A byproduct of sugar manufacturing, molasses contributes to the distinct flavor of gingerbread and rum. Unlike some other sweeteners, such as white sugar, molasses offers nutritional value in the form of essential minerals and trace amounts of vitamins. But it's still high in calories and sugar -- roughly 55 percent sugar -- so consume it in moderation.
Calories and Carbohydrates
A tablespoon of molasses contains 58 calories, with all of the calories coming from carbohydrates. Each serving contains 15 grams of total carbohydrates, made up of various sugars, including sucrose, or table sugar; fructose, the natural sugar found in fruit and honey; and glucose, the type of sugar found in your bloodstream. Its high sugar content means that molasses can quickly increase your blood sugar levels, but you can also suffer a blood sugar crash shortly after your meal. You should limit your sugar intake to 100 calories per day, advises the American Heart Association, and a single tablespoon of molasses makes up almost two-thirds of your limit. Molasses contains only a trace amount of fat, at 0.02 grams per serving, and offers no protein.
An Iron-Rich Food
Molasses offers health benefits because of its iron content. A single tablespoon contains 0.94 milligram of iron, which is 12 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 5 percent for women. Iron helps your body make ATP, a chemical source of fuel for your cells; your body also incorporates iron into red blood cells, where it can aid in oxygen transport. Consuming iron-rich foods, like molasses, can prevent the fatigue linked to iron deficiency.
Copper for Energy
Eat molasses and you'll also boost your copper intake. Copper helps you use iron, and like iron, copper fuels your day-to-day activities by helping to produce energy. It supports the health of your immune system, strengthens your bones and plays a role in brain function. Copper also has a protective effect on your cells, shielding them from free radicals, which would otherwise induce DNA damage. A tablespoon of molasses provides you with 97 micrograms, which is 11 percent of the recommended daily copper intake.
Reach for molasses to boost your magnesium intake. Each tablespoon offers 48 milligrams of magnesium -- 11 percent and 15 percent of the recommended daily magnesium intakes for men and women, respectively. Magnesium helps you metabolize other nutrients, including copper and zinc, and maintains healthy bones. Like copper and iron, it helps you produce energy, and magnesium also activates enzymes essential for good health. Getting enough magnesium in your diet might also support good mental health because low magnesium can disrupt your natural brain chemistry.
- HealthAliciousness: Top 10 Foods Highest in Sugar (To Limit or Avoid)
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Molasses
- Harvard School of Public Health: Sugar in the Diet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Magnesium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Iron
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper