Admit it: if you could only eat cake for the rest of your life without putting on a pound, you would be eating this cake. The internet is full of “healthy” alternatives to ingredients like sugar, but how many are really healthy and who are simply healthier? Molasses is often touted as a sweet substitute.
So let’s dig deeper and explore what’s really going on.
FDA sets recommended daily values (DV) for various nutrients, while the FoodData Central of the United States Department of Agriculture provides us with the nutritional data we need to compare the two.
A teaspoon of molasses weighs about 20 grams. As you will soon see, most regular recipes require 4 or 5 tablespoons. So, using 100g of molasses versus 100g of sugar as a rough guide:
Okay, that’s good to know. But what does all of this mean in real life? What does science have to say about the health benefits of replacing sugar with molasses?
You will find the minerals iron, selenium, copper and calcium in molasses. According to a review of 2016, getting enough iron, selenium and copper can help prevent deficiencies and keep your bones strong. And getting enough calcium can help maintain strong bones. as you step into your fall years.
But if that sounds good on paper, don’t start gulping molasses out of a cup right away.
There are many other sources of these valuable nutrients that are better for you overall. Molasses could serve as an alternative sweetener * slightly * more nutritious than white sugar. But it’s not healthy in the same sense as kale or lettuce.
Potassium helps you protect your heart health and strengthen your blood vessels against stroke. And molasses is a surprisingly good source (31.1 percent of your DV is a big chunk).
But again, this is only in relation to sugar. A banana is likely to do you more good than a spoonful of sweet stuff.
Earlier research has linked molasses to higher levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, another potential heart health booster. However, don’t get too excited – this study took place in 2005 in rats. In fact, much research on the health benefits of molasses focuses on its effects on animals for agricultural purposes.
For example, we know that molasses is good for helping baby goats grow tall and healthy. But be quite skeptical if someone prescribes it for your own children – the science just isn’t there to support its use in cholesterol management.
If you live with diabetes or have trouble managing your blood sugar, using sugar to control sugar may not be the best solution. The doctor or healthcare professional supervising your diabetes treatment should be your first stopover.
But one Randomized controlled trial 2016 compared the insulin response of healthy participants after eating 5 meals – one group ate meals prepared with placebo syrup, while the other ate meals containing molasses concentrate. The molasses chewing group showed weaker insulin responses than the placebo group.
Yes, the results are promising and the study design is sound. But the molasses in this trial was a concentrate, so eating standard supermarket molasses might not have the same effects. And the study didn’t test its effects on people with diabetes, so the results could be quite different.
Molasses is always added sugar in your diet, so be careful when including it in meals, especially if your blood sugar levels are generally difficult to control.
Let’s end with a health benefit that is entirely positive. Back in 2009, a study found that molasses contains higher antioxidant content than sugar and other alternative sweeteners like honey. Antioxidants have links with many health benefits, comprising:
If you’ve been careful, you’ll have spotted a theme running through our summary of molasses health benefits: It’s better for you than granulated sugar, but that doesn’t mean much.
Although there have been no reports of serious side effects from molasses, consuming too much of it still carries some risks:
- Digestive problems, including diarrhea, can appear if you overdo it.
- Symptoms of diabetes could get worse.
- Frequent sugar crashes can put a damper on your mood.
However, if you eat molasses in moderation, you should be fine.
Most store bought molasses come from sugar cane or sugar beets. The people who make molasses boil that shit all the way to syrup. Once the sugar crystals separate, they leave a dark liquid. And that, my friends, is molasses.
Manufacturers repeat this boiling process three times. Each time produces a different type of molasses.
Boil 1: light molasses
The first boil produces a light molasses. It is the lightest and sweetest type – the one most commonly used in all types of cooking. From sauces and marinades to crusty bread and squidgy cookies, light molasses is a remarkably versatile ingredient.
Boil 2: black molasses
The second boil gives you dark molasses. It is thicker and darker than light molasses, while being slightly less sweet and more flavorful. The difference between light and dark molasses comes down to personal taste. Dark molasses produces foods with a richer flavor.
Budding bakers typically use black molasses for gingerbread, but most cookies use light foods.
Boil 3: Blackstrap Molasses
So what’s the difference between black molasses and black molasses? Which one is the healthiest?
Well, the black molasses comes from the third and final boil. It is the thickest, darkest and strongest in flavor. It also has a slight nutritional benefit, retaining more vitamins and minerals than black molasses.
However, the bitter taste of black molasses is too much for many people. It’s much less sweet, which means most people use it in savory dishes. It’s best not to trade blackstrap if the recipe calls for black molasses, unless you know what you’re doing.
Honorable mentions: molasses and sorghum
You might see the old Mee-Maw recipes calling for molasses and molasses interchangeably, but they’re very different these days. Modern molasses is a mixture of molasses, syrup and coloring additives. If you have molasses in the cupboard, check your recipe and see if it’s suitable as an alternative to molasses.
Sorghum, on the other hand, is made from grains rather than sugar cane or beets. While it’s prepared in much the same way, molasses certainly isn’t. If you must use sorghum as a substitute, add about half the amount the recipe calls for.
Unsulphured or sulfur-free molasses: what’s the difference?
Some manufacturers treat molasses with sulfur dioxide to give it a longer shelf life. However, this preservative also leaves the product with a bitter taste. If you cook sweeter foods, make sure the molasses you use is sulfur free.
Here are three easy recipes using your new favorite sugar alternative. Sweets, savory, side dishes; this handy ingredient is proving useful in some very surprising places.
Baked beans with molasses and bacon
A companion that makes hamburgers and hot dogs salivate for summer evening barbecues.
- Immerse the beans in the water and let them soak overnight.
- When cooking, first boil the beans.
- Using a sieve or colander, separate the beans from the boiled water.
- Preheat your oven to 325 Â° F (163 Â° C).
- Put the beans, onion and bacon in a saucepan and mix them together.
- Combine molasses, brown sugar, salt, mustard and pepper with 1 cup of boiled water; add this mixture to the pot and stir.
- Add more boiled water, just enough to almost submerge the bean mixture.
- Cover the pot and bake for 4 to 5 hours. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed until these beans are nice and tender.
Jumbo ginger cookies
Crispy and delicious cookies that are big enough to seriously satisfy.
The beauty is in how easy it is to prepare these cookies:
- Combine your flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
- Cream butter, brown sugar and regular sugar until frothy.
- Beat your molasses and egg in the cream.
- Stir in your whipped flour mixture.
- Flatten the contents of your bowl into a disc and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 350 Â° F (176 Â° C).
- Divide the dough into 20 balls, rolling them each in the remaining sugar.
- Place your sweet balls on a baking sheet and flatten them with the bottom of a glass.
- Stop laughing at “sweet balls”.
- Sprinkle a little more sugar on the cookies.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Put your cookies on a wire rack to cool.
Brown molasses bread
Try this with beans – this is a simple yet tasty beginner’s bread recipe.
The whole process takes about 3 hours:
- Dissolve the sugar in the cup of lukewarm water, then sprinkle over the yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Combine molasses, oatmeal, butter and salt.
- Add the cup of boiling water, whisk, then add the cup of cold water.
- Once the 10 minutes have passed, stir in your yeast mixture.
- Slowly add your flour and knead the resulting dough.
- Divide the dough in half between two well greased loaf pans.
- Cover each pan with a kitchen towel, put them in a warm place to rise for 90 minutes.
- Once the contents of each pan have almost doubled in size, bake at 350 Â° F (176 Â° C) for one hour.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the molds for 5 minutes.
If you’re trying to make small lifestyle changes here and there to reduce the sugar in your diet, molasses might be worth considering.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the next major health food, and don’t go overboard with these gigantic gingerbread cookies.