. (11)

Consuming moderate amounts of molasses instead of sugar may also help in preventing diabetes from developing. If however you have diabetes, you may find natural stevia leaf to be more suitable sugar substitute for you.

Molasses can Help Treat Iron Deficiency Anemia

Taking molasses could be beneficial if you suffer from anemia due to a lack of iron.

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A tablespoon of blackstrap molasses contains 3.6 mg of iron which is nearly 40% of the daily recommended iron requirement for adult men and 17% for adult women. (3, 12)

Sugarcane molasses is good for anemic conditions because it helps iron absorption from other foods. Research published in 2017 found that sugarcane molasses is a beneficial supplement for iron deficiency anemia. Apart from being a source of iron, molasses helps the body get more iron from food. (13)

The researchers concluded that molasses can be a tasty way to address iron deficiency anemia problems.

Another study found that grape molasses is a good source of dietary iron that may help prevent anemia. (14)

Apart from taking a spoon of blackstrap molasses daily to boost iron levels, find out what other foods contain iron. In certain cases, you may need an iron supplement to address anemia complications.

Pomegranate Molasses May Help Manage Weight

Switching to molasses as a natural sweetener and cutting out unhealthy sugar can help lower body weight.

One study involving mice found that the rich antioxidant content in pomegranate molasses promotes weight loss. Scientists found that pomegranate molasses helped limit the absorption of calories which resulted in a reduction of body weight. (15)

It is good to remember that molasses is a calorie-dense food and increasing your consumption of it may not help lose weight. However, consuming molasses in moderation may help you manage weight-related health issues.

To help speed up weight loss, you could try these proven ways to lose belly fat. You may also find that walking more every day will help you get rid of excess body weight.

Molasses May Improve Male Sexual Health

Molasses has many health benefits when it comes to increasing testosterone levels in men.

Blackstrap molasses contains many minerals that benefit sexual health in general. However, some studies involving mice have shown that taking molasses can benefit the male reproductive system. Scientists noted increased levels of testosterone in mice after long-term supplementation of molasses. (16)

Molasses Helps Wounds Heal Better

Molasses promotes healthy wound healing because of its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Molasses is similar to honey in its ability to speed up the healing of wounds. One study found that applying molasses to wounds helped to reduce bacterial infections and also inhibit inflammatory markers. (17)

Although molasses has been shown to help heal wounds, honey is usually the recommended wound-healing treatment. Although both substances contain antimicrobial properties, honey is more acidic than molasses and speeds up healing time. (18)

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Learn more about effective natural ways to treat wounds and how to use honey dressings to care properly for wounds.

Molasses May Benefit Heart Health

Molasses may be good for your cardiovascular health because it is a sweet source of nutrients and antioxidants.

Switching to molasses from refined sugar can benefit your heart health. Researchers have found that lowering your intake of sugar is an important way to lower your risk of coronary heart disease. (19)

Of course, taking too much molasses can also be bad for your heart as it has a lot of sugar. However, dark molasses and blackstrap molasses are packed full of antioxidants. Scientists have proven that molasses is an alternative to sugar that helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. (20)

Studies involving rats have found that supplementing your diet with molasses could help increase levels of “good” cholesterol. (21)

Consuming molasses also helps to get your daily amounts of potassium. Researchers have found that adequate potassium intake helps lower your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. (22)

Find out which other foods like molasses can help keep you healthy as part of a cardiac diet to promote good heart health.

Molasses May Help Relieve Anxiety and Stress

Consuming molasses in moderate amounts may help boost your mood and general emotional well-being.

Researchers have found that cane molasses helps to increase levels of tryptophan. This is an important amino acid that helps reduce anxiety, depression, nervous tension, and promotes good sleep. Tryptophan is needed for the brain to produce serotonin which is closely connected to good cognitive health. (23, 24)

Molasses is also a good source of magnesium which helps to relax nerves and benefit the central nervous system. (25)

Of course, there is no evidence that taking a spoon of molasses helps to calm your nerves. However, molasses is a healthy food with many health benefits that can be part of a well-balanced diet.

Learn more about the best natural supplements, vitamins and herbs that can help to relieve stress, tension, and anxiety. You may also benefit from using essential oils if you are under emotional or psychological stress.

Molasses Has Anticancer Properties

Black molasses is an important source of antioxidants and other nutrients that help protect against cancer.

The Journal of Carcinogenesis reports that blackstrap molasses contains concentrated forms of nutrients that have anticancer effects. Blackstrap molasses has good levels of potassium, magnesium, zinc, and selenium as well as many amino acids with anti-tumor properties. (26)

Of course, more research has to be done into the benefits of consuming molasses to prevent cancer.

Learn about more foods to include in the anti-cancer diet that may help to boost your body’s defenses against this disease.

How to Use Dark Molasses

Dark molasses and blackstrap molasses have deep rich flavors that are not too sweet. Here are some ways that you can use any type of molasses in your diet instead of sugar:

Baking. Molasses is usually found in gingerbread and some ginger cookies. You could also try adding some light or dark molasses to home-baked loaves or muffins. Molasses also seems to go well in pumpkin pie or apple pie.

Marinades and dressings. Use some molasses to give extra flavor, sweetness, and color to marinades, vinaigrettes, or salad dressings.

Smoothies. You could try adding a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses to your favorite smoothie to add nutrition and rich flavor.

A natural sweetener. Drizzle some dark molasses over oatmeal, granola, or mix with natural yogurt to increase the mineral content of your breakfasts. You could also try adding a spoon of blackstrap molasses in your morning coffee.

Precautions and Side Effects When Consuming Molasses

When consumed in moderate amount, molasses is considered safe for most people. However, avoid excess intake of molasses as it still contains a high number of carbs, mostly from sugars.

If you have diabetes you may be able to enjoy minimal amounts of dark or blackstrap molasses as part of an overall healthy diet, taking into consideration your total carbohydrate consumption.

Additionally, consuming large amount of molasses can have laxative effect. (27)

When consuming sulfured molasses, some people may develop allergic reactions due to the sulfite found in sulfured molasses. Symptoms may include hives, itchiness, upset stomach, as well as aggravating asthma attacks. (28)

Where to Buy Molasses

When looking for the best molasses to buy for its health benefits, you should look for unsulfured blackstrap molasses. This type of molasses has the lowest sugar content and the highest mineral levels. Also, unsulfured molasses tastes better and sweeter than the type with sulfur added.

Many health stores stock blackstrap molasses as well as dark sugarcane molasses. You can also find good types of molasses online.

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