What is molasses?
Molasses is a dark, viscous liquid that’s generally made from sugarcane. Grapes, sugar beets, sorghum or other plants can also be used to make a molasses-like substance. The production of molasses is a labor-intensive process requiring several steps, including cutting the sugarcane plants, boiling, straining, skimming and reboiling.
If the molasses undergoes a third boiling step, the result is blackstrap molasses, a dark, bittersweet syrup that is produced after the sucrose in molasses has crystallized. Blackstrap has the lowest sugar content of any molasses, and is noted for containing a higher nutritional content — particularly manganese, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, copper and vitamin B6 — than any other refined sugar.
How Molasses Is Made?
The most common forms of molasses are made from either sugar cane or sugar beet juice which is boiled down to a syrup. Sugar crystals are extracted from the syrup, and the remaining dark liquid is molasses. Molasses can also be made from sorghum, pomegranate, carob, and dates.
There are several varieties of this syrup, which vary in color, consistency, flavor and sugar content.
A molasses (first molasses, Light Molasses)
This is the syrup made from the first boiling. It is the lightest in color and sweetest in taste. It is most commonly used in baking.
B molasses (second molasses, Dark Molasses)
This is the type created from the second boiling. It’s thicker, darker and less sweet. It can also be used in baking, but produces a more distinct color and flavor.
C molasses (final molasses, blackstrap molasses, treacle)
This is the syrup produced after the third boiling. It is the thickest and darkest in color, and also tends to have a bitter taste. Blackstrap molasses is the most concentrated form and contains the most vitamins and minerals. For that reason, it is said to have the most health benefits.
Un-Sulfured and Sulfured
Molasses labeled as “sulfured” has sulfur dioxide added to it. Sulfur dioxide acts as a preservative and prevents it from spoiling. Sulfured varieties tend to be less sweet than un-sulfured products.
Unlike refined sugar, molasses also contains some vitamins and minerals.
Here are the nutrients you can find in 40 grams, or about two tablespoons:
Two tablespoons also contain about 116 calories, all of which come from carbs – mostly sugar. So even though it contains vitamins and minerals, remember that it’s also very high in sugar. Sugar can be very harmful to your health when consumed in excess. Excess sugar intake has been linked to some of the world’s biggest health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Due to its high sugar content, do not add molasses to your diet just for the nutrients. The best way to get these nutrients is by eating whole foods. However, if you are going to eat sugar anyway, then this is certainly a healthier alternative.
Health Benefits of Molasses
Some say it may even offer unique health benefits. There is limited research available about the health effects of molasses. However, the nutrients in it have been linked to several health benefits.
Bone Health: This syrup contains a decent amount of calcium, which plays an important role in bone health and preventing osteoporosis. It is also a good source of copper, iron and selenium, all of which help maintain healthy bones.
Heart Health: Molasses is a good source of potassium, which promotes normal blood pressure and helps maintain heart health. Although this has yet to be studied in humans, rat studies have shown that supplementing with molasses can help increase HDL or “good” cholesterol. Healthy levels of HDL cholesterol may protect against heart disease and stroke.
Increases Red Blood Cell Formation: Molasses is rich in copper, which aids in eradicating free radicals from the body. It helps in the absorption of iron, the formation of red blood cells and maintains a healthy immune system. A deficiency of copper can result in anemia, thyroid problems, cardiac arrhythmia, and osteoporosis.
Maintains Hemoglobin Levels: The iron content in molasses helps maintain healthy levels of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin plays a key role in supplying oxygen from lungs to other parts of the body. It is also vital for the production of energy and aids in boosting the metabolism.
Maintains Healthy Nervous System: Molasses contains magnesium, which helps in the functioning of the nervous system. It relaxes our nerves and blood vessels by balancing calcium volume and blocking it from rushing into the nerves. Unblocked and speedy flows of calcium into the nerves can over-activate them and lead to the transmission of too many signals and excessive nerve contraction. A deficiency of magnesium in the body can lead to hypertension, muscle cramps, spasms, and general body fatigue.
Treats Cancer: Apart from several vitamins and minerals, blackstrap molasses also contains selenium, which is beneficial in the treatment of cancer.
Prevents Hypokalemia: Molasses contains the essential mineral potassium, which is required for the proper functioning of cells. It helps in maintaining the acid-base balance of the body and prevents heat exhaustion. Potassium also plays an important role in nerve and muscle contraction and helps to maintain cardiac health. Adequate intake of potassium-rich foods like molasses helps prevent disorders like hypokalemia and reduces blood pressure as well.
Prevents Menstrual Cramps: Molasses is a good source of iron and is very effective for menstruating women who are at major risk of iron deficiency due to blood loss. With no fat and very few calories, it is a better alternative for contributing iron to the body as compared to other fatty sources like red meat. Iron prevents various disorders like menorrhagia which causes excessive blood flow for a longer duration during menstruation. The minerals such as magnesium and calcium present in it help prevent the clotting of blood, relieve menstrual cramps, and maintain the health of uterine muscles. It is a healthy alternative, as compared to other medications for menstrual discomfort which might have certain side effects.
Hair conditioning: There are a number of surprising reasons your hair can turn gray, and some reports suggest molasses could possibly give you a weapon with which you can fight back against color change. According to natural health experts, those who drink one to two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses diluted in water may see an increase in their hair health. Additionally, experts recommend making your own molasses conditioner, mixing water and molasses and leaving it on the hair for 15 minutes. It’s thought that the anti-aging antioxidants found in molasses work as a conditioner, reversing graying of the hair and hair loss.
Blood Sugar: Molasses may also help stabilize blood sugar levels in healthy adults. People with diabetes may want to choose a low-calorie sweetener like stevia or erythritol.
One study found that eating it along with carb-containing foods resulted in lower blood sugar and insulin levels than when the foods were eaten alone.
Antioxidants: According to research, blackstrap molasses contains even more antioxidants than honey, as well as other natural sweeteners like maple syrup and agave nectar. Studies also show that the antioxidants in it can help protect cells from the oxidative stress associated with cancer and other diseases.
Side effects: Molasses is safe for most people when consumed in moderation.
Never the less, while it can be a good alternative to refined sugar, an excess intake of any added sugar can have negative health effects. People with diabetes may also want to avoid it. Additionally, molasses can cause digestive problems. Consuming large amounts can cause loose stools or diarrhea. If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or experience digestive discomfort, you may want to avoid this syrup.
Molasses has a wide variety of uses: It’s a common ingredient in cooking, especially in cakes, cookies and other desserts. Molasses is also used in the production of ethyl alcohol and as an additive in livestock feed.
Molasses vs. sugar: Molasses is a sweetener that is claimed to be much healthier than sugar. Molasses contains several important nutrients and antioxidants, making it a better option than refined sugar. However, it’s still very high in sugar, which can be harmful when consumed in excess.
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