Meet Blackstrap Molasses: The ‘Best Source’ Of Plant-Based Iron

Dense, dark, and packed with nutrients, blackstrap molasses contains a high amount of vegan iron


4 Minutes Read

A bowl and spoon full of blackstrap molasses, an iron-rich vegan food Here's everything you need to know about blackstrap molasses - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

We all know sugar is bad for us, but it can be hard to give up sweet treats. Luckily, there is a healthier sugar alternative to consider adding to your diet.

Blackstrap molasses, a by-product of refining cane sugar, is a thick, dark, lower-sugar type of molasses. Its strong taste is often described as “bittersweet” and it is surprisingly full of nutrients. It’s best known for being an excellent plant-based source of iron.

While molasses is a fairly common sugar substitute, blackstrap molasses is not quite as known. Here’s everything you need to know about this nutritious food.

Molasses versus blackstrap

When sugarcane is crushed to create sugar, it produces a juice that is boiled until it crystallizes, creating raw sugar. Extracting the crystals leaves behind a syrup – this is molasses. The more the sugar is extracted through further boiling, the more concentrated the molasses becomes.

Regular molasses is lighter in color and contains around 70 percent sugar. Blackstrap molasses, which is created through further sugar extraction, is darker and contain less sugar – around 45 percent. Blackstrap also has a lower moisture content than regular molasses.

The extraction of the sugar leaves behind the minerals that are present in the sugarcane, which is why molasses is so nutrient-rich. 

Blackstrap molasses as an iron source

Jars of blackstrap molasses, a good vegan source of iron
Trevor Mogg / Alamy Stock Photo Blackstrap molasses is regarded as a great vegan source of iron

Blackstrap molasses is very low in fat and packed with minerals. Perhaps most notably, it’s full of non-heme iron (the type of iron that’s found in plant sources). According to plant-based chef and nutrition coach Lisa Marley, blackstrap molasses is the “best source” of this type of iron, containing around 4.9mg in two tablespoons. Plant-based eaters often get criticized for lack of iron intake, but it is more than possible to get your recommended daily amount (RDA) with vegan sources. It’s usually recommended that men consume around 8.7mg, while women and people who menstruate should eat 14.8mg.

Non-heme iron is often less easy for the body to absorb than heme iron (which is found in meat), but that doesn’t mean vegans are inevitably deficient – you just have to eat the right foods. Blackstrap molasses is a great way to boost your iron intake, and its iron is also thought to be 85 percent bioavailable – which is considered high.

Other plant foods like tofu, lentils, beans, and swiss chard are packed with iron as well, so it’s a good idea to eat a mix of these. Eating vitamin C rich foods – like lemon, bell peppers, and broccoli – with your meals can help aid iron absorption. Try out these iron-rich vegan recipes to ensure you’re getting good amounts of iron into your diet.

Other nutrients in blackstrap molasses

Blackstrap molasses also contains calcium and magnesium. Around two tablespoons contains a gram of protein, and it’s also a great source of manganese, copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.

Due to its mineral and vitamin content, blackstrap molasses can contribute to a number of healthy body functions. Calcium is needed for healthy bones, while iron is required for making red blood cells to circulate oxygen around the body.

Many adults don’t get enough of magnesium in their diet. This mineral can help support muscle recovery when you exercise and has anti-inflammatory benefits. Selenium, meanwhile, is an antioxidant and may lower the risk of developing certain cancers.

Blackstrap molasses is “a good source of potassium, which is important for heart health and regulating blood pressure,” Marley tells Plant Based News. “Other benefits include containing B Vitamins. B vitamins are important for energy metabolism. It contains vitamins such as B6, riboflavin, thiamine and niacin.”

How to use blackstrap molasses

The most common use of molasses is in baking or as a glaze. But while regular molasses can often be used in place of sugar, blackstrap molasses may not give you the same results. Its low moisture content and slight saltiness and bitterness means it’ll affect the texture and taste of your baked goods.

But some recipes specifically call for blackstrap molasses. These peanut butter oatmeal cookies by Connoisseurus Veg are a less sweet, healthy snack or breakfast cookie. The Peaceful Dumpling suggests using it to make hot cocoa or stirring a tablespoon into your oatmeal. Or make these gingerbread energy balls by Natalie’s Food and Health.

“Blackstrap molasses also works well in marinades for BBQ sauces, and salad dressing and dips,” says Marley.

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