One of the most evocative scents of the holiday season is the smell of gingerbread baking in the oven, with its sweet, distinctive aroma filling the room. While gingerbread is not a nutritional home run, hidden within this dessert is a healthy sweetener with a long list of benefits: molasses.
It may seem surprising, but especially if you’ve got blackstrap molasses in your pantry, you’ve got a superfood on your hands.
Molasses is the sticky, sweet remnant that is left after sugar cane is manufactured into table sugar. Although sugar beet manufacturing also produces molasses, in the US, the type that is made for human consumption comes from sugar cane. The extraction of sucrose from sugar cane involves boiling and spinning the cane juice, once it has been removed from the pulp, in a centrifuge.
After one round of boiling, a light molasses remains. After two rounds, the byproduct is dark molasses. If the sugar cane is boiled for three rounds, the result is blackstrap molasses – the darkest, most viscous molasses available. Besides being the thickest and having the strongest flavor of the other molasses types, blackstrap molasses has the greatest concentration of minerals.
Molasses has been historically embraced for both its culinary and traditional medicinal properties for centuries. In the US, it has been available since early colonial times, and was for years primarily imported from the Caribbean. Today, significant molasses production takes place in the US, Brazil, India, the Philippines and Thailand, to name just a few nations.
The following are eleven reasons why you’ll want to have a bottle of blackstrap molasses around this season.
It is nutrient dense
Blackstrap molasses is high in a variety of B-vitamins, and is also an impressively high source of many minerals, including calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and selenium. These minerals support the optimal functioning of many of the body’s systems. Blackstrap molasses also contains potent disease-fighting antioxidants.
It has a low glycemic index
The low glycemic index of blackstrap molasses means that it has a lesser effect on raising blood sugar levels than sweeteners high on the glycemic index, such as sugar. Instead of causing blood sugar to spike, blackstrap molasses can actually help to stabilize it, by aiding in the slowing of glucose and carbohydrate metabolism.
It is a smart alternative to sugar and other sweeteners
Sugar is one of the worst common poisons on the market today, and artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and splenda, can be just as dangerous. Both of these options are refined and devoid of nutrition. Blackstrap molasses, on the other hand, provides the body with nourishment and nutrition, without the danger.
It may help combat obesity
While sugar consumption is a huge factor in the obesity epidemic, molasses, remarkably, can actually have some weight loss benefits. Eating molasses can result in the body absorbing less calories, and the polyphenol antioxidants it contains can further aid the body in breaking down unwanted fat deposits.
It can boost immunity
Sugar is linked to suppressing the immune system. On the other hand, the abundant minerals and B-vitamins found in blackstrap molasses can help support the body’s defenses in keeping pathogens out. Its antioxidant content helps to calm system-wide inflammation, so that the immune system can focus on the invader at hand when it is threatened.
It can help ease menstrual symptoms
One of the most common traditional medicinal uses of blackstrap molasses is to ease menstrual cramping and other menstruation-related discomforts. Its calcium and magnesium content may be especially to thank for cramping relief. This molasses is also rich in iron, which is important for menstruating women as they are at a higher risk of iron deficiency.
It can aid digestion
Another traditional use of blackstrap molasses is the relief of constipation. Its thick, viscous texture can coat the digestive tract, and get things moving at a faster, smoother pace when you are faced with this uncomfortable symptom.
It is wonderful for the skin
The lactic acid content of molasses aids in its ability to clear up acne and soothe other skin disorders. Instead of reaching for chemical-laden products for a breakout, try a mask of blackstrap molasses to gently dry the acne and leave your skin feeling soft and smooth. Applying molasses topically can also help to heal minor wounds.
It may help to combat the grays
As a hair mask, blackstrap molasses can condition and provide softness to damages tresses. It is also traditionally used to discourage gray hairs, and some even claim that it helps hair to return to its original color.
It has cancer-fighting potential
Throughout history, blackstrap molasses has sometimes been used in the treatment of cancer. The authors of a 2003 research paper published in the Journal of Carcinogenesis wrote:
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that cancer was very rare among sugar cane plantation workers who were regularly consuming the raw brown sugar. Blackstrap molasses is rich in a variety of essential minerals including iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium and potassium as well as the majority of the vitamin B complex, deficiencies of which confer a major cancer risk. Molasses also contains high concentrations of amino acids and linoleic acid, an essential lipid that has a documented anti-tumor effect.”
It can add a world of flavor to your dishes.
Along with the traditional gingerbreads, baked beans and chillis, molasses can add a rich, sweet flavor to many other meals. Just use your imagination – this syrup can give roasts, stews, braises and desserts a distinctive kick like nothing else.
A note on molasses: some varieties contain sulfites which can trigger allergic reactions. Your best bet is a high quality, unsulfured, blackstrap molasses. Store your jar of dark brown goodness in a cool, dry spot, and enjoy for six months after opening.
-The Alternative Daily