When I initially became vegan, I never thought I’d be praising blackstrap molasses as a health food. After all, I didn’t think any form of sugar could really provide any health benefits—as much as I love vegan Ben & Jerry’s, it’s not like I’m eating it for the nutritional content.
However, it turns out that not all sugar is created equal. For example, we all know that refined white sugar is basically empty calories, and while maple syrup is delicious on pancakes, we probably shouldn’t be eating it by the spoonful. The problem with most forms of sugar is the fact that they add a ton of calories and zero nutrients to our diets, which leaves us feeling hungrier and unsatisfied. But there is one kind of sugar that can actually pack some powerful benefits in a single tablespoon, especially for vegans. If you find yourself struggling to get enough calcium or iron, blackstrap molasses might just be the ticket to getting all of those important minerals.
When you decide to eat a plant-based diet, it may take some extra effort to get certain nutrients. Yes, people will inevitably ask you where you get your protein, but truthfully, it’s actually pretty easy to get all of the protein you need from plants as long as you’re eating enough calories. In fact, with the exception of B12, it’s possible to get all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that our bodies need on a plant-based diet. If you’re eating a wide variety of whole plant foods, and some fortified foods like plant milks and nutritional yeast, you’re probably doing just fine.
However, when I began tracking what I was eating just to make sure I was getting enough of everything, I noticed a few areas where I could make some improvements. I realized that getting some additional calcium into my diet certainly couldn’t hurt, and I definitely could benefit from incorporating some extra iron—especially because some dietitians recommend that vegans consume more than the typical RDA. The type of iron found in plants is called non-heme iron, which our bodies don’t absorb quite as well as heme iron found in animal products. Here’s the good news: you can still get more than enough iron on a vegan diet, and sneaking in a few extra grams on a daily basis will ensure that you’re covering all your bases.
That’s where blackstrap molasses comes in. Blackstrap molasses is the syrup that remains after the maximum amount of sugar has been extracted from the raw sugar cane. While it does not contain any fiber, it has a lower glycemic load than refined sugar. It also absorbs nutrients from the sugarcane plant during the extraction process.
One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses contains about 200 milligrams of calcium, which is generally about 20% of your calcium needs for the day. A tablespoon of blackstrap molasses also contains 2.4 milligrams of iron. It may not sound like much, but for most people, this is between 13-30% of their daily iron needs. And for vegans who find themselves struggling to get enough, just one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses per day could be the perfect fix. Another bonus: it’s also high in magnesium, a mineral that helps your nervous system function properly. A tablespoon of blackstrap molasses contains 100 milligrams of magnesium, which accounts for 25-30% of the recommended daily amount for magnesium.
You may be wondering how to incorporate blackstrap molasses into your diet on a daily basis. Unfortunately, you probably don’t just want to swallow a spoonful on its own—some people might enjoy it plain, but I find that it tastes bittersweet when it’s not mixed with anything. Luckily, there are several tasty ways to work this sweet syrup into your usual routine. You can use it to make barbecue sauce, you can bake it into muffins with cinnamon, flaxseed, and wheat flour, you can include it in a smoothie with ginger and pumpkin (perfect for fall!), and it’s also great with overnight oats.
Here’s how I’ve been including one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses into my diet each day. At the end of the day, before I go to bed, I heat up one cup of almond milk on the stove (I use unsweetened, but vanilla flavored works, too!), and stir in one tablespoon of molasses. I add a splash of vanilla extract, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of maca powder for a concoction that tastes similar to hot chocolate—with a few extra health benefits! This ensures that I’m getting all of the calcium and iron that I need on a daily basis. Who knew that sugar could be so good for you?
Are you a fan of blackstrap molasses? How do you use it?
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