Molasses: Surprising Health Benefits!

By: Nutrition Expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.

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Molasses is a by-product of sugar industry. It is a thick, dark brown syrup derived from raw sugar. Sugarcane is a good source of iron, containing around 0.7% of iron by weight in clarified sugarcane juice (1). Molasses is defined as the final viscous liquid left after the extraction of sugar from sugarcane juice. It still has a sugar content of >43% (2). Apart from sugarcane, molasses is also produced from sugar beet and citrus fruits. In India, it is produced mainly from sugarcane.

Types of Molasses: (3)

The Association of American Feed Control officials (AAFCO, 1982) describes the following types of molasses.

  • Cane Molasses is a by-product of the manufacture or refining of sucrose from sugar cane. It must not contain less than 46% total sugars expressed as invert.  If its moisture content exceeds27%, its density determined by double dilution must not be less than 79.50 Brix.
  • Beet Molasses is a by-product of the manufacture of sucrose from sugar beets. It must contain not less than 48% total sugars expressed as invert and its density determined by double dilution must not be less than 79.50 Brix.
  • Citrus Molasses is the partially dehydrated juices obtained from the manufacture of dried citrus pulp.  It must contain not less than 45% total sugars expressed as invert and its density determined by double dilution must not be less than 71.00 Brix.
  • Hemicellulose Extract is a by-product of the manufacture of pressed wood. It is the concentrated soluble material obtained from the treatment of wood at elevated temperature and pressure without use of acids, alkalis, or salts.  It contains pentose and hexose sugars, and has a total carbohydrate content of not less than 55%.
  • Starch Molasses is a by-product of dextrose manufacture from starch derived from corn or grain sorghums where the starch is hydrolysed by enzymes and/or acid.  It must contain not less than43% reducing sugars expressed as dextrose and not less than 50% total sugars expressed as dextrose. It shall contain not less than 73% total solids.

Nutritional Content: (4)

1 tbsp. of Molasses contain 15gm of Carbohydrates. Also it contains zero fat and zero protein as it is exclusively made up of carbohydrates in the form of sugar.

But surprisingly; unlike white table sugar, molasses is rich in certain vitamins and minerals, especially potassium. Molasses contains calcium, iron, magnesium, choline, and some B vitamins.

Potential Health Benefits:

  • A potential dietary supplement in Iron deficiency Anaemia (5)

Molasses contains iron and its absorption enhancers, such as sulfur, fructose, and copper, which make it a potential dietary supplement for IDA. More research, product development, and evidence of safety and efficacy of molasses in IDA management can provide a tasty and cost-effective dietary supplement, particularly for children.

  • Improve male reproductive health (6)

The effect of molasses on the male reproductive system demonstrates its potential to enhance testosterone production. In accordance with previous studies, these findings promote the use of molasses as a supplement to enhance testosterone production, improving reproductive health.

  • Anti-cancer properties (7)

Blackstrap molasses, its most concentrated form, was used for the therapy of a variety of diseases, including cancer. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cancer was very rare among sugar cane plantation workers who were regularly consuming the raw brown sugar. Blackstrap molasses is rich in a variety of essential minerals including iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium and potassium as well as the majority of the vitamin B complex, deficiencies of which confer a major cancer risk. Molasses also contains high concentrations of amino acids and linoleic acid, an essential lipid that has a documented anti-tumor effect.

  • Anti-oxidant properties (8)

The relative assayed antioxidant content of molasses, light and dark brown sugar, and raw cane sugar are consistent with the high concentration of antioxidants in the molasses syrup v/s refined sugar. The higher antioxidant content might be a result of residual components from the sugar cane plant or from by-products produced during the cooking of the cane juice. Researchers found a substantial concentration of antioxidant phenolic acids (eg, hydroxycinnamic acids and sinapic acid) and flavonoids (eg, tricin and apigenin) totalling 160 mg/L.

  • Anti-biotic effect (9)

Due to high antioxidant and antibacterial activities, molasses have potential therapeutic value as supporting agents in antibiotic therapy.

Different Uses of Molasses (10)

  • The lighter grades of molasses made from sugarcane are edible and are used in baking and candy-making and to make rum.
  • Blackstrap and other low grades of cane molasses are used in mixed animal feed and in the industrial production of vinegar, citric acid, and other products.
  • The molasses obtained from sugar beets has a very low sugar content and is generally inedible.
  • Before 1948 molasses was fermented to make industrial ethyl alcohol, which is now made principally from ethylene, thus decreasing the demand for molasses.
  • Molasses isn’t a food people regularly consume or use as a condiment. But it can be used as a sugar substitute in various recipes for baked goods such as cookies and brownies. Some enjoy using molasses to sweeten and flavor hot beverages like tea while others drizzle light molasses over oatmeal as a substitute for syrup or honey. Molasses is often used in baked beans and marinades for grilled meat.


  2. Pagan, J, Geor, RJ. Advances in equine nutrition, volume 2. Nottingham, UK: Nottingham University Press, 2001

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