Molasses: Types, Nutrition, Benefits, and Side Effects

Mehak Shah

June 17, 2022

Molasses is a thick brown syrup popular as a sweetener. Molasses extraction happens from sugar cane or sugar beets. First, sugar canes or sugar beets get crushed, and the makers extract the juice. Next, manufacturers boil this juice and these form sugar crystals. After removing these crystals, what is left is molasses. You can repeat this boiling process, and each time a different variety of molasses is obtained. You can use Molasses as a substitute for sugar. Molasses are from the same source as sugar, but it is more nutritious and less harmful than sugar. 

This article looks in detail at the varieties of molasses, their nutritional profile, potential health benefits, some side effects, and how to store them.

Varieties of Molasses

There are different kinds of molasses available in the market. These differ from one another in nutritional content and quality. The wide varieties are below:

  • Blackstrap molasses form after the third boiling. They are also known as final molasses. They are the most nutritious variety of molasses.
  • Dark molasses: One gets them after the second boiling. One can use them both in baking and giving colour and flavour to foods.
  • Light molasses: You get them after the first boiling. It is light in colour and tastes very sweet. It goes perfectly with baking.
  • Sulfured molasses are extracted from young sugarcane and treated with sulphur dioxide for preservation purposes.
  • Unsulphured molasses are extracts from ripe sugarcane and, when not treated with sulphur dioxide.
  • Hydrol is part of the extraction process through the hydrolysis of starch.
  • Cane molasses are part of the extraction process and are a by-product of sugar refining.

Nutritional Profile of Molasses

Molasses is quite nutritious and rich in a variety of minerals. As per the USDA, the following is the nutritional profile of molasses per 100 grams:

  • Water: 21.9 g
  • Energy: 290 kcal
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Fat: 0.1 g
  • Carbohydrate, by difference: 74.7 g
  • Total dietary fibre: 0 g
  • Calcium: 205 mg
  • Iron: 4.72 mg
  • Magnesium: 242 mg
  • Phosphorous: 31 mg
  • Potassium: 1460 mg
  • Sodium: 37 mg
  • Manganese: 1.53 mg
  • Copper: 0.487 mg
  • Zinc: 0.29 mg 

Health Benefits of Molasses

Due to the presence of various minerals, molasses have wide-ranging benefits for your health. Though all molasses are suitable for your body, blackstrap molasses are incredibly healthy. Some of the health benefits of molasses are below:

Molasses are Heart Friendly 

Free radicals cause oxidative stress in the body. Sufficient research has shown that excess free radicals in the body can cause various diseases throughout one’s lifetime. 

A study that focused on the impact of oxidative stress on the heart showed that chronic oxidative stress could lead to poor heart health. Antioxidants are essential for your body as they protect it against free radicals. There are various ways in which molasses enhance heart health. 

A study suggested that molasses have significant antioxidant properties due to polyphenol oxidants. In addition, molasses have a good amount of potassium (1460 mg per 100 grams). Potassium helps in keeping the blood pressure under control.

Molasses Eases Constipation

This benefit of molasses is more visible in the case of children. A study showed that molasses are good as traditional medicine for treating constipation in children. Another study found that molasses are as effective as sodium phosphate enemas for treating constipation in children. Two different views may explain molasses’ effectiveness in constipation. The first one is the high potassium content in molasses as it helps in muscle contraction and easy movement of the stool. The second view is the presence of carbohydrates known as polysaccharides. As a result, they act like fibre and help in easy movement of the stool. 

Molasses Improves Bone Health

Molasses are an excellent source of calcium. It is essential for bone health. In addition to calcium, molasses contain iron and selenium, though in tiny amounts. A 2016 review of studies found that iron, calcium, and selenium deficiency negatively affect bone health. Sufficient calcium intake also reduces the risk of painful conditions like osteoporosis. It can also relieve joint pain that happens during arthritis. Calcium not only helps in maintaining bone health but also in proper enzyme function and membrane function. There have been other studies that indicate molasses can be beneficial in promoting healthy bones.

It Enhances the formation of Red Blood Cells

Red Blood Cells (RBCs) play an essential role in transporting oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body. They are also responsible for bringing back carbon dioxide to the lung. It makes them essential to the overall functioning of the body. Iron is a critical ingredient in RBCs. They also increase iron absorption in the body. Iron also helps in increasing haemoglobin content in the blood. As per studies, this helps in preventing anaemia. The iron requirement in women is much higher due to monthly blood loss during periods. 

It Improves the working of the Nervous System

Molasses have a significant amount of magnesium. Magnesium is vital for the nervous system. As per research, magnesium involvement is close to 600 biochemical reactions in the human body. These include responses that are responsible for the regulation of the nervous system. Magnesium helps calm the nervous system by counteracting calcium flow in the blood. Also, too much calcium flowing over activates the nerves and causes the transmission of too many signals. Magnesium helps prevent this by blocking calcium from rushing into the nerves. As per a study, this helps in preventing hypertension and overall fatigue.

Diabetes Management

Given that molasses has a high carbohydrate content, it may seem strange that it can help people with diabetes. But some evidence suggests that it may be the case. Molasses have a low Glycemic Index (GI). It means that it does not cause spikes in your sugar levels because it slows down the digestion of glucose and carbohydrates. Chromium may also play a role in countering high blood sugar levels. Molasses contain a trace of chromium (about 0.266 mg/ kg).  

Research suggests that chromium increases insulin action, which helps combat high blood sugar. A deficiency of chromium may lead to weak glucose tolerance. 

Molasses Can Help Reverse Menstrual Symptoms

Molasses may be a healthy natural remedy for menstrual discomfort. A study suggested that it helps prevent excessive blood loss for a longer duration during periods. It may also help prevent blood clotting, ease pain from menstrual cramps, and strengthen the uterine muscles.  

Molasses Improves Hair Health

Some research states the importance of iron in hair health. Molasses extract can enhance hair health by softening the hair and adding a rich texture to your crowning glory. It may also help prevent premature greying of hair. However, most of these benefits are anecdotal and more research is needed to confirm these benefits. 

Molasses Alleviates Stress

Molasses can also help in improving stress. Vitamin B6, present in molasses, helps stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain, a hormone that plays a crucial role in elevating your mood. Conversely, the deficiency of vitamin B6 can cause headaches, anxiety disorders, stress and depression.

Molasses Improves Skin Health

Zinc is an essential mineral for your skin. Molasses contain zinc in addition to minerals like copper and hence are helpful for the skin. It also contains lactic acid, which helps treat acne by enhancing carbohydrate metabolism. Molasses also promotes the healthy growth of tissues. Historically, it also treated wounds and skin burns.

Allergies and Possible Side Effects

Allergies due to molasses are pretty rare. However, some people may experience hives, stomach issues, or difficulty breathing after taking molasses. It is probably due to a chemical known as para-aminobenzoic acid in molasses. You can also find taking molasses problematic if you are allergic to sulphites. Molasses contain sulphites to prevent bacteria growth.

Some other side effects may occur due to allergy to sugar and not molasses per se. These may include shortness of breath, wheezing and swelling of the throat. In addition, lactose intolerance may cause bloating, gas, nausea, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.

It would help if you also were careful about the quantity. Taking molasses in excess can cause digestive problems and diarrhoea.

Molasses: Storage

You can store molasses for a long time without worrying about them going bad. As per research by USDA, you can store unopened molasses at room temperature for up to 12 months. After opening, you can store molasses for up to 6 months at room temperature.

The Conclusion

Molasses is a liquid sweetener that gets made during sugar making process. Molasses has immense health benefits for your body. It is suitable for your heart and bones. In addition, it contains a variety of minerals and is quite nutritious. Moreover, it strengthens the digestive tract and prevents constipation, especially in children. In addition, it is excellent for your skin and hair health as well. However, you should be careful and check if your body responds unfavourably to molasses. Also, it would help if you took molasses in moderation because they have a high content of carbohydrates. Taking too much of it will nullify the benefits and cause problems instead.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What does molasses do to the human body?

A. Molasses is a sweetener that has significant health benefits for your body. It is suitable for your heart and bones. It strengthens the digestive tract and prevents constipation, especially in children. In addition, it is ideal for your skin and hair health as well. However, it may not give you all these benefits if taken in excess. Instead, as per a study, it may cause problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which can happen due to high sugar intake. 

Q. What is molasses made of?

A. Molasses is essentially made of sugar cane or sugar beets. First, sugar canes or sugar beets get crushed to extract the juice. This juice then undergoes a boiling process. It leads to the formation of sugar crystals. After removing these crystals, the liquid that is left is molasses. The repetition of this boiling process can occur a few times, and each time a different variety of molasses is obtained. 

Q. Is molasses harmful to health?

A. Molasses is quite nutritious and is comparatively less harmful than sugar. But this holds only if you take molasses in moderation. Taking it in excess can cause problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which generally occur due to high sugar intake. 

Q. What happens when you drink molasses every day?

A. Molasses is quite nutritious. However, it would help if you kept in mind moderation is key to healthy eating. You can take molasses every day but make sure you limit molasses intake to 20 grams per day. 

Q. Is molasses healthier than honey?

A. Blackstrap molasses is healthier than honey. Compared to honey, blackstrap molasses have a much higher concentration of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, and copper. Also, it is healthier than honey in terms of calorific value. For example, 100 grams of honey contains 304 calories, while black molasses contain just 235 calories.  

Q. How is an alcohol made from molasses?

A. Molasses fermentation is a process through which sucrose from molasses gets converted into ethanol. Simultaneously, there is a release of energy and carbon dioxide.   

Q. Is molasses better than sugar?

A. Molasses is quite nutritious and is comparatively less harmful than sugar. But this holds only if you take molasses in moderation. Taking it in excess can cause problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which generally occur due to high sugar intake. 

Q. Is molasses and brown sugar the same?

A. No, molasses and brown sugar are not the same. The brown sugar gets formed when molasses gets added to sugar. So molasses gives brown sugar a brown colour. 

Q. Is molasses anti-inflammatory?

A. Blackstrap molasses is regarded as an anti-inflammatory component. As a result, it effectively reduces swelling, pain and joint inflammation.

About the Author

Mehak holds masters in foods and nutrition from Amity university, Noida. She has a keen interest in public health and nutrition and has been in charge of various projects with milestone NGO. She has worked with people over the globe to bring out the changes in their lives and has always been working towards lifestyle modifications via good dietary practices. According to her a healthy lifestyle is not about the destination but all about the journey.

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