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Monday, June 21, 2010

Molasses - healthier than sugar

A friend of mine likes to make his own licorice with anise, molasses and whole wheat flour. It tastes absolutely delicious, and bears absolutely no relationship to the processed junk sold as licorice commercially these days. I wondered whether there was anything to recommend this as a healthy carbohydrate serving. The whole wheat flour is a good start. The anise is fine for most people (licorice and other anise containing foods have a mild diuretic effect and can cause a "metabolic alkalosis", that is too much base in your blood, particularly if you are taking certain medications, so if you do take medications regularly, you should ask your doctor about it). So, I began to explore the nutritional value of molasses.

It turns out that blackstrap cane molasses (a byproduct of making sugar from sugar cane, the stuff that's left after cane is twice boiled to remove sugar), may be the healthiest form of sweetener containing sugar that there is. 2 teaspoons of molasses has about the same number of calories as 1 teaspoon of sugar, but also has healthy amounts (about 25% of the FDA's recommended daily values) of iron, potassium, calcium, and manganese. Sugar and even raw honey have nothing like these quantities of healthy minerals.

So, molasses seems like something you could enjoy like jam - in small quantities as an occasional treat or dessert on some whole wheat or whole multigrain bread - and you'll get some nice nutrients when you do. Just watch the total amounts, and eat it together with something less sweet, because its biggest component is sucrose (table sugar) and diabetics and people on weight loss diets should avoid it because it has a low "glycemic index" (that is, it makes your blood sugar go up quickly and gets insulin to kick in, leading to the quick drop in blood sugar that gives you hunger pangs and makes your body want to eat more sweets). So if you do indulge, try to eat it together with other things, like whole wheat bread or some protein, that have a lower glycemic index and will ofset that quick peaking with a more gradual rise in blood sugar that will prevent the insulin from kicking in.

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