Due to its refining processes, blackstrap molasses has the lowest sugar content of any sugar product around. Low sugar is a benefit in and of itself, but blackstrap molasses offers up other health benefits when consumed, like aiding against iron deficiency anemia. Read on to find out how this sticky substance is made and the top five blackstrap molasses benefits you can gain from including this low-sugar sweetener in your regular routine.
What Is Molasses and What Makes It “Blackstrap”?
Here’s a bit of the history behind the manufacturing of molasses and the distinctions between different kinds.
Molasses by Any Other Name
The origin of the word “molasses” comes from the Latin “mel” for honey. This led to the Portuguese word “melaco” for the sweet, syrupy byproduct of refined sugar. When this substance was transported to North America and the early U.S. colonies, the pronunciation and later the spelling evolved to “molasses,” singular, while blackstrap came from the Dutch word for syrup, “stroop,” as in “blackstroop.”
Molasses production has traveled almost as extensively as its name, from the Caribbean where sugar cane and sugar beets grow, to now worldwide locations from India to Brazil to the United States, where it’s an affordable sweetener that can also be used medicinally.
What Makes Different Types of Molasses Distinct?
Molasses can come from a couple of different sugar-producing plants and is created when sugar beets or sugar cane are boiled to extract the pure sugar. Depending on the plant’s ripeness, the refining process it’s put through, and the amount of sugar extracted, you can produce three different types of molasses from the three boiling stages.
- Light molasses: The sweetest of the three with the mildest flavor, light molasses is distinct from cane syrup, which is boiled sugar cane juice, and more like maple syrup than molasses.
- Dark molasses: From the second boiling comes dark or “robust” molasses, with more flavor and less sugar content.
- Blackstrap molasses: The third boiling produces a dark, dense molasses that has even less sugar, but does contain antioxidants and a concentration of vitamins that, though healthy, can be hard to consume directly due to the intensity of its flavor.
Another type of sugar plant (and molasses) is sorghum molasses, from the sorghum cane plant primarily grown in the U.S. This molasses is not a byproduct of sugar refining however, but is instead the sole purpose of sorghum production: it’s made intentionally as a natural sweetener and sugar alternative.
The Nutrition of Blackstrap Molasses
The concentrated nutrients in blackstrap molasses help to make it a superfood. Blackstrap molasses contains vitamin B6 and minerals such as:
- Manganese to benefit the central nervous system
- Calcium for muscle function, bone health, and blood clotting
- Iron for the production of red blood cells (without which the body is deprived of oxygen)
- Copper for the absorption of iron, the production of melanin, and the reduction of free radicals
These minerals play important roles in the body, and not getting the recommended daily value of any one of them could lead to health problems. Let’s check out some of the specific health benefits of molasses.
The Top 5 Blackstrap Molasses Benefits
Now for some of the associated health benefits of blackstrap molasses.
1. A Diabetes-Friendly Natural Sweetener
Though it’s made from sugar-producing plants, blackstrap molasses is pretty low on the glycemic index. To put it in perspective, refined sugar is a 64, blackstrap molasses scores a 55, maple syrup a 54, and honey a 30 on the glycemic index.
While blackstrap molasses is not appropriate for everyone with diabetes (ask a health care professional before trying it if you have any concern about your blood sugar or insulin levels), it’s a much better natural sweetener than the artificially concentrated corn syrup in so many products today.
A spoonful here and there for baking authentic-tasting gingerbread cookies or cooking up some baked beans won’t spike your blood sugar, but will contain the nutritional value of the B vitamins and minerals blackstrap molasses has to offer.
2. Skin and Acne Treatment
As a source of lactic acid (also found in apples, tomato juice, and certain yogurts), blackstrap molasses helps support skin health and could help with anti-aging, skin softening, and skin healing from eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and acne.
This benefit comes from applying blackstrap molasses directly to the skin: dilute it in warm water and apply it like any other cleanser before rinsing for an effective DIY beauty and acne treatment.
3. Blood Benefits
There is a lot to benefit blood and heart health in blackstrap molasses, specifically:
- The antioxidants in blackstrap molasses have anti-inflammatory properties.
- The iron content in molasses is necessary for the production of red blood cells.
- The low glycemic index protects your blood sugar levels.
- The potassium in molasses contributes to stable blood pressure levels.
Because blackstrap molasses is a good source for such a wide variety of heart-healthy nutrients, it can overwhelmingly contribute to the optimal function and composition of your blood.
4. Bone Health
The magnesium and calcium content in blackstrap molasses help improve bone health by guarding against the development of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis means “porous bone,” a disease that is all too common in older populations (1 in 3 women over 50 years of age, and 1 in 5 men). This is partially due to a decrease in digestive absorption of minerals as we age, which is why it’s all the more important to not only meet the daily minimum requirement for certain nutrients, but to also try for the maximum. This is true for those over and under 50: the stronger and denser your bones are throughout your lifetime, the better strength you have as you age.
5. Relief for Menstrual Cramps and PMS Symptoms
The first aspect of helping with menstrual issues is the iron in blackstrap molasses, because many girls and women become slightly to severely anemic due to excessive blood loss surrounding their periods (especially those with menstrual disorders like menorrhagia). Low iron levels lead to fatigue, one of the most classic PMS symptoms.
The calcium in blackstrap molasses can also help to lessen cramps and other aspects of PMS, so by taking 3 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses a day before and during her period, a woman may be able to avoid the worst side effects of menstruation. Easily included in warm water, milk, or tea, a few doses of blackstrap molasses might be just what the holistic healer ordered. It’s even safe during pregnancy as a natural iron and calcium supplement, just ask your doctor!
Cooking with Blackstrap
There are many different ways to enjoy and utilize blackstrap molasses in your daily life, either by using it as a natural sweetener, an herbal supplement, or both. You can replace maple syrup and honey with blackstrap molasses for its superior nutrient concentration, add it to coffee or smoothies each day to boost the sweetness of your morning routine, and even use it as a chocolate syrup replacement over a bowl of ice cream.
Easily substituted in dishes calling for barbecue sauce or marinades, you can use blackstrap molasses as a low-sugar sweet glaze for meat and veggies on the grill and in the kitchen.
Take Blackstrap by the Bootstraps
You can often find blackstrap molasses on the shelves of health food stores and available online. Vegan, tasty, and beneficial to your health, try a few teaspoons of blackstrap molasses and find out whether or not it’s your new favorite natural remedy and low-sugar sweetener.