Sweet foods can be delicious, but having too much refined sugar can lead to serious long-term health issues. Fortunately, there are a variety of sweetening alternatives that contain important nutrients that conventional sugar lacks.
Blackstrap molasses, in particular, offers several health benefits alongside its rich, complex flavor.
Molasses took Europe by storm following the conquest of the West Indies. For centuries, it was the most popular form of sweetener, in part because it was far more affordable than refined sugar. This changed in the early 1900s, when the price of white sugar dropped. Today, molasses is most commonly used in cookies or for pancake syrup.
The process of boiling molasses produces three kinds, each with varying amounts of sugar and nutrients. As the most concentrated form, blackstrap molasses is created during the third boiling. Thicker and darker than other types of molasses, it has a slightly bitter flavor.
In addition to categorizing based on boiling time, molasses may be classified as sulfured or unsulfured. Unsulfured molasses comes from fully mature sugarcane in which the cane juice is already concentrated.
The sugarcane used in sulfured molasses does not have as much time to mature and may require the addition of sulfur dioxide as a preservative, which can impact people with allergies to some preservatives.
Most varieties of blackstrap molasses are created by boiling sugarcane or beets. However, other foods can be used to create a similar product. Pure sorghum, for example, is sometimes referred to as sorghum molasses and is often confused with blackstrap molasses.
Many people use blackstrap molasses in place of refined sugars for health reasons. They're lower on the glycemic index than conventional sweeteners, which means they won't spike your blood sugar as much.
This makes blackstrap molasses a great alternative for people working to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
A tablespoon of blackstrap molasses has:
- 60 Calories: 60
- 1 gram of protein
- 0 grams of fat
- 14 grams of carbohydrates
- Less than 1 gram of fiber
- 10 grams of sugar
Blackstrap molasses are also a significant source of:
Potential Health Benefits of Blackstrap Molasses
Enjoyed in moderation, blackstrap molasses can add a hint of sweetness to many foods, along with several important vitamins and minerals.
Other health benefits of blackstrap molasses include the following:
It can help prevent anemia . One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses contains 20% of the iron you need each day.
Anemia — a condition that results in a lack of healthy red blood cells — is often caused by iron deficiency. If left untreated, this type of anemia can lead to extreme fatigue, weakness, or shortness of breath.
It can make osteoporosis less likely. A single tablespoon of blackstrap molasses contains 10% of the calcium you need each day. Adults with higher levels of calcium tend to have better bone density and are less likely to develop osteoporosis.
It can help your digestion. Blackstrap molasses have long been used as a folk cure for constipation and other digestive issues. Recent research verifies its ability to address constipation in children.
Potential Risks of Blackstrap Molasses
Although lower in sugar and higher in nutrients than some sweeteners, blackstrap molasses can still raise your blood sugar.
It should be used in moderation, especially for people with diabetes.
If you're concerned about your blood sugar, an alternative to blackstrap molasses is Stevia. It comes from a plant and you can get it in packets, or drops. Experts say it's preferable to real sugar for people with diabetes or prediabetes.
Fruit, whether fresh or frozen, is also a very healthy sweetener. You can use things like fresh berries and melons, as well as applesauce and bananas.