The Better Bones Blog

by Dr. Susan Brown, PhD.

Recipes to help you get the benefits of blackstrap molasses

Dr. Bown with molasses cookiesI fondly recall my grandmother’s homemade blackstrap molasses cookies and her molasses sweetened, old fashioned, baked beans. If you feel like indulging your sweet tooth, you can skip the refined sugar, sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup and fructose.

A better way to add a little sweetness — along with the big nutrient benefits — is to use blackstrap molasses. See some of my favorite ideas below.

What is blackstrap molasses?

Blackstrap molasses is the thick dark syrup — full of alkalizing, bone-building trace minerals — left after the third boiling in the sugar refining process.

Nutrients in blackstrap molasses

Blackstrap molasses is rich in many key bone nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and even the hard to get trace mineral manganese. Some reports suggest you only need two teaspoons of blackstrap molasses to get 18% of the recommended daily value for manganese.

Manganese plays a special role in bone cartilage and bone collagen formation and is required for bone mineralization. In one study, women with osteoporosis were found to have ¼ the manganese levels of the women who didn’t have osteoporosis.

Compare the nutrients in blackstrap molasses to table sugar

Nutrient Content per 1 Tablespoon
NutrientBlackstrap Molasses (organic unsulfured)Table Sugar
Calcium200 mg0
Magnesium100 mg0
Potassium450 mg0
Iron2.70-0.73 mg0
Sodium30 mg0
Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, ChromiumTrace amountsnone

Table Reference: U.S. Dept of Agriculture, USDA Branded Food Products Database, Jan. 2017

Molasses spice cookie recipe

From The Amazing Acid Alkaline Cookbook by Bonnie Ross

(Makes 24 cookies)

Ingredients

3 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

2 C light spelt flour (or gluten-free baking mix)

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp sea salt

2/3 C Sucanat sugar

½ C clarified butter

¼ C blackstrap molasses (originally regular molasses in the recipe)

Sucanat sugar for coating

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat two 9-x-13-inch baking sheets with clarified butter, or line them with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the water and flaxseed. Stir well and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flaxseed mixture, sugar, butter, and the blackstrap molasses. Mix well with a spoon until blended.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well with a spoon until blended.
  6. Lightly coat a plate or pan with sugar. Using your hands, shape the dough into 1½-inch balls and roll each ball over the sugared surface. Arrange the balls on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the balls to allow for spreading.
  7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are set but the middle of the cookie is still soft. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve.

More ways to use blackstrap molasses

Molasses apple cider tea

This warming drink involves two of my alkalizing favorites.  I simply put 1 Tbsp of blackstrap molasses and 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar in a cup of hot water and enjoy.

Wholesome alternative sweetener

As a simple sweetener, I like the flavor of blackstrap in yogurt, oatmeal, homemade granola, and even tea.  It also works to replace some of the honey or maple syrup in your recipes with blackstrap.

Barbecue sauce or veggie glaze

If you prepare homemade barbecue sauce try mixing a bit of blackstrap to secret BBQ sauce. Or, if you like to spice up things by glazing your root crops, try mixing a bit of blackstrap with butter for a flavorful glaze.

Source for nutrition information: Whole Foods

Chromium: A hidden nutrient for bone and energy metabolism

 

Chromium is an old friend of mine! I first used it to help women tame their sweet tooth in my days as a nutritionist. And now, chromium is one of the key essential nutrients I recommend to women for their bone health.  I’m also excited to see that researchers are learning more about how chromium plays a role in the truly amazing way the skeleton helps regulate energy metabolism.

Key benefits of chromium

  • Preserves bone mineral by reducing the loss of calcium in the urine, promoting collagen production, increasing adrenal DHEA levels and improving insulin regulation.
  • Stabilizes blood sugar
  • Reduces craving for sweets
  • Helps the skeleton regulate energy metabolism — the complicated process includes osteocalcin (a hormone secreted by the bone-building osteoblast cells) acting on the pancreas to enhance insulin production and in peripheral tissues to increase glucose utilization, as well as to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce visceral fat (like abdominal fat accumulation).

Are you getting enough chromium?

Unfortunately, probably not.

That’s because not many foods have chromium.  Plus, chromium is a nutrient easily lost in food processing and soil mineral depletion.  But — as you’ll see below in the list of chromium-rich foods — there is some good news.  Red wine can have a fair amount of chromium!

How to get enough chromium (red wine is on the list!)

Most everyone in this country could benefit from chromium supplementation.  While there is no RDA established for chromium, I recommend 200 mcg per day. Here’s a great list of foods with chromium from the National Institutes of Health. As you’ll see, getting a daily dose of 200 mcg from food alone is difficult!

What foods have chromium?

FoodChromium (mcg)
Broccoli, ½ cup11
Grape juice, 1 cup8
English muffin, whole wheat, 14
Potatoes, mashed, 1 cup3
Garlic, dried, 1 teaspoon3
Basil, dried, 1 tablespoon2
Beef cubes, 3 ounces2
Orange juice, 1 cup2
Turkey breast, 3 ounces2
Whole wheat bread, 2 slices2
Red wine, 5 ounces1–13
Apple, unpeeled, 1 medium1
Banana, 1 medium1
Green beans, ½ cup1

Source: National Institutes of Health

Adding to the difficulty of getting enough chromium is that our levels also tend to diminish with age. Stress, a high sugar diet, an infection or vigorous exercise can diminish chromium levels in the blood.

You can help your body absorb chromium by getting enough with vitamin C and the B vitamins through foods and/or supplementation.

To get the most beneficial effects of chromium, I suggest you supplement with a chelated form of chromium such as chromium picolinate or chromium polynicotinate. My Better Bones Builder includes 300 mcg of chromium (as chromium polynicotinate) so you can be sure you’re getting the optimal amount of chromium.

 

References:

Clemens, TL, and G Karsenty. 2011. The osteoblast: An insulin target cell controlling glucose homeostasis. J Bone Miner Res 26(4):677–680.

Evans, GW et al. 1995. Chromium picolinate decreases calcium excretion and increases dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in postmenopausal women. FASEB J 9:A449.

National Institutes of Health. 2013. Chromium. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/

 

 

Osteopenia? 5 steps for stronger bones

 

If you’re among the millions of people who’ve been told they have osteopenia, I know it can be confusing and scary. But you’ve come to the right place.

I talk all the time with women wondering what to do next when they get diagnosed with osteopenia.

I always start with this:

Osteopenia does not mean you will always suffer from osteoporosis or a fracture. Osteopenia means that your bone density measurement is less, but not excessively less, than a woman who is 30 years old. And what that really signifies for you will depend on your individual body type, lifestyle, history and many factors you can take control of right now.

5 steps to build stronger bones

Here’s what you can do to make sure your bones are getting everything they need to stay strong.

1. Get the correct amount of key bone building nutrients.

  • Eat a wholesome alkaline diet and try high quality nutritional supplementation. Be sure the supplements you use are designed to alkalize so they spare both bone and muscle.
  • Make sure your mineral intake is adequate. This can be easily done by measuring your first morning urine pH. A first morning urine pH reading of 6.5 to 7.5 suggests you’re obtaining adequate minerals from your diet and supplements.
  • Test your vitamin D level and supplement with enough to reach a 50 to 60 ng blood level all year round.

2. Build muscle strength. Chronically low muscle mass is associated with low bone mass. Even stronger grip strength and stronger back muscles are associated with higher bone density. If you have been told you have osteopenia in the hip, try to walk more, hop, do heel drops, and jump if you can. All provide bone-stimulating impact to the hip. Also consider using a weighted vest when walking. It makes each step deliver a greater bone stimulating impact to hip.

3. Avoid bone depleting anti-nutrients. The list is long so you might have to pick away at bone depleting anti-nutrients little by little. High on the list are excessive alcohol (more than two drinks a day), smoking, colas, excessive caffeine, and high sugar intake. Many drugs and medications damage bone and the list seems to expand daily. Steroid drugs such as prednisone rank as the top drug bone-busters, causing roughly 20% of all osteoporosis in the U.S.

4. Eat enough wholesome food daily. The body is one single unit; if you lose weight you lose bone. The bone weakening from weight loss before menopause is more easily compensated for than that from weight loss after menopause. Make sure you get between 50 and 80 grams of protein daily, depending on your physical activity level.

5. If needed, work with your doctor to see if there’s any medical cause for osteopenia. If you have ongoing excessive bone loss as measured either by sequential bone density testing or by a bone breakdown marker test such as the NTx , or if you have experienced a low-trauma fracture, steps should be taken to detect hidden causes of this bone loss. My Medical Osteoporosis Workup details the most common tests used to detect hidden secondary causes of bone loss. You might share this document with your health practitioner and see which tests they will do looking for your hidden causes of bone loss.

As you can see, you aren’t powerless when it comes to building stronger bones — even if you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia. Consider this a window of opportunity to make some nutritional and lifestyle changes. My Better Bones Builder Program is a great place to start, because it puts everything together for you.

 

Read more:  What does osteopenia really mean?

See why osteopenia doesn’t always mean you’ll suffer from osteoporosis or fracture — or that you will need a bone drug.

 

References

Alonso-Coello, P et al. 2008. Drugs for pre-osteoporosis: Prevention or disease mongering? BMJ 336:126.  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39435.656250.AD

Looker, AC et al. 2010. Prevalence and trends in low femur bone density among older U.S. adults: NHANES 2005–2006 compared with NHANES 111. J Bone Miner Res  25 (1):64–71.

Petersen, BA et al. 2017. Low load, high repetition resistance training program increases bone mineral density in untrained adults. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 57(1–2):70–76.


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