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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Blackstrap Molasses...Good-bye Fatigue, Cramps

Starting a conversation with the phrase "back in the olden days" may immediately cause eyes to roll, with the thought being "here we go again", but many times those old days had the right idea.

Earl Mindell's Food as Medicine is a firm believer that what you eat can help prevent everything from colds to heart disease to cancer. The words "food" and "medicine" are once again being said in the same breath as physicians realize that it is necessary to treat the "whole body" rather than thinking that each bodily system needed its own specialist without the need to collaborate with one another to understand what is really going on with a patient.

Years ago before white sugar was the norm, blackstrap molasses was the principal sweetener used in cooking and baking. Cost and availability are usually the reason behind peoples' eating habits. The more processed a food gets the nutritional value usually decreases. Sugar is no exception.

Molasses is made from the sugar cane, a tropical grass that has been cultivated by humans for thousands of years. Light and brown, powdered and granulated white sugars are all highly refined with little nutritional value. The natural sugars we see in health food stores are made with fewer steps in their processing. The fewer the steps, the less impact on the environment as well as more of the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals will remain in the final product.

Blackstrap molasses contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. It is the syrup that remains after the sugar cane is made into table sugar. Blackstrap is the most concentrated and carmelized type. There are three different types of molasses: unsulfured, sulfured, and blackstrap.  To make molasses from sugar cane there are two tasks required. First the sugar cane juice has to be separated from the pulp, and then the sugar (sucrose) has to be extracted from the juice. To do that there are what they call "rounds of processing".

After a first round of processing, which involves spinning the juice and heating, the remaining syrup is the light molasses seen in the grocery store. It is light in color and has a mild taste. A second round of processing is done to extract more sucrose and that result is what is processed and sold as table sugar. The resulting syrup from that round is the dark molasses seen in the grocery store.

Finally, with a third round of processing, the result is known as blackstrap molasses. This syrup is dark, thick and the most nutritious. 

Significant amounts of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and selenium are all found in blackstrap molasses.
Adding blackstrap molasses to the diet is like adding a source of power to your system. 

Anyone needing a boost in iron intake should consider working molasses into their food intake. Iron is critical for the proper transport of iron to all bodily tissues. Proper levels of hemoglobin and the formation of new cells in the body are maintained with ideal iron absorption. Compared to red meat, blackstrap molasses is lower in calories and doesn't contain any fat. 

Other health benefits of molasses include relief from diabetes, obesity, stress, acne and other skin problems, constipation, headaches, arthritis, anemia and even cancer. Bone health, electrolyte balance, hair care, the nervous system, stronger immune system and wound healing are all helped along with the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses.

It has also been found that blackstrap molasses is one of the best remedies around for menstrual cramps!
This is another one of those old-fashioned remedies our grandmothers swore by and fortunately such knowledge is making a comeback. 
Once a day, combine a tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar and a tbsp of blackstrap molasses in a glass of water. Raw Apple cider vinegar and raw honey is another combination that has survived the test of time for maintaining vitality. But being blackstrap molasses is so high in vitamins and minerals, it is ideal for helping with anemia, a real problem for menstruating women. Get the nutritional needs back in balance and a lot of those PMS symptoms will resolve themselves.   

Sulfur dioxide is often added to lighten the color of the molasses and extend its shelf life by preventing it from fermenting. Being there is a relationship between sulfur metabolism and sulfur dioxide and sulfites, the potential problems with allergic reactions to sulfites in foods may be good enough reason to look for unsulfured molasses. Another reason for that choice is that sulfur dioxide is a component in the production of acid rain.

It is doubtful you will find anyone today slathering their morning toast with blackstrap molasses as was done in Colonial days, but below are two great ways to sneak it in:

Iced Blackstrap Molasses (Earth Clinic) 

1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
hot water
3/4 cup milk or dairy substitute

Add the molasses to a glass and add just enough hot water to cover the molasses. Stir until dissolved. Add the ice and top off with the milk, soymilk, almond milk or whatever you choose. Vanilla or chocolate almond, soy or coconut milk are all tasty additions.

Ginger Molasses Muffins (Marlene Falsetti from Taste of Home magazine)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Beat the above three ingredients in a large size bowl.

1 egg
1 cup blackstrap molasses

Beat in the molasses and the egg.

In another bowl combine and sift together:

3 cups all-purpose flour or 1/2 all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup wheat flour 
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt

Stir the dry mixture into the molasses mixture alternatively with 

1 cup water

Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups 2/3 full.
Bake at 350 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes and remove muffins to a wire rack.
Makes about 20 muffins