Is This Sugar Actually a Health Food in Disguise?

It’s happening.

Christmas cookies have begun to flood the office kitchen.

Between holiday parties, gifts from clients, and Christmas baking, December and January can be the most sugar-loaded months of the year.

And that can be OK, really! Indulging in sugar occasionally is typically not a problem for most people.

But when it becomes a daily habit, it can lead to not only weight gain, but serious nutrient deficiencies.

You already know that sugar is a source of empty calories. But what you may not know is that sugar consumption actually causes nutrient loss in our bodies.

It does this one of two ways.

First, it reduces our ability to absorb other nutrients. Fructose, for example, can decrease the expression of an enzyme that helps us synthesize vitamin D from the sun.

The absorption of vitamin C can also be reduced from a high-sugar diet. Both glucose and vitamin C use the same receptors to enter our cells, so when too much glucose is present, it will limit the amount of vitamin C that is absorbed.

Inadequate levels of vitamin C can eventually lead to decreased immune function. This may be why research has shown just 100 grams of sugar can decrease immune function by up to 50%![1]

(Interestingly, in this study, they measured the effects of pure glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and orange juice on immune function. All decreased immune function significantly for up to five hours after ingestion. So if you’ve been chugging orange juice to combat a cold, you may want to rethink that.)

The second way sugar causes micronutrient deficiency is by causing our bodies to rapidly lose certain nutrients. It increases the degradation of vitamin D and increases the excretion of calcium, magnesium, and chromium.

Magnesium and chromium are important for insulin response and blood sugar control. So a loss of these minerals can lead to a downward spiral of high blood sugar and increased sugar cravings, leading to even more nutrient loss.

There is one sweetener, however, that is so nutrient dense that not only can it help combat some of these nutrient deficiencies, but one could actually consider it a health food: blackstrap molasses.

Molasses is created during the sugar refining process. As sugar cane or sugar beets are boiled, the sugar crystals condense and are able to be extracted. That’s the white stuff you can buy in paper bags at the grocery store. All of the vitamins and minerals from the plant remain in what’s left over: the molasses.

There are three types of molasses. The variations depend on how many times the cane or beets have been boiled. The first round of boiling creates light molasses, the second creates dark molasses, and the third round creates blackstrap molasses, the thicker, darker, most nutrient-dense type.

In fact, look at how many minerals (and a few vitamins) are packed into just one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses:

So even though you won’t get any vitamin C or D from molasses, you can see it is still a powerhouse of other minerals that are depleted with sugar consumption.

Blackstrap molasses has slightly fewer calories compared with table sugar (42 versus 48 per tablespoon), but it has a much lower glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) is measure of a food’s ability to rapidly increase blood sugar — the higher the GI, the faster and higher the spike in blood sugar.

Pure glucose has the highest GI, at 100. Refined table sugar has a GI of 80, and molasses has a GI of 55, indicating it has a lesser effect on blood sugar levels.

So if you’re going to indulge in a sweetened treat, try using blackstrap molasses! While all added sugars should be consumed in moderation, this is one sweetener you can actually feel good about using.

Most grocery stores should carry blackstrap molasses, and you can buy it on Amazon here. Make sure you buy the unsulphured variety; this means the product has not been processed with sulfur dioxide, which can be allergenic to people with sulfite sensitivities. Sulphur dioxide also gives the molasses a more chemical taste.

Though it does has a strong flavor, this refined-sugar substitute is surprisingly versatile. Aside from making traditional molasses cookies, there are a plethora of recipes on the Web for grain-free paleo versions, like these ginger snap cookies made with almond flour.

You can also use it in meat dishes like pulled pork spareribs, pork sausage, and Korean beef, or make your own blackstrap BBQ sauce.

Or maybe try making this paleo molasses sweet potato casserole for your next holiday meal. There’s also a version of pomegranate-infused molasses used in a tasty-looking glazed salmon recipe.

To eating well,

Jasmine LeMaster
Health Researcher

P.S. In case you missed them, check out these Living Well Daily articles on the sugar alternatives xylitol (here) and stevia (here, here, and here).

View More Free Articles

Common Diet Mistake Sends Dementia Risk Soaring

Folks, it’s time to get real about the garbage we’re putting into our bodies. For far too long, we’ve turned a blind eye to the deplorable state of our food system, but now, the truth is finally coming to light. There has been a virtual explosion of news about the dangers of ultra-processed foods in...

Read This

Sip Your way to Better Slumber

For centuries, people have turned to the soothing properties of the citrus-scented beebrush. And for good reason. This fragrant South American herb is known to calm minds and help folks drift off into a peaceful slumber. Now, a groundbreaking study has brought this ancient remedy back into the spotlight, providing scientific backup for what we’ve...

Read This

Surprising Drug-Free Secret to Easing Back Pain

Back pain is serious business. But it’s seldom taken seriously. It can affect almost everything you do, interfering in daily activities, from walking to everyday chores like cooking and cleaning. The pain can range from a dull ache to debilitating muscle spasms. At its worst, it can even be hard to get out of bed....

Read This

Surprising Combination Transforms Mind and Body

The secret to unlocking a healthier, happier version of you has just been revealed—and it’s not what you might expect! Recent research uncovered a powerful combination that can transform your mind and body, regardless of age or fitness level. But here’s the catch: it’s not found in a pricey pill, a fancy gym, or an...

Read This

Prediabetes? Do THIS to Avoid Diabetes

Prediabetes is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. It means your body struggles to process sugar (glucose) properly. The condition is more common than you might think. In fact, more than one in three American adults have it. But...

Read This

Easy Diet Trick SLASHES Stress and Anxiety

Do you know what we could all use MORE of in our lives? LESS anxiety and stress! You’d think that our stress levels would drop as we age. After all, we’ve already done all the hard stuff (and lived to tell the tales)! Well, it turns out that nothing could be further from the truth....

Read This

Mailbag: Triggers for Troubling Bathroom Changes

“I’ve noticed some changes in my bathroom habits, including constipation and occasional incontinence. Could these be signs of something serious?” – Walter Hi Walter, Digestion complaints such as constipation and occasional incontinence can be uncomfortable and concerning, but they don’t always indicate a major problem. While both occurring at the same time could be a...

Read This

Potent Pair “Erases” IBS Symptoms

Are you sick and tired of the endless discomfort and embarrassment that comes from living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Well, you’re in good company. In fact, more than 25 million folks in the United States ALONE battle the diarrhea, constipation, and gastrointestinal stress of this frustrating condition. But now, new research has uncovered a...

Read This

Study Reveals ANOTHER Powerful Coffee Perk

Before I get started, I want to say Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. I hope your day is filled with delicious food, a refreshing nap, and lots of hilarious Dad jokes. It’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite morning pick-me-up: coffee! As a long-time coffee enthusiast, I’ve always known that this...

Read This

Fish Oil CAUSES A-Fib? (Don’t Take the Bait!)

You’ve undoubtedly seen the recent “shocking” fish-oil news by now. The disturbing headlines claiming fish oil supplements cause atrial fibrillation (A-fib) or heart disease have been plastered practically everywhere you look. I’ve written about the heart BENEFITS of these supplements many times before, and now, some study has come along and concluded, “Oh, by the...

Read This