Blackstrap molasses is a sweetener that is surprisingly good for you. It is the dark liquid derivative of the process of refining sugar cane into table sugar. Unlike refined white sugar and corn syrup, which are stripped of virtually all nutrients except simple carbohydrates, or artificial sweeteners like saccharine or aspartame, which have been shown to cause health problems in some individuals, blackstrap molasses is a healthful sweetener that contains significant amounts of a variety of minerals that promote your health.
Blackstrap molasses is a good source of iron. It can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. In comparison to red meat, a well known source of iron, blackstrap molasses provides more iron for fewer calories and is totally fat-free. Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and it is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. Just 2 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses will sweetly provide you with 13.3% of the daily recommended value for iron.
Blackstrap molasses is a good source of calcium. Calcium is involved in a variety of important physiological activities, including the ability of the heart and other muscles to contract, blood clotting, conduction of nerve impulses to and from the brain, regulation of enzyme activity, and cell membrane function. Calcium is needed to form and maintain strong bones. Calcium binds to and removes toxins from the colon, thus reducing the risk of colon cancer, and because it is involved in nerve conduction, may help prevent migraine attacks. Two teaspoons of blackstrap molasses will meet 11.8% of your daily needs for calcium.
Molasses is also an excellent source of copper and manganese and a very good source of potassium, and magnesium.
Copper, an essential component of many enzymes, plays a role in a wide range of physiological processes including iron utilization, elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the skin and hair pigment called melanin. Numerous health problems can develop when copper intake is inadequate – iron deficiency anemia, ruptured blood vessels, osteoporosis, joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, brain disturbances, elevated LDL cholesterol and reduced HDL cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat, and increased susceptibility to infections. Using two teaspoons of blackstrap molasses to sweeten your morning cereal and the coffee or tea you drink during the day will supply you with 14.0% of the daily recommended value for copper.
That same amount of blackstrap molasses will also provide you with 18.0% of the day’s needs for manganese. This mineral helps produce energy from protein and carbohydrates and is involved in the production of fatty acids that are important for a healthy nervous system and in the production of cholesterol that is used by the body to produce hormones. Manganese is also a critical component of an important antioxidant enzyme that is found exclusively inside the body’s mitochondria (the energy factories inside most of our cells) where it provides protection against damage from the free radicals produced during energy production.
Like calcium, potassium plays an important role in muscle contraction and nerve transmission. When potassium is deficient in the diet, activity of both muscles and nerves can become compromised. Potassium is involved in carbohydrate storage for use by muscles as fuel and is also important in maintaining the body’s proper electrolyte and pH balance. When potassium levels drop too low, muscles get weak, and athletes tire more easily during exercise. Simply by adding two teaspoons of blackstrap molasses to your morning smoothie, you can supply 9.7% of your potassium needs for the day along with a healthy dose of carbohydrates to burn.
Magnesium is calcium’s balancing mineral. It is also necessary for healthy bones and energy production. About 2/3 of the magnesium in the human body is found in our bones. It helps give bones their physical structure, while the rest is found on the surface of the bone where it is stored for the body to draw upon as needed. Magnesium, by balancing calcium, helps regulate nerve and muscle tone. In many nerve cells, magnesium prevents calcium from rushing into the cells, keeping our nerves (and the blood vessels and muscles they innervate) relaxed. If our diet provides us with too little magnesium, calcium can freely go into the nerve cells making them overactive and sending too many signals – causing excessive contraction of muscles and blood vessels. Insufficient magnesium can thus contribute to high blood pressure, muscle spasms (including spasms of the heart muscle or the spasms of the airways symptomatic of asthma), and migraine headaches, as well as muscle cramps, tension, soreness and fatigue. In two teaspoons of blackstrap molasses, you will receive 7.3% of the daily value for magnesium.
Switching from nutrient-poor sweeteners like white sugar or corn syrup or from potentially harmful fake sweeteners like aspartame or saccharin to nutrient-dense blackstrap molasses is one simple way that eating healthy can sweeten your life.
How to Select and Store
Look for blackstrap molasses that is unsulphured since not only does it not contain this processing chemical to which some people are sensitive, but it has a cleaner and more clarified taste. Blackstrap molasses made from organic sugar cane is also available in some markets.
Molasses should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place. Unopened containers should keep for about one year, while opened containers should keep for about six months.