You probably think of molasses as that black goopy stuff that sits in the back of the cabinet, or the stuff in those yummy molasses cookies your grandma used to make. If you have some molasses sitting in your cabinet, it may be time to dig it out and start using it again. Molasses, especially ‘blackstrap’ molasses, has some very good health benefits.
Where does this stuff that looks like motor oil come from? Blackstrap molasses comes from the sugar-making process. When sugar cane is mashed and boiled, cane syrup is created. A second boiling crystallizes the sugar and yields molasses, and a third boiling leaves blackstrap molasses.
Since most of the actual sugar is removed from this viscous liquid, the remaining syrupy mixture is somewhat bittersweet. But, unlike sugar, which has no nutrients, molasses contains some pretty powerful vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which help to improve bone health, boost skin and hair health, combat anemia, improve brain health and alleviate PMS.
Blackstrap molasses contains loads of vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, and selenium. It also has a reasonable glycemic load of 55, making it a better choice for adding some sweetness to foods or drinks, especially for diabetics.
Molasses has been used as one of those ‘cure-all’ elixirs over the years for problems like constipation, anemia and even tummy problems.
As I often mention, nutrients are always better absorbed from whole food sources, because they exist in the perfect balance, along with the various co-nutrients and phytochemicals that come along with them. Blackstrap molasses could really be classified as a whole food supplement.
However, blackstrap molasses should only be consumed in small amounts, since it is still considered a type of ‘sugar’ and ranks fairly high on the glycemic index. Here is a listing of where blackstrap molasses runs with other natural sweeteners:
• White sugar: 64
• Blackstrap molasses: 55
• Maple syrup: 54
• Raw honey: 30
Blackstrap molasses has long been considered as a great source of plant-based iron. Blackstrap molasses is especially useful for menstruating women, as women lose small amounts of iron through their regular menstrual cycle, and many women can become slightly anemic.
Iron actually also works to improve your mood as well. Brain chemicals rely on a balance of hormones — including serotonin, dopamine and other vital hormones — that cannot properly be synthesized in the brain when oxygen levels are low. Iron helps the body to carry oxygen, so low levels of oxygen and iron deficiencies can result in depression or anxiety, poor sleep, low energy levels and a lack of motivation. In addition, the essential minerals in blackstrap molasses including magnesium, manganese, and calcium help maintain the health of red blood cells.
2. B Vitamins
One of the great things about blackstrap molasses is its B vitamin content. B vitamins are vital for brain and nerve health, energy, and mood regulation. Since B vitamins are water soluble and can easily be washed out of the body, and have to be synthesized in the small intestine, many people have a B vitamin deficiency and don’t know it.
Many people who suffer from leaky gut, celiac disease, glutton sensitivity, and other inflammatory digestive disorders, have low levels from B vitamins. Stress can also drastically lower B vitamins, leading to depression and anxiety. It is known that people who suffer from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have low or imbalanced levels of B vitamins. Vitamin B6 is also known to work in combination with other B vitamins to boost serotonin levels in the brain, which is one of our body’s primary ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters.
3. Improves Hair and Skin Texture
Blackstrap molasses contains lactic acid, along with antioxidants, both of which are very helpful in healing and preventing acne, smoothing wrinkles and other skin conditions. Blackstrap molasses also helps promote wound healing like cuts, burns, and scrapes.
Blackstrap molasses also helps to get rid of frizzy hair, especially hair that is dyed, bleached or permed. This natural conditioner helps to cover gray naturally, but if you have really blonde hair, it may temporarily darken it slightly.
It’s not a great idea to put it straight on your hair but using it in combinations with other healthy ingredients will help to thicken and smooth out hair, bringing out its natural shine and body. Try this natural molasses hair mask from Wellness Mama:
• 1/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
• 2 tablespoons organic blackstrap molasses
• 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
• Optional: 2 drops Rosemary essential oil
Directions—Whisk together yogurt, molasses, and ACV. Add essential oil if using. (Tip: rosemary oil helps your hair grow and scalp stay healthier.) Massage into hair and scalp, cover with a shower cap or wrap in towel and leave on for 10-15 minutes. Shampoo out as normal.
4. Bone Health
Blackstrap molasses contains a combination of healthy bone ingredients calcium and magnesium, along with copper, iron, potassium and the trace mineral manganese. It also helps to heal bones faster, and fights osteoporosis.
Manganese plays an important role in bone cartilage and bone collagen formation and is required for bone mineralization. In one study, women with osteoporosis were found to have 25% lower manganese levels of the women who didn’t have osteoporosis. It only takes about two teaspoons a day to get about 20% of the manganese you need to help build stronger bones.
5. Blood Sugar
In spite of the fact that blackstrap molasses is classified as a type of sugar, it has a lower glycemic value than refined cane sugar. Because of this, is often preferred for those with diabetes or those who are trying to keep blood sugar levels low. Blackstrap molasses, unlike refined sugar, contains nutrients including chromium, which is known to increase glucose tolerance. Chromium also plays an important role in stabilizing blood sugar and insulin.
Chromium is an essential nutrient for normal carbohydrate and fat metabolism as well.
Blackstrap molasses also contains plenty of antioxidants which help the body fight diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
How to Use Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is used as a natural sweetener and a refined sugar alternative, but keep in mind, it is still a form of sugar, and is only slightly lower on the glycemic index as sugar. Molasses has a different, rich, caramel flavor, which makes it great as an additive to your morning coffee, your oatmeal, or used for baking. It also makes a great marinade or base for a sauce.
It’s easy to find blackstrap molasses at your local market or health food store. When purchasing blackstrap molasses, look for products that are organic and unsulfured.
Molasses is generally added to sugar to create brown sugar, but you can make your own by adding a small amount to coconut sugar and mixing. This creates a slightly more nutritious brown sugar that still adds the right amount of flavor to your recipes.
Blackstrap molasses can be used in recipes that call for brown sugar, honey and maple syrup.