Blackstrap molasses is a popular sweetener primarily used in the United States, Canada and other parts of the world. It is the byproduct of the refining process to turn sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar. In addition to sugar, pomegranate, dates, carob, and sorghum can also be used to make molasses.
Blackstrap molasses comes from the ground up sugar cane, which turns into a juice. The juice is then boiled and boiled a second time, to make the favorite sweetener.
Sulfured vs. Unsulfured Molasses
There are two categories of molasses: sulfured vs. unsulfured molasses.
Sulfured molasses. Sulfured molasses comes from immature green sugarcane. Sulfured molasses is treated with sulfur dioxide fumes during the extraction process. The sulfur is added to the sugarcane, preserving it until it processes.
Unsulfured molasses. Unsulfured molasses is made from either the juice of sun-ripened sugarcane or pure unsulfured juice. The liquid is also concentrated.
Blackstrap vs. Regular Molasses
There are a few distinct differences between blackstrap molasses and regular molasses. Here’s a side by side comparison of the two:
|Blackstrap Molasses||Regular Molasses|
|Thicker texture||Not as thick|
|Bitter tasting||Taste can vary|
|Darker color||Brown color|
|Extracted during 3rd stage of boiling only||Can be extracted 1st, 2nd or 3rd stage of boiling|
There are nutritional differences between the two as well. While each offer nutrients the body needs, blackstrap molasses is lower in calories than regular molasses. It is also higher in the following:
Blackstrap vs. Sugar
Many recipes use sugar for several reasons: it increases the shelf life of baked goods, provides moisture and tenderness, caramelizes at high temperatures, and liquefies while it bakes. Sugar is a significant component of many baked-good recipes. However, chefs and bakers opt to decrease the amount of sugar used instead of replacing altogether. For many, blackstrap molasses is their first choice as a sugar replacement. When substituting blackstrap molasses for sugar, a general replacement ratio consists of the following:
- 1/3 molasses for 1 cup sugar
- Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by five tablespoons
- Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of molasses used
Decreasing the amount of sugar consumed may play an essential role in overall health. Studies on sugar consumption have reached the following conclusions:
Increased cardiovascular disease mortality. Research links high sugar intake with several cardiovascular disease risk factors. Researchers have also noted that sugar intake for most U.S. adults is more significant than recommended for a healthy diet. “A significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for cardiovascular disease mortality” has also been observed.1
Sugar and childhood obesity. The rising rate of obesity in children has been linked in part to the consumption of drinks sweetened with sugar. Studies indicate for each additional sugar-sweetened drink consumed, both body mass index and frequency of obesity increased.
Glucose regulation and weight gain in women. A survey to determine the relationship between weight gain and increased risk glucose metabolism issues was conducted on young and middle-aged women. The finding indicated a higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was linked to an increased risk of weight gain and developing issues with glucose regulation. The potential reasons were due to excessive calories and large quantities of rapidly absorbed sugars.3
Blackstrap molasses has many nutritional benefits. One cup of the natural sweetener offers the following nutrients:
|Nutrient Facts||1 Cup|
|Total lipid (fat)||.328 g|
|Total sugars||245 g|
|Vitamin B-6||2.2 mg|
Even though blackstrap molasses has many health benefits, it’s essential to be mindful of the potential health risks. For example, some who consume large amounts may experience loose stools, diarrhea, or other digestive problems. People with diabetes should keep servings to a minimum as well because it could raise glucose and insulin levels in some individuals.
When cooking with blackstrap molasses, it’s important to remember it has a strong flavor, which could limit its usefulness. Replacing up to half of the sugar in recipes with blackstrap molasses is a popular way to decrease the amount of sugar used, while still maintaining sweetness. It is also thick, which can make it difficult to swallow if consumed by itself. Using with other liquids is often advised.
Is Molasses Good For You?
Blackstrap molasses has many health benefits. The iron, fiber, potassium, and other nutrients make it a great addition to dishes and baked goods. However, people with diabetes should be careful not to overuse this natural sweetener.
Studies conducted on blackstrap molasses reveal it has a wide variety of health benefits, making it a popular natural supplement. For example, blackstrap molasses contains copper, a mineral that stimulates the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein utilized by the body. Collagen helps with gut health and is beneficial for skin and hair. When consumed, collagen gives hair structure and nourishes it. Also, the sweetener can be used as a facial scrub, helping to moisturize and soften the skin.
Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals can be hazardous to a person’s health, potentially increasing the risk of having heart disease, cancer, and other serious ailments.
Blackstrap molasses is rich in antioxidants, and the focus of many studies:
When compared to other natural sugar alternatives such as honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave nectar, and fruit sugars, blackstrap molasses had the highest total antioxidant content. Researchers note by simply substituting alternative sweeteners for natural sweeteners like blackstrap molasses; a person could increase their antioxidant intake to similar levels found in a serving of berries or nuts.4
A study on sugar cane molasses and sugar beet molasses found that sugar cane molasses had a high level of antioxidant activity, and provided adequate cell protection. Researchers concluded that both sugar cane molasses and sugar beet molasses exhibited potential positive health effects due to their antioxidant activity.5
Glucose Levels & Diabetes
Sugar can cause insulin glucose levels to spike. As a result, people with diabetes may shy away from consuming items with sugar. According to the American Diabetes Association, 34.2 million Americans (10.5%) of the population had diabetes. Studies indicate sugarcane molasses may be an adequate sugar replacement for those suffering from insulin resistance.
A recent study was conducted to monitor the effects of a filtered sugarcane oral supplement on individuals with increased insulin resistance. Those who received the sugarcane supplement before a meal saw a reduction in insulin responses. Researchers concluded that filtered sugarcane supplements showed promise as an agent that can reduce insulin responses and lessen the load on the pancreatic beta cells.6
Calcium, Magnesium, & Bone Health
In addition to spiking blood sugar levels and increasing obesity risks, sugar can have a direct impact on bone health and its overall structural integrity. Glucose, in particular, has been shown to impact bone health negatively. Animal studies have shown that bone density in the femur, peak force, and bending failure energy was reduced in those who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages.7
Iron & Anemia
Anemia occurs when there is a deficiency of hemoglobin or red blood cells in the blood. Anemia can cause feelings of weakness, tiredness, and fatigue. The primary cause of anemia is low iron levels, and 1.6 billion cases of anemia are diagnosed annually around the world. Preliminary studies indicate sugarcane molasses could be a potential dietary supplement for those who have an iron deficiency. Researchers believe this may be possible due to the sweetener’s iron and it’s “absorption enhancers:” sulfur, copper and fructose.8
Potassium & Blood Pressure
One cup of blackstrap molasses contains 4800 mg of potassium. A typical American diet contains too much sodium and not enough potassium. An adequate level of potassium in the body could help decrease or control high blood pressure. This possibility could mean fewer strokes, heart attacks, and deaths from heart disease.
Blackstrap molasses is a good source of many nutrients, including potassium, iron, and magnesium. Studies indicate it may be helpful against various health issues, such as insulin resistance, anemia, and bone health. Even though it has a slightly bitter taste, blackstrap molasses is a popular natural sweetener that can be used instead of sugar in various recipes.
In Coffee. Replace a portion of the sugar added to coffee with a half teaspoon or less of molasses.
In Marinades. Molasses marinade:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon apricot jam
- 1 pinch chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 inch crushed ginger
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
In Barbecue Sauce
- 1-1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
- ¼ cup sugar-free pineapple juice
- ¼ cup of water
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
Combine contents in a saucepan, letting cook for 4-5 minutes over medium heat, or until desired thickness/consistency. Cool, then store in an airtight container. Shelf life is approximately two weeks.
- ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Whisk in 1 cup of olive oil
Blackstrap molasses is a natural sweetener that is often used to replace sugar in a variety of recipes. Its high antioxidant and nutrient levels make it a healthier option than both natural and artificial sweeteners alike. Studies indicate it is high in antioxidants and may help increase iron levels and improve bone health. For people with diabetes, this may be a viable option to use instead of sugar. Blackstrap molasses may be the missing piece to obtaining good health.
1. Yang Q1, Zhang Z1, Gregg EW2 (et al.) Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among U.S. Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Apr;174(4):516-24. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563. [PMID: 24493081 DOI]: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24493081
2. Ludwig DS1, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation Between Consumption Of Sugar-Sweetened Drinks And Childhood Obesity: A Prospective, Observational Analysis. Lancet. 2001 Feb 17;357(9255):505-8. [PMID: 11229668 DOI]: 10.1016/S0140-6736(00)04041-1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11229668
3. Schulze MB1, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, (et al.). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence Of Type 2 Diabetes In Young And Middle-Aged Women. JAMA. 2004 Aug 25;292(8):927-34. [PMID: 15328324 DO]I: 10.1001/jama.292.8.927.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15328324
4. Phillips KM1, Carlsen MH, Blomhoff R. Total Antioxidant Content of Alternatives To Refined Sugar. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jan;109(1):64-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.10.014. [PMID: 19103324 DOI]: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.10.014 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19103324
5. Valli V1, Gómez-Caravaca AM, Di Nunzio M, (et al). Sugar Cane And Sugar Beet Molasses, Antioxidant-Rich Alternatives To Refined Sugar. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Dec 26;60(51):12508-15. doi: 10.1021/jf304416d. Epub 2012 Dec 12. [PMID: 23190112 DOI]: 10.1021/jf304416dhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23190112
6. Ellis TP1, Wright AG2, Clifton PM3 (et al). Postprandial insulin and glucose levels are reduced in healthy subjects when a standardised breakfast meal is supplemented with a filtered sugarcane molasses concentrate. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Dec;55(8):2365-2376. Epub 2015 Sep 26. PMID: 26410392 DOI: 10.1007/s00394-015-1043-6.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26410392
7. Tian L, Yu X. Fat, Sugar, and Bone Health: A Complex Relationship. Nutrients. 2017 May 17;9(5):506. doi: 10.3390/nu9050506. [PMID: 28513571]; PMCID: PMC5452236.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452236/
8. Jain R1, Venkatasubramanian P. Sugarcane Molasses – A Potential Dietary Supplement in the Management of Iron Deficiency Anemia. J Diet Suppl. 2017 Sep 3;14(5):589-598. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2016.1269145. Epub 2017 Jan 26. PMID: 28125303 DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2016.1269145https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28125303