You probably have a jar of molasses in your pantry or kitchen cupboard—it’s the key ingredient in your baked beans and other recipes, giving them that rich, signature flavor and sweetness. But did you know Blackstrap molasses is a type of molasses that contains an abundance of vitamins and minerals that are good for your health? Check out these surprising health benefits!
How is Blackstrap Molasses Made?
Blackstrap molasses is a by-product of the sugar cane refining process, where sugar cane is crushed to extract the sweet juices which are then boiled. The result is molasses in varying degrees of color, thickness, and sweetness. See video, below!
Types of Molasses
Basically, molasses is categorized by how many times the syrup was boiled, and sugar extracted. Molasses is extracted during the first (light), second (dark), or third stage (blackstrap) of boiling. Blackstrap is the darkest, thickest, and most concentrated molasses. It has a robust, bittersweet flavor in comparison to the sweeter light and dark varieties so it’s best used in savory recipes rather than sweets. Blackstrap molasses is also the most nutritious as it contains more essential vitamins and minerals than the other types of molasses. That extra boil concentrates those nutrients.
What Is Unsulfured Molasses?
You’ll also see sulfured or unsulfured varieties. Sulfured means sulfur was added during sugar production to keep the raw sugar cane fresh, kill unwanted bacteria, and whiten the sugar crystals. However, many cooks prefer to use unsulfured molasses to avoid any unpleasant aftertaste. Because molasses isn’t quick to spoil, preservatives aren’t necessary. Unsulfured molasses is also free of sodium dioxide, a preservative and a known allergen.
12 Health Benefits of Blackstrap Molasses
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a spoonful of blackstrap molasses might do the trick also. Blackstrap molasses is known for its iron content—one tablespoon contains about 20% of the daily value—but it is also a rich source of natural calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It is also a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, and selenium. And one tablespoon has only 42 calories. Here are more health benefits:
1. Healthy Hair—The anti-aging antioxidants selenium, manganese, and zinc in blackstrap molasses work from the inside out to soften hair, reduce hair loss and graying hair. Take a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses daily for a healthy head of hair.
2. Arthritis Reliever—The anti-inflammatory properties in blackstrap molasses ease the discomfort and symptoms of arthritis by reducing swelling, joint inflammation, and pain.
3. Promotes Strong Healthy Bones—Its rich supply of calcium supports healing and improves bone and connective tissue health.
4. Brain Booster—The calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins in blackstrap molasses fight fatigue, anxiety, and stress while enhancing brain function, mood, and focus.
5. Prevents Anemia—Because blackstrap molasses contains iron, it helps produce hemoglobin and red blood cells to prevent anemia.
6. Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels—Its low glycemic index naturally slows glucose and carbohydrate metabolism, producing less insulin. It’s a healthier choice than refined sugar, especially helpful for people with diabetes.
7. Menstrual Relief—The iron, magnesium, and calcium in blackstrap molasses help reduce menstrual cramps and symptoms of PMS.
8. Healthy Skin—Use topically to soften and exfoliate the skin. Its lactic acid content can treat acne, eczema, and other skin conditions. To apply, wet the face and pat blackstrap molasses directed on the skin. Leave for five minutes before removing with a warm, wet cloth.
9. Digestion Aid—If you’re feeling over-full after a big meal, a spoonful of molasses might be the remedy as it stimulates digestion.
10. Constipation Remedy—Blackstrap molasses is a natural stool softener and prevents constipation.
11. Increases Stamina and Energy—Feeling sluggish? Consume a spoonful of blackstrap molasses to boost energy.
12. Natural Sleep Aid—When taken at bedtime, the calcium and magnesium help the body relax and promote restful sleep. Many people mix a tablespoon with warm milk (dairy or non-dairy) for a delicious sleepy-time drink.
It’s no surprise that this high-antioxidant superfood has been used for generations as a home remedy and dietary supplement for a variety of health and nutritional benefits. Nutritionists recommend taking one tablespoon a day to reap these benefits.
Does Molasses Go Bad?
An opened jar of molasses that’s been tightly closed after each use can last about a year. The key to prolonging shelf life is to keep the lid sealed tightly when not in use. Discard at first sign of mold, off-taste, or odor. Refrigeration is not necessary. If you choose to refrigerate, allow the jar to sit at room temperature before using, to make it easier to pour. And buy 100% organic, when possible.
Not Just for Humans!
Blackstrap molasses is great for animals, too. For generations, livestock farmers have used it in cattle, goat, and sheep feed to stimulate the appetite, increase energy, and as a dietary supplement. Your local feedstore most likely carries livestock feed enriched with molasses.
Additionally, dry powdered blackstrap molasses can be used to make compost teas that enrich organic and hydroponic gardening plants and garden soil naturally.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.