By Kirsten Serrano
Surprise! There is a natural sweetener that packs a powerful nutrition punch.
Blackstrap molasses is brimming with vitamins and minerals. Among sweeteners, molasses is a standout and you could even call it a “superfood.” To produce table sugar, sugar cane is juiced. It is then boiled three times to extract the sugar crystals and that’s how we get white sugar. Blackstrap molasses is the viscous syrup left after the third boiling and has the concentrated nutrients. This gives blackstrap molasses an impressive nutrient profile. One tablespoon contains just 47 calories and 20% of your daily iron needs, 17% of calcium, and 11% of magnesium, to name a few.
Look for organic unsulfured blackstrap molasses. Sulfur dioxide is sometimes used in processing, in part for its preservative properties. Some say there is a negative effect on taste. There is also a possible connection between sulfur dioxide and an allergic response to sulfites for some people.
Blackstrap molasses is still sugar and should be used sparingly. It is roughly 1/4 glucose, 1/4 fructose and 1/2 sucrose. The glycemic index is 55 compared to table sugar’s 80. Of all the sweeteners, it is far and away the most nutritious, but, like any sweetener, it can be overdone. Reality is there is no miracle sweetener, but molasses has something significant to offer beyond sweet taste.
You have heard about empty calories and sugar is the main culprit. Not only does sugar spike your blood sugar and cause inflammation, but it actually depletes nutrients from your body. Magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium and chromium are all stolen from your body to process the sugar you eat. Magnesium and chromium are critical nutrients for maintaining blood sugar control. The more we indulge the deeper we dig the nutrient deficit hole. Talk about a bad deal!
Molasses has a strong flavor and is not suitable for everything, but I urge you to give it a second glance. I like the flavor of molasses and use it when I can. A favorite seasonal treat is my recipe for a Gingerbread Latte. Here is what you need:
- 12 oz freshly brewed black coffee
- 2 scoops collagen powder (support joint, hair, nails, gut health and more)
- 1 tsp ghee or MCT oil
- 1 Tb organic unsulfured blackstrap molasses
- 1/4 tsp pie spice
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
Here comes the ridiculously easy part: Put everything in your blender and whip it all together. It’s a delicious nutrient dense treat and perfect for the season.
Molasses is a time trusted ingredient in gingerbread, baked beans and BBQ sauces, but that same complexity of flavor can do so much more. Try making a shoofly pie this holiday season for an old-fashioned treat. Brussels sprouts are a fantastic match for molasses whether you use it as a glaze for roasted brussels or make my Molasses Mustard Vinaigrette (smallwonderfood.com) for a shaved brussels sprout salad.
Enjoy the season and add a little molasses.
Kirsten Serrano is a nutrition consultant, chef, farmer, food literacy educator and the best-selling author of “Eat to Your Advantage.” You can find out more about her work at SmallWonderFood.com.