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Molasses is a sweetener. Some sources claim that it is more healthful than sugar.

There are several types of molasses, each with slightly different properties.

Some people believe that molasses is more beneficial to the body than sugar, but what does the research say?

This article takes a close look at molasses, including its types, uses, nutrition, and benefits.

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Some types of molasses are common in baked goods.

Molasses is a thick syrup that people use as a sweetener. It is a byproduct of the sugar-making process, and it comes from crushed sugar cane or sugar beets.

First, manufacturers crush sugar cane or sugar beets to extract the juice. They then boil down the juice to form sugar crystals. Molasses is the thick, brown syrup left over after they remove the crystals from the juice.

Manufacturers repeat this process several times, and each time, a different type of molasses is produced.

Molasses is available to purchase in health food stores and online.

Bottom line: Molasses is a product of the sugar-making process, and it comes from sugar cane or sugar beets.

The different types of molasses vary in color, consistency, flavor, and sugar content.

Light molasses

This is the syrup produced by the first boiling. It has the lightest color and the sweetest taste. People commonly use it in baking.

Dark molasses

This is produced by the second boiling. It is thicker, darker, and less sweet. People can use it in baking, but it lends foods a distinct color and flavor.

Blackstrap molasses

This syrup is produced by the third boiling. It is the thickest and darkest type of molasses, and it tends to have a bitter taste.

Blackstrap molasses is also the most concentrated form, and it contains the most vitamins and minerals. For this reason, some sources say that it has the most health benefits.

Unsulfured and sulfured molasses

Molasses labeled “sulfured” contains added sulfur dioxide, which acts as a preservative, preventing the molasses from spoiling.

Sulfured varieties tend to be less sweet than unsulfured varieties.

Other types

Manufacturers can also make molasses from sorghum, pomegranates, carob, and dates.

Bottom line: There are several types of molasses, including light, dark, and blackstrap. Each has different properties.

Unlike refined sugar, molasses contains some vitamins and minerals (1).

One tablespoon — 20 grams (g) — of molasses contains the following amounts of your daily values of each nutrient:

  • manganese: 13%
  • magnesium: 12%
  • copper: 11%
  • vitamin B-6: 8%
  • selenium: 6%
  • potassium: 6%
  • iron: 5%
  • calcium: 3%

One tablespoon also contains about 58 calories, all of which come from carbs — mostly sugar.

In addition to containing vitamins and minerals, molasses is very high in sugar. In excess, sugar can be very harmful to your health.

Excess sugar intake has been linked to some of the world’s biggest health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (2, 3, 4).

Nutritionists do not recommend that people start eating molasses for the nutrients because its sugar content is so high. The best way to get these nutrients is by eating whole foods.

However, if you are going to eat sugar anyway, molasses is likely a more healthful alternative.

Bottom line: Molasses contains several nutrients and is fairly high in minerals. However, it is not the most healthful source of these nutrients because it contains so much sugar.

Limited research about the health effects of molasses is available. However, researchers have linked the nutrients in the syrup to several health benefits.

Bone health

Molasses is a good source of iron, selenium, and copper, all of which help maintain healthy bones (5).

The syrup also contains some calcium, which plays an important role in bone health and preventing osteoporosis (6).

However, other healthful food sources of these minerals are widely available. These include nuts, seeds, and dairy products. People should not rely on molasses as source for these nutrients.

Heart health

Molasses is a decent source of potassium, which promotes healthy blood pressure and helps maintain heart health (7).

Although researchers have not studied the effects of molasses on the heart in humans, studies in animals indicate that supplementing the diet with molasses can help increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol (8).

Healthy levels of HDL cholesterol may protect against heart disease and strokes.

However, no evidence suggests molasses will have the same benefits in humans.

Blood sugar

People with poor blood sugar control should limit their intake of all forms of sugar, including molasses. That said, molasses may help stabilize blood sugar levels in healthy adults on a high carb diet.

One study found that eating it alongside foods that contain carbs resulted in lower blood sugar and insulin levels than simply eating the foods on their own (9).

That said, molasses has a similar glycemic index rating to refined sugar. The glycemic index measures how quickly specific foods raise blood sugar levels.

People with diabetes may benefit from using a low-calorie sweetener, such as stevia or erythritol.

Antioxidants

According to research, blackstrap molasses contains more antioxidants than honey and other natural sweeteners, including maple syrup and agave nectar (10).

Studies also show that these antioxidants can help protect cells from the oxidative stress associated with cancer and other diseases (11).

Bottom line: Molasses contains several nutrients that provide health benefits. It also contains more antioxidants than other common sweeteners.

Molasses is safe for most people, if they consume it in moderation.

While molasses can be a good alternative to refined sugar, consuming too much of any added sugar can have adverse effects. The effects may be particularly harmful to people with diabetes.

Also, molasses can cause digestive problems. Consuming large amounts may cause loose stools or diarrhea.

People with irritable bowel syndrome or other forms of digestive discomfort may want to avoid this syrup.

Bottom line: Molasses is usually safe, but consume it in moderation. It may be a good idea for people with diabetes or digestive issues to avoid it.

Molasses contains several important nutrients and antioxidants, making it a more healthful option than refined sugar.

However, it still contains high levels of sugar, which can be harmful when consumed in excess.

Molasses contains more nutrients than refined sugar.

All things considered: While molasses appears to be a slightly less harmful version of sugar, it can still have negative health effects.

Anyone consuming molasses should do so in moderation, bearing in mind that a serving is 1 tablespoon, or 20 g.