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Christy Brissette, MSc, RD Headshot

Molasses: A Healthier, More Natural Sweetener With Versatility

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Ruth Hornby Photography via Getty Images

In the fashion world, trends come and go, but classics always seem to circle back and regain popularity decades later. Horn-rimmed glasses, anyone?

Nutrition seems to go through a similar cycle. Our grandmas cooked and baked with sugar, flour, eggs and butter but very few people were overweight. Then we thought we knew better. Just a few years ago, you may have switched from sugars to diet foods full of artificial sweeteners to cut down on calories.

Now the trend is to travel back in time to the good ol' days when we ate real food instead of food substitutes concocted in a lab. As a result, "natural" sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup and molasses have made a comeback.

If you don't know much about molasses, ask your grandma... or read on!

What is molasses?

Molasses is a pure sweetener made from sugarcane juice. There are 3 types of molasses: fancy, blackstrap and cooking molasses.

(Photo credit: 80 Twenty Nutrition).

Fancy molasses

As the name suggests, fancy molasses is the highest grade of molasses out there. Fancy molasses is pure sugarcane juice that has been inverted to create a syrup. In the U.S., "fancy" molasses is called "lite" molasses. It's sweeter and lighter in colour than other types of molasses and has a tangy sweet flavour.

Blackstrap molasses

Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of making white sugar. It's concentrated and dark with a more robust flavour.

Cooking molasses

Cooking molasses is a mixture of 30 per cent fancy and 70 per cent blackstrap molasses. It is thicker and has a richer flavour than fancy molasses and is less sweet.

(Photo credit: Mike Bouchard via Flickr).

Health Benefits of Molasses

Like all added sugars, molasses should be limited. The World Health Organization recommends that less than 10 per cent of your daily calories come from added sugars. That works out to about 12 teaspoons a day.

Maple syrup and honey have celebrated popularity recently because they don't only sweeten up your recipes, they come packaged with antioxidants. Make your sweetener work for you by choosing one with some health benefits!

Fancy molasses:
each tablespoon has 60 calories, 12 grams of sugar, 180 mg of potassium and four per cent daily value of iron.

Blackstrap molasses: this sweetener is packed with nutrients! It's an excellent source of potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. Each tablespoon has 50 calories, 7 grams of sugar, 740 mg of potassium (21 per cent daily value), 10 per cent daily value of calcium and 20 per cent daily value of iron. That's more iron in a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses than a three-ounce steak!

Cooking molasses: one tablespoon contains 60 calories, 770 grams of potassium (22per cent daily value), nine grams of sugar, 10 per cent daily value of calcium, 15 per cent daily value of iron and 15 per cent daily value of magnesium.

Shopping Tips:
Look for molasses that's 100 per cent natural, has no additives or preservatives and is non-GMO.

Storage Tips:
Once you open your molasses, don't put it in the fridge. This could cause some of the sugars to crystallize. Store your molasses at room temperature between 10 degrees Celsius to 21 degrees Celsius (50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit).

Cooking with Molasses

(Photo credit: Liliana Fuchs via Flickr).

Fancy molasses is 25 per cent less sweet than white sugar, but it has a more complex flavour that makes it work incredibly well in baked goods for softer cookies and crustier bread, as a topping for pancakes, in salad dressings as an alternative to maple syrup or honey, and it's delicious in marinades and barbecue sauces.

For ideas on how to bake and cook with molasses, try the free cookbook Simple Fare .

Just in time for fall, check out the Pumpkin Spice Walnuts I made using a touch of molasses.

(Photo credit: 80 Twenty Nutrition).

Disclosure: This article was written in collaboration with Crosby Molasses. All opinions are 100 per cent Christy's own.

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