How It Heals
In case the old saying "slow as molasses" doesn't inspire you to rush out for a bottle of the famously thick syrup, consider this: blackstrap molasses—the bittersweet liquid left over after sugar crystals have been extracted from sugar cane—has more antioxidants than most other sweeteners, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2009. "These antioxidants squelch free radicals that lead to different disease states and poor immune health," says Michelle Babb, MS, RD, a nutritionist at Bastyr University. Unlike highly refined sweeteners such as white sugar and corn syrup, which lack nutritional value, blackstrap molasses provides a range of vital minerals including calcium, potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. "The iron in molasses is particularly beneficial for menstruating women, who are at risk of having low stores," notes Babb. She also lauds blackstrap molasses for having a lower glycemic index than lighter molasses versions, not to mention other sweeteners, making it a better choice for blood sugar control.
Eat It Up
There are three grades of molasses: light, dark, and bolder-tasting blackstrap, which comes from the third boiling of sugar cane syrup. The pure flavor of unsulfured varieties works well in gingerbread and baked beans. But don't stop there: blackstrap molasses mixed with ginger, orange zest, and red pepper flakes makes a rich glaze for tofu or roasted squash. Add a tablespoon or two to mashed sweet potatoes, oatmeal, or smoothies, or use as the sweetener for heavily spiced baked goods.
Pomegranate molasses, a Middle Eastern staple that makes a great addition to vinaigrettes and cocktails, doesn't actually contain molasses. To make your own that does, simmer 4 cups pomegranate juice, 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses, and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice for 1 hour. To avoid sugar shock, Babb recommends limiting yourself to 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses daily.