Molasses is often used in recipes as a healthier alternative to sugar that offers unique health benefits. This article will explore whether or not molasses in healthy or not.
What Is Molasses?
Molasses is formed during the sugar making process. Sugar beets or canes are crushed and the juices are extracted.
That syrup is reduced down, through boiling until sugar crystals are made. These crystals are separated from the liquid.
Molasses is the brown, viscous liquid left over once the crystals have been removed. They continue this reduction several times and it makes different types of molasses.
Those different types vary in consistency, flavour, colour and sugar content.
- Light Molasses – is the syrup from the first reduction, therefore has the sweetest taste. It is light in colour and is often used for baked goods.
- Dark Molasses – This is the syrup from the second reduction and so it is thicker, less sweet and even darker. Its flavour is distinct but is still used in baked foods.
- Blackstrap – this is from the final reduction and as you would expect is the darkest and most thick syrup. It is actually rather bitter in flavour. Blackstrap molasses is the most concentrated type and also contains the highest concentration of essential minerals and vitamins. Therefore this is the type of molasses touted for its health benefits.
- Sulfured – molasses that has sulphur dioxide added into it as a preservative to prevent spoilage. These are often more tart than the un-sulfured counterparts.
Other types of molasses include reductions made from dates, carobs, sorghum or pomegranates.
Vitamins And Minerals vs. Sugar Content
Molasses has more vitamins and minerals than the refined sugar crystals (source).
See below for a breakdown of the nutrients you would expect to find in two tablespoons of molasses (this can vary depending on what type of molasses you are referring to):
- Vitamin B6:14%
- Selenium: 10%
Those two tablespoons will be 116 calories which are all from sugar and carbohydrates.
So molasses does have essential minerals and vitamins, but it is still a sugar which is fine in moderation, but when eaten excessively can become harmful to your health.
Therefore when thinking of adding molasses to your diet, do so in small amounts and use it to replace white sugar.
What Are The Potential Health Benefits?
Unfortunately there is limited research into the health benefits of molasses.
Molasses might help with your heart health as it has high levels of potassium. This mineral helps regulate blood pressure which in turn supports heart health (4).
Studies using rats have resulted in increases of the good cholesterol HDL when supplementing with molasses however the effects on humans are unknown (5). In humans, healthy HDL cholesterol helps to protect us from developing heart diseases.
Molasses may also improve bone health due to its good levels of calcium. Calcium is vital for preventing osteoporosis and keeping bones healthy (6). On top of that, molasses also contains copper, selenium and iron – all good bone building elements (7).
Molasses Can Stabilize Blood Sugar
A study outlined that when you eat molasses with carbohydrate heavy foods, the molasses helps to keep blood sugars lower and insulin levels more even than when just eating the carb-loaded food on its own (8).
However people suffering from diabetes should stick to sweeteners like stevia as molasses holds a high glycemic index of 55.
This refers to the effect of foods on blood sugar levels. Compare this to refined sugar with a G.I of 60 – molasses is better but still not ideal for diabetics.
Molasses Contains Antioxidants
Blackstrap molasses is richer in antioxidants than other natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and agave nectar (9).
Antioxidants work to protect your body’s cells from oxidation – a stress process closely linked with cancer (10).
Molasses – Is It Healthy?
Molasses is a great substitute for refined sugars however just like any sugar product, moderation is the key.
Too much sugar in any form will have negative effects on your health. People with diabetes should avoid molasses due to its higher G.I.
There have been reports that molasses can upset people with sensitive stomachs and cause digestive problems.
Anyone suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in particular should probably avoid molasses.
Lesser of two evils
When it comes down to it, molasses is a sugar product. It is higher in nutrients than refined sugar, as it is less refined and has a lower G.I and therefore is healthier than sugar.
However it should still be consumed in moderation.