Blackstrap molasses is a thick, dark pourable syrup most commonly made from sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum). It is a by-product of making refined white sugar and is essentially the nutritional component of the sugarcane plant.
During the sugar refining process, these nutritive elements are removed to concentrate the sucrose and crystallize the sugar. As a result, blackstrap molasses is much lower in sucrose and is a condensed source of some vitamins but especially minerals.
Compared to refined white sugar, which is 99% sucrose, blackstrap molasses is comprised of approximately 55% sucrose and other sugars, averaging 30% sucrose, 13% fructose, and 12% glucose.
There are different grades of molasses. The first boiling of sugarcane juice contains the most sugar. The second boiling is slightly more bitter with less sugar. The third boiling and caramelization is what makes the "blackstrap" variety, producing a viscous, very dark brown almost black color that has the maximum amount of sugar crystals removed.
While blackstrap molasses is more nutritious than white sugar, it still should be used in moderation. One tablespoon contains an average of 60 calories and 14 grams of carbs, which is comparable to most white sugar.
Historically, it has been a popular sweetener utilized in regions where sugarcane is predominantly cultivated, such as the Caribbean and the Southern United States.
While blackstrap molasses can be used as an alternative sugar, because of its strong bitter-sweet flavor, it's not typically used like other types of natural sweeteners. It is frequently recommended as a dietary supplement due to its high mineral content.
Here are its top uses, not all of them are scientifically validated.
1) Iron Content
One of the top claimed benefits of blackstrap molasses is that it is a good source of the mineral IRON. And yes, blackstrap does appear, according to nutrition data, to be high in iron. USDA FoodData Central shows that one tablespoon of organic blackstrap molasses contains 3.6 mg iron or 20% the Daily Value for an adult 2,000 calorie diet. (Source)
Dietary iron is identified to be helpful for those with anemia due to iron deficiency (*) and often recommended to menstruating females.
2) Other Minerals and Vitamin B6
Blackstrap molasses is also recognized for its higher amounts of the three minerals CALCIUM, MAGNESIUM, and POTASSIUM, with one tablespoon providing about 10% of the Daily Value of each. Likewise, it is also a relatively good source of VITAMIN B6.
These mineral nutrients are essential for things like healthy bones, fluid balance as well as mood and nervous system regulation. Vitamin B6 helps the body make serotonin as well as maintain normal homocysteine levels.
3) Pregnancy Tea
Blackstrap molasses stirred into hot water is sometimes used as a type of "pregnancy tea" for added nutritional fortification. Lack of iron or anemia is also viewed as a contributing factor to fatigue during pregnancy. However, it is always best to consult with your nutritionist or healthcare provider first before pursuing it as a supplement option when pregnant.
4) Mild Laxative
Blackstrap molasses has been identified as helpful for constipated conditions. In one study it was found as effective as a polyethylene glycol (PEG) laxative when used on children.
As a digestive tea, you can combine it with anise seed for a delicious black licorice type flavor.
5) Hair Rejuvenator
Blackstrap molasses is unscientifically promoted as a household treatment for encouraging healthy hair growth, darkening the hair and even reversing graying hair. It is proposed to have a beneficial influence as a dietary supplement using about two tablespoons per day.
The hair darkening aspect is logically theorized due to the small amounts of copper in blackstrap molasses with about One Tablespoon providing 0.1 mg of copper or 5% of the Daily Value. Copper is needed for the enzyme tyrosinase which facilitates the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for hair color. Currently, however, there is no valid evidence to back up this claim.
These numbers may largely vary depending on the source and quality of the molasses product.
In the past, sulfur dioxide was frequently used as preservative when processing molasses. It is good to make sure that you select unsulphured varieties, which are more common today. Molasses, when sourced from mature sugarcane, doesn't require this additive and is relatively shelf-stable.
Blackstrap molasses can be refrigerated or stored in a cool, dark, dry pantry location.
For the highest health benefits of blackstrap molasses, we also highly recommend Certified Organic molasses over other types made from conventionally cultivated sugarcane.