The health benefits of molasses include relief from menstruation-related problems, obesity, diabetes, stress, cancer, enlarged prostate, acne and other skin ailments, constipation, headaches and anemia. It helps to improve bone health, electrolyte balance, hair care, sexual health, functioning of the nervous system, and wound healing. It also helps to strengthen the immune system, maintain healthy levels of hemoglobin and aid in the formation of new cells in the body.
Molasses is a dense, viscous byproduct obtained from the processing of sugar cane and sugar beet into table sugar. It derives its name from the Latin word for honey, Mel. Its viscosity and thick texture gave rise to the famous designation of something or someone being “slow as molasses” for any slow-moving thing.
Historically, molasses was produced in the Caribbean, where the cultivation of sugarcane and sugar beet was highest. From there, it was imported to the United States during the early 20th century. Today, molasses is produced on a large scale in Thailand, India, Taiwan, Brazil, the Philippines and the United States. Along with its usage as a sweetener in food products, it also offers health benefits and is used for treating a wide range of ailments.
Varieties of Molasses
Blackstrap Molasses: It is obtained from raw cane sugar production and canned sugar refining. It is also known as final molasses in cane mills and refinery molasses in a refinery setting.
Sulfured Molasses: Molasses is also referred to as sulfured molasses if it has been extracted from young sugarcane and treated with sulfur dioxide for preservation.
Unsulfured molasses: Molasses extracted from ripe sugarcane does not need sulfur and retains its rich and light flavor. This variety is referred to as unsulfured molasses.
Hydrol: Molasses obtained from starch hydrolysis is called a hydrol.
The nutritional content and quality of molasses depends on the method involved in its refining process, the ripeness of the plant from which it is extracted and the quantity of sugar that is extracted.
Nutritional Value of Molasses
Molasses contains a number of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorous, chromium, cobalt and sodium. It is a good source of energy and carbohydrates and it contains sugars as well. In addition to this, it offers various vitamins such as niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamine and riboflavin. It is very low in both fat content and fiber.
Blackstrap molasses is a nourishing sweetener which contains a considerable amount of nutrients that are essential for the functioning of the body, unlike refined white sugar, which only contains simple carbohydrates and other components like aspartame, which is not very healthful for the body.
Antioxidant Capacity: Research studies have shown that blackstrap molasses contains the highest amount of antioxidants as compared to refined sugar, corn syrup, raw cane sugar and other readily available sweeteners. These antioxidants protect the body against the oxidative damage associated with cancer, cardiovascular disorders and degenerative diseases. This makes it a much better alternative to refined sugar.
Menstruation: Molasses is a good source of iron and is very effective for menstruating women who are at major risk of iron deficiency due to blood loss. With no fat and very few calories, it is a better alternative for contributing iron content in the body as compared to other fatty sources like red meat. Iron prevents various disorders like menorrhagia which causes excessive blood flow for a longer duration during menstruation. The minerals such as magnesium and calcium that are present in molasses help to prevent the clotting of blood, relieve menstrual cramps and help in maintaining the health of uterine muscles. It is a healthy alternative, as compared to other medications for menstrual discomfort which might have certain side effects.
Obesity: The polyphenols present in molasses have antioxidant effects which may prove effective in reducing obesity and manage weight gain. In the investigation conducted to assess the impact of molasses on a high-fat diet, it was evident that molasses extract helps in lowering the body weight and fat content by reducing the absorption of calories in the body.
Better Sexual Health: Blackstrap molasses is rich in the trace mineral manganese, which helps in the healthy production of sex hormones. It also plays a vital role in the functioning of the nervous system, the prevention of blood clots and the production of energy from proteins and carbohydrates. A deficiency of manganese can lead to infertility, general fatigue and weak bones.
Constipation: Molasses has been proven to be valuable in treating constipation. Research studies have shown that routine milk and molasses enemas are as effective as sodium phosphate enemas given in the pediatric emergency department to cure constipation. It is also noteworthy that curing constipation with sodium phosphate requires an additional rectal treatment. However, it is not required in the treatment done with milk and molasses enemas when consumed orally.
Healthy Bones: Black strap molasses is a good source of calcium, which plays an important role in maintaining bone health, the functioning of enzyme system, the removal of toxins from the colon and cell membrane function. It is also required to maintain healthy teeth and protects the body against bone diseases common during menopause. In addition to healthier bones, the ability of muscular contraction is also attributed to the presence of calcium in the body.
Rheumatism: Molasses has been effectively utilized in the preparation of medication for treating rheumatism and neuralgia. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of molasses make it a reliable ingredient for curing such disorders.
Diabetes: Blackstrap molasses helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels. It has a low glycemic index and aids in slowing the metabolism of glucose and carbohydrates, which subsequently means less insulin production. This helps in preventing the accumulation of excess fats or lipids in the blood stream. It possesses a substantial amount of the essential trace element of chromium, which is valuable in relation to insulin action and maintenance of glucose tolerance in the body as well. Scientific research has shown that it contains the highest amount of chromium (0.266 mg/kg) as compared to refined white sugar and brown sugar. A deficiency of chromium can result in weak glucose tolerance which can lead to diabetes. This can represent a serious risk for chronic diseases like atherosclerosis, blood cholesterol and other cardiac disorders.
Hypokalemia: Molasses contains the essential mineral potassium, which is required for the proper functioning of cells. It helps in maintaining the acid-base balance of the body and prevents heat exhaustion. Potassium also plays an important role in nerve and muscle contraction and helps to maintain cardiac health. Adequate intake of potassium rich foods like molasses helps to prevent disorder like hypokalemia and reduces blood pressure.
Acne: The health benefits of molasses also include relief from acne. It contains lactic acid, which helps in relieving the symptoms of acne. Lactic acid is produced by lactic acid bacteria, and plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism. It is effectively used in the preparation of natural, non-toxic and non-allergenic treatments of a physiological nature for curing acne and other skin ailments. Apart from molasses, lactic acid is also present in sour milk, apples and tomato juice.
Healing Touch: Molasses has been used for its wound healing effects in the treatment of wounds and skin burns. It also promotes the healthy growth of tissues. Due to the wide range of essential minerals, it serves very well as a potent healer.
Red Blood Cells: Molasses is rich in copper, which aids in eradicating the free radicals from the body. It helps in the absorption of iron, the formation of red blood cells and it maintains a healthy immune system. A deficiency of copper can result in anemia, thyroid problems, cardiac arrhythmia and osteoporosis.
Hemoglobin: The iron content in molasses helps to maintain healthy levels of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin plays a key role in supplying oxygen from lungs to other body parts. It is also vital for the production of energy and aids in maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Formation of New Cells: Blackstrap molasses is also sometimes referred to as pregnancy tea, owing to the presence of iron, vitamin B (i.e. folate) and other essential minerals. Consumption of molasses during pregnancy also provides calcium, which is required for the growth and development of the baby.
Nervous System: Molasses contains magnesium, which helps in the proper functioning of the nervous system. It keeps our nerves and blood vessels relaxed by balancing calcium volume and blocking it from rushing into the nerves. Unblocked and speedy flows of calcium into the nerves can over activate them and can lead to the transmission of too many signals and excessive nerve contraction. A deficiency of magnesium in the body can lead to hypertension, muscle cramps, spasms and general body fatigue.
Headache and Fatigue: Blackstrap molasses is a good source of various minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid. The deficiency of these vitamins can cause headaches, asthma, fatigue, and stress. Consumption of molasses would help to provide these required vitamins and minerals and will help in maintaining good overall health.
Hair Care: Molasses extracts are good for hair and they promote healthy hair growth. It softens and conditions the hair, adds a rich texture and prevents it from prematurely graying.
Culinary Use: Molasses is quite popular for its use in baked goods like pies, gingerbread and baked beans. It is also used in the manufacturing of rum, which is one of the reasons that rum is so popular in the areas where sugarcane cultivation and molasses production is in abundance. It is also utilized in providing rich, dark texture and flavor to brown sugar.
Other Uses of Molasses
Molasses has been effectively used for animal feeds. Molasses is a source of carbon and is effectively used in horticulture to feed the microbes and boost the microbial activity of the soil. Beet molasses is also used to make fertilizer.
It is a beneficial sweetener that is rich in naturally available micro- and macronutrients.
Some people might develop allergic reactions due to a sensitivity towards the sulfite that is present in sulfured molasses. Unsulfured molasses is free of sulfur dioxide and safe to use in such cases. However, it is always advisable to obtain medical consent before considering molasses as a therapeutic remedy for various medical conditions.
Add a little sweetness and health to your life with molasses!