Molasses -- the thick brown syrup used as a flavoring in baking -- is the by-product of the refining process that turns sugar cane into pure white table sugar. An important ingredient in old-fashioned spice cookies, molasses imparts a rich, caramel-like flavor without adding excessive sweetness. Molasses -- which retains nutrients from the original sugar cane -- is a healthier sweetener than refined sugar, and contains healthy amounts of various minerals, including potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral needed by your body for a variety of vital functions, including maintaining stable heartbeat.
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A tablespoon of molasses contains 58 calories, 14.95 g of carbohydrates and 11.10 g of sugars in the form of sucrose, glucose and fructose. Molasses contains an infinitesimal amount of fat -- .02 g -- in 1 tbsp, and virtually no salt. It is also devoid of protein and fiber. In addition to sweetening food, molasses may lift your mood. In an animal study published in 2005 in "Biological Psychiatry," researchers found that uridine -- a compound found in molasses -- had an antidepressant effect on rats. The effect was indicated by the rodents' performance in a forced-swim test, a tool for measuring depression.
Potassium is an essential mineral found in the fluids both inside and outside of your cells. It performs a variety of vital functions, including regulating the balance of fluids and electrolytes, helping to maintain normal blood pressure, and controlling the contraction of both skeletal and smooth muscles, including those of the digestive system. In addition, potassium helps to maintain healthy bones and transmits nerve impulses. According to University of Florida, men and women over age 19 need 4,700 mg of potassium a day. A potassium-rich diet can reduce risk of stroke, and also decrease your risk of kidney stones. Bananas, citrus juices, avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes and potatoes are good sources of potassium; it is also found in poultry, meat and cheese.
A tablespoon of molasses contains 293 mg potassium, or about 6 percent of the recommended amount. The same tsbp. of molasses contains 41 mg of calcium, essential for strong bones, as well as 48 mg of magnesium, needed to regulate the balance of potassium, calcium and other minerals. In addition, molasses is a good source of the trace mineral manganese, providing 0.306 mg -- over 10 percent of the RDA -- in 1 tbsp. Manganese is needed to form connective tissue and bones, and is also a component of superoxide dismutase, a potent antioxidant produced in the body. Molasses is also rich in the trace mineral selenium, proving 3.6 mcg per tbsp. Selenium, an antioxidant, plays a role in thyroid function and is essential for the proper function of the immune system. Other trace minerals supplied by molasses include zinc, iron and copper.
Molasses contains modest amounts of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B-6 -- or pyridoxine. A tablespoon of molasses contains 0.134 mg of this water-soluble vitamin, needed to make hemoglobin and convert tryptophan to niacin. The nutrient choline -- which plays a role in preventing the buildup of fats and cholesterol in the liver -- is also present in molasses in the amount of 2.7 mg per tablespoon.