It’s thick. It’s gooey. It’s gross.
At least that’s what I thought when I first tried blackstrap molasses. I discovered this superfood after researching ways to increase my iron levels during my menstruating phase. We all know the primary vegan food sources that pack a ton of iron like lentils, spinach, seaweed, cashews, and several different seeds. But did you know that blackstrap molasses contains several important nutrients, one of which is iron?
It’s a hidden superfood that no one talks about.
This type of molasses, which is low glycemic, is technically a byproduct of sugarcane. However, it’s unlike sugarcane because it contains iron, calcium, magnesium, and even potassium. Blackstrap molasses differs from regular molasses because the former is extracted at the final stage of processing. What could have been a waste product from the sugarcane industry is now this nutrient powerhouse. It’s not as sweet as sugarcane syrup or even regular molasses, but blackstrap molasses has several important health benefits.
One crucial health benefit is the absorbable iron it provides. Although necessary iron levels depend on age and gender, the range for most adults is 8–18 mg per day. Menstruating women need a lot more iron, and lately, more and more women (vegan or not) are becoming anemic due to low iron levels. Iron is important for the body, especially for our hemoglobin. Iron is critical for the body for cell function and growth as well. Without it, one can feel lethargic, dizzy, and suffer from heart palpitations.
There has been some heated debate among meat-eaters who believe veganism isn’t a healthy diet because of how much necessary iron is in animal-based diets. Heme iron, which is found in meat, is absorbed by the body faster than non-heme iron, found in plants. Vegetarians and vegans can still maintain adequate iron levels by consuming plant sources, making sure to be extra mindful of iron levels during one’s menstrual cycle.
It is recommended by doctors to take 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses a day to achieve one’s daily iron requirements, along with eating iron-rich plant foods. The nutrients in this wonderful syrup have been shown to help ease PMS symptoms, like bloating, water retention, acne, and cramps due to the high levels of magnesium. Blackstrap molasses can also help with constipation because of the magnesium it provides.
So if you’re trying to stay healthy, cut out sugar, and gain extra health benefits then this is the sweetener for you!
It does have a pretty distinct taste, one that might be best to mask. I personally like to drink it in a warm beverage or in baked goods, but I also mix it with warm water and take it like a shot when I’m in a pitch. You can buy blackstrap molasses at most grocery stores in the baking section where you’ll find other sweeteners, like regular molasses and honey. Not all brands are created equal though, and some have higher nutritional value than others. If you’re new to trying it, I would suggest using it in the recipe below. You get the benefit of having a classic warm beverage, along with the health properties of blackstrap molasses.
Hot Cocoa Elixir
- 1-2 cups of non-dairy milk (my favorite is oat milk!)
- 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon maca powder
- 1 teaspoon agave (or another sweetener of choice)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat milk on the stovetop on medium until warm. Add cocoa powder, maca powder, agave, and cinnamon and whisk together. Then add blackstrap molasses and whisk well. Transfer to a mug. Add agave. You can also use a milk frother to create a frothy texture. Agave or maple syrup is used to counteract the bitterness of blackstrap molasses. Eventually, you can work up to 2 tablespoons of molasses when you’ve developed the taste for it. It’s very viscous and can be hard to drink, which is why it’s good to mix it with other liquids.
Blackstrap molasses works well with oatmeal too. Here’s a recipe adapted from Vegetarian Zen that’s worth trying.
- ½ cup oats
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 1-2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds or chia seeds
- A handful of chopped nuts and/or fruit
- Maple syrup to taste
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Add in oats, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 5-10 minutes until oats are cooked thoroughly. Place in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Add extra milk or water to thin oatmeal if necessary.
So next time that “time of the month” comes around, instead of just reaching for a chocolate bar, try this drink or the warming oatmeal dish. It may take some getting used to the flavor of blackstrap molasses but don’t fret. After some time, the taste will grow on you and you’ll be happy. Your body, and improved iron levels, will thank you.
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Photo: Sonika Agarwal on Unsplash