Molasses is a dark syrup made during the production of sugar and is often touted as a source of nutrients and a much healthier sweetener, but is molasses actually good for you? Here’s everything you need to know about the health benefits and nutrition of molasses, how it’s made, and its proposed health benefits.
What is Molasses?
Molasses is the dark, thick syrup byproduct of creating crystallized sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets. (1) To make sugar, sugar cane or sugar beets are crushed to extract their juice, which is then boiled down to form sugar crystals, leaving a dark brown syrup behind, also known as molasses. The separation of sugar crystals from the syrup occurs several times during the sugar-making process, which results in different grades of molasses; early extractions tend to be lighter in color and sweeter in taste, while final extractions are dark in color and contain less sugar.
Types of Molasses
There are different types of molasses varying in color, flavor, and sweetness.
Light molasses, also known as treacle syrup, is made from the first boiling and processing of sugar. It has the lightest color and taste, the highest sugar content, and the least viscous texture.
Dark molasses is obtained from the second stage of extraction and is darker, thicker, and less sweet than light molasses. Dark molasses also has a much more pungent taste than light molasses.
Blackstrap molasses is the product of the third or final boiling of sugar production, which yields a heavy, viscous, dark-colored product that has had most of the sugar removed. Blackstrap molasses has the most intense flavor and, because it contains less sugar, also has the most health benefits.
The lighter grades of molasses are more commonly used in baking, candy making, and rum making to add flavor and sweetness, while darker grades are often used in animal feed. (2)
Sulfured vs. Unsulfured Molasses
In addition to color, molasses can also be found in sulfured and unsulfured formats. Sulfured molasses is the byproduct of raw sugar manufacturing in which sulfur dioxide is added to the molasses to bleach its color. (3) This process can leave molasses with a strong chemical taste, which is why most commercial brands of molasses in grocery stores are unsulfured.
Molasses Nutrition Facts
- Calories: 58
- Fat: 0 grams
- Protein: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 15 grams
- Sugar: 15 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
Given there are different grades of molasses, the different types will contain varying nutritional values.
Is Blackstrap Molasses Good for You?
Since blackstrap molasses is the product of the final boiling, it contains less sugar than light molasses: blackstrap molasses is composed of as little as 50% sugar, while lighter molasses can be up to 75%-85% sugar. (6) It’s also a significant source of certain micronutrients, specifically calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6 than lighter molasses. Blackstrap molasses is also a source of polyphenol antioxidants, which have been shown to prevent the onset of chronic illness and disease. (7)
One tablespoon of organic blackstrap molasses contains (8):
- Calcium: 10% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Iron: 20% of DV
- Magnesium: 10% of DV
- Potassium: 9% of DV
- Vitamin B6: 8% of DV
For these reasons, blackstrap molasses is often considered the healthiest form of molasses.
The Bottom Line
Molasses is a dark, viscous syrup created during the sugar-making process from sugar cane and sugar beets. Molasses comes in many forms, including light, dark, and blackstrap, and, unlike refined sugar, it does have some nutritional benefits. More specifically, blackstrap molasses is a source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and contains less sugar than other forms of molasses and sugar. However, keep in mind that molasses is still a source of sugar and should be consumed in moderation in conjunction with a well-balanced whole foods diet.