Make this healthy and affordable gem your sweetener of choice

Mealtime Magic with Molasses

by Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L

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Do you want to eat something that's sweet and tasty and actually good for your health? Then try molasses. Don't let the derogatory term "slow as molasses" prevent you from adding this staple food into your meals. Molasses is similar to the sweetener sorghum but is thicker and more viscous, thus it's "slowness". It costs approximately $3.50 for one 32-ounce jar, and one jar will last a very long time as you add spoonfuls to your food; it is a cheaper alternative sweetener than honey. And few people are allergic to molasses.

A by-product of sugar cane or sugar beet processing, molasses comes in three different grades, dependant on the number of times it's boiled. Choose unsulfured blackstrap molasses. It is the grade that comes from the third boiling, is the least sweet of the three grades, and is considered to be the healthiest, having the most minerals and vitamins and the least chemicals and processing.

Molasses was enjoyed in Europe for centuries before it became popular in the United States in the 1920s. It gained impetus here in the 1960s during the start of the health food craze and the beginning of food co-ops. Its use continues to become more widespread as people discover its many dietary benefits and unique and pleasant taste.

Molasses is actually a healthy and nutritious food.

Besides its distinct robust flavor, a teaspoon of molasses has few calories and is loaded with many significant minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimal health. Manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and selenium are all in molasses in notable quantities. Manganese is necessary for your nervous system. Copper aids physiological processes. Iron gives your body energy. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Potassium facilitates muscle function. Magnesium helps your bones and provides your body with energy. Selenium and Vitamin B6 aid metabolism. Study the nutrition label of your daily vitamin and mineral supplement. Many of the nutrients in your daily supplement are already in molasses. Perhaps over time, you can reduce consumption of some of these supplements by making molasses part of your daily mealtime routine.

Add molasses to your recipes for flavor and nutrition.

Peruse the cookbooks on your shelf or search online to find ways to use molasses in any part of any meal. For main courses, molasses can be added to baked bean dishes, salmon, chicken, or turkey, for example. Instead of purchasing sugary breakfast cereal, next time buy a box of something more natural and sweeten it with molasses. Or add molasses to your cooked morning cereal, such as oatmeal or cream of wheat.

Most of the recipes you are likely to find that contain molasses are for breads and muffins, desserts like cakes, cookies, or pecan pie and snacks. Buy dark rye bread, or better yet, you can easily bake caraway rye bread using molasses in your own kitchen. It takes less time than you think, and also requires no real expertise. Find a recipe or modify your own favorite bread recipe. Recipes for popular desserts, such as gingerbread or gingerbread cookies, typically contain molasses. Or try preparing no bake healthy fudge balls for a snack the entire family will enjoy. Mix dried milk, crunchy or creamy peanut butter, carob or cocoa powder, molasses and shredded coconut and roll into one-inch balls and chill. The family will enjoy preparing and eating them, and they are a great snack to serve to guests.

Add pizzazz to hot or cold beverages by using molasses as an ingredient. In the blender, make cold milk shakes or yogurt and fruit smoothies sweetened with molasses. Or make low fat, low calorie hot cocoa from scratch using one teaspoon of cocoa powder, two spoons of molasses, and three spoons of non-fat dried milk powder. You'll definitely want a second cup! Be creative with your own molasses recipes.

Molasses is a misunderstood treasure that belongs in every kitchen. It's a great way to stretch your dollar because it is both a cheap dietary supplement and an inexpensive sweetener. Perhaps someday it will have its own place on the United States Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid, alongside grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein sources. Healthy and affordable, make this sweet and sticky gem your sweetener of choice and a mealtime best friend. How can you not want to add molasses to your diet!

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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