We all know that sugar is bad for you — in fact, it can be downright dangerous. Artificial sweeteners, once thought of as the perfect guilt-free replacement for sugar, have their own set of risky side effects. But who can go an entire lifetime without any added sweetener?
While we all need to make dramatic cuts to our “sweet” intake, there are a few natural sweeteners out there that provide some health benefit. Along with other natural sweeteners, blackstrap molasses is a healthier alternative to sugar and artificial sugars.
What is blackstrap molasses?
You may be surprised to learn that molasses is made from sugarcane. How, you ask, can it be healthy if it’s sugar? Blackstrap molasses is a by-product in the sugar-making process. It is what’s left after sucrose is crystallized and removed. The dark, sticky substance has all of the nutrients present in natural sugarcane, and there are quite a lot of them.
The health benefits of blackstrap molasses
Blackstrap molasses is healthier than sugar simply because it’s closer to the natural sugar plant. Due to the nutrient profile of sugarcane, blackstrap molasses can:
Be used by diabetics
Blackstrap molasses has a moderate glycemic load of 55, which is much lower than most sweeteners. Consuming it does not cause blood-sugar spikes, which is important for diabetics. One serving of blackstrap molasses contains 32 calories, making it ideal for individuals who want a bit of sweet without the high calorie load of most sweeteners.
Boost brain health
It only takes two tablespoons of molasses to receive 18 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of manganese (used to create energy), 10 percent of the RDI for potassium (used for nerve transmission), nearly four percent of the RDI for selenium (used to regulate mood) and five percent of the RDI for vitamin B6 (necessary for healthy brain function). These numbers may not seem like much, but considering the nutrient benefit of most sweeteners is zero, this is quite an improvement.
Blackstrap molasses has stool-softening properties and can help encourage regularity and prevent constipation.
Benefit blood health
Iron is essential for carrying oxygen through the blood. Blackstrap molasses is high in iron, with one tablespoon containing seven percent of the RDI for iron, making it ideal for women who are pregnant or generally deficient in iron.
Keeps bones strong
Molasses has several minerals that help boost the absorption of other nutrients. Blackstrap molasses contains seven percent of the RDI for magnesium and 12 percent of the RDI for calcium in two tablespoons. These minerals not only keep bones strong but also help the body use other nutrients more efficiently.
Reduces cancer risk
According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, molasses boasts the highest level of antioxidants of any sweetener. Using molasses in place of sugar could reduce cancer risk and help keep the body free from the damage caused by free radicals.
Many adults are deficient in potassium. Blackstrap molasses is packed with potassium, making it ideal for keeping electrolytes balanced.
Keep the nervous system working
Molasses is high in magnesium, which is important for keeping the nervous system optimized. Magnesium keeps the body relaxed by balancing calcium levels. If too much calcium is released at once, pain and stress can be triggered. Magnesium deficiency often shows as fatigue, high blood pressure, muscle spasms and muscle cramps.
Due to its high levels of vitamin B6, magnesium, folate and iron, molasses is the perfect sweetener for pregnant women to use. Molasses provides a base of nutrients that can help supplement any healthy diet, but it is particularly beneficial for pregnant women who do not consume dairy products.
How to use blackstrap molasses
- Add a teaspoon to hot tea or coffee
- Pour a dollop of molasses over baked beans
- Make a glaze for meat by mixing molasses with mustard
- Use molasses in place of any sweeteners in recipes
- Eat a spoonful in the morning for a quick nutrient-packed pick-me-up
There are dozens of ways to add blackstrap molasses to your diet. If you’re not ready to cut all extra sugar, choose molasses and rest easier knowing that it is one of the world’s healthiest added sweeteners.
Brenda is a writer, chef and health nut with many years of writing experience in the alternative health industry. She specializes in health news, healthy living, alternative treatments, and healthy recipes. She loves educating others about sustainable, healthy living. Brenda lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters.