Thick and dark, with a sticky, syrup-like texture, molasses is what's left over at the end of the sugar refining process, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC). This sticky substance is the end-product once no additional sugar can be crystalized from sugarcane or sugar beets.
There are a few types of molasses, according to the University of Wyoming Extension:
- Light molasses: This is often used in baking, per the University of Wyoming.
- Dark molasses: You'll find this ingredient in gingerbread cookies.
- Blackstrap molasses: This has a bitter flavor — don't sub it in with baking projects that call for light or dark molasses. It has lower sugar and more vitamins and minerals than the other two varieties, per IFIC.
In general, molasses is good for baking and cooking. Because it's also rich in vitamins and minerals (more on that in a minute), there are also some health benefits to molasses.
Molasses Nutrition Facts
While molasses is a form of sugar, it's far less sweet than the table sugar you'd spoon into your coffee, per the IFIC. Plus, this viscous syrup contains more vitamins and minerals, particularly B vitamins, than everyday sugar.
Even with these nutrients, this thick, dark-brown syrup is still considered an added sugar, which should be limited to less than 10 percent of the calories you take in each day, per the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020.
What About Antioxidants?
Compared to refined sugar, molasses offers more antioxidants, according to a January 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. That’s particularly true with dark and blackstrap molasses.
The study found that based on an average intake of 130 grams per day of refined sugars and the antioxidant activity measured in typical American diets, substituting alternative sweeteners like blackstrap molasses could increase antioxidant intake to a level similar to that found in a serving of berries or nuts.
This sweet substance also offers minerals and vitamins, such as:
One tablespoon of molasses has 41 milligrams of calcium or 3 percent of your daily value, according to the USDA.
Calcium, which is the most abundant mineral found in our bodies, offers many important benefits: It's crucial for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, plays an important role in how your muscles function and also helps maintain healthy blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).
In addition, calcium is linked to osteoporosis prevention.
Molasses is loaded with the mineral magnesium: One tablespoon of molasses delivers 48 milligrams of magnesium, which is 12 percent of your DV, according to the USDA.
Magnesium plays an important role in the activation of more than 300 enzymes in your body that regulate body functions, per the ODS. It helps keep blood sugar and blood pressure under control and is important for bone health, among other benefits, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Most people in the United States don't consume enough of this important mineral, per the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
You'll get a boost of potassium when you consume molasses — one tablespoon has 293 milligrams of potassium, or 6 percent of your DV, according to the USDA.
This mineral is important for your body to function properly, according to the ODS. Along with sodium, it helps to keep your fluid levels balanced, according to the University of Michigan. Heads-up: This is another mineral (like magnesium) where many Americans fall short of the recommended daily amount.
Consume molasses, and you'll get several B vitamins, known for their vital role helping your body convert food into energy. The B vitamins found in molasses include:
- Vitamin B3 (aka niacin): One tablespoon of molasses contains 0.2 milligrams of niacin, about 1 percent of the recommended daily intake, according to the USDA. Niacin is important for your nervous and digestive systems, and is often taken — by prescription — to treat high cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Vitamin B5 (aka pantothenic acid): There's 0.2 milligrams — or 2 percent of your DV — of this vitamin in a tablespoon of molasses, per the USDA. This vitamin plays an important role with red blood cells and the health of your GI tract, per Mount Sinai.
- Vitamin B6 (aka pyridoxine): A tablespoon of molasses contains just 0.1 milligrams of vitamin B6, but that provides 8 percent of your DV of the vitamin, according to the USDA. This vitamin is important for the health of your immune and nervous systems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Choline: You'll take in 2.7 milligrams of choline with a tablespoon's worth of molasses, although that is 0 percent of your DV.
Health Benefits of Molasses
As you can see, molasses is full of vitamins and minerals that deliver health benefits, including helping build and maintain strong bones, treating high cholesterol and maintaining heart health.
That said, most of these vitamins and minerals are widely accessible in foods that are lower in calories — molasses may be a slightly better option than plain old white sugar, but if you're looking to add vitamins to your diet, there are other vitamin-rich foods available.
- International Food Information Council: "What is Molasses?"
- University of Wyoming Extension: "The Flavors Of Molasses"
- USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: "Journal of the American Dietetic Association"
- USDA: "Molasses"
- USDA: "Sugar"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Calcium"
- ODS: "Magnesium"
- Cleveland Clinic: "7 Foods That Are High in Magnesium"
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- ODS: "Potassium"
- University of Michigan: "Potassium (K) in Blood Test"
- Mayo Clinic: "Niacin"
- Mount Sinai: "Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)"
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin B-6"