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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 26, 2015

Dear Mark: Sugar in Blackstrap Molasses, Eating Cheat Foods All at Once or in Installments, and Healthy Pooping with a Fused Knee

By Mark Sisson
51 Comments

Delicious birthday cupcake on table on light backgroundFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. The first one concerns blackstrap molasses, a type of sugar I’ve suggested people eat for its rich mineral content. Does the value of the minerals outweigh the impact of its sugar content? Next, say you’ve got a slice of birthday cake you’re committed to eating. Is it better to eat it all at once or piece it out across multiple days? And third, how can someone who’s unable to squat obtain the benefits of squatting while pooping? In the absence of actual squatting, is there anything a person can do to smooth out the process?

Let’s go:

Hi Mark,

Some time back in an article titled “10 Primal Foods You Aren’t Eating Enough Of'” you recommended the consumption of 1 TBSP of blackstrap molasses in light of its (impressive) mineral content.

Having looked at the numbers I agree that blackstrap molasses is extremely high in minerals and as such I’m keen on consuming it. However I am concerned about the sugar content and because of that I was surprised to see you recommending it.

Could I ask if you recommended a tablespoon be consumed daily as, essentially, a supplement? That’s how that section of the article came across. Should I take some everyday? Should I be concerned about the sugar contents?

Thanks,

Nicholas

I think most of my readers can handle a tablespoon a day. Along with 12 grams of carbs (around 6 grams of sucrose, 2.5 grams of fructose, and 2.5 grams of glucose), a tablespoon of this particular brand of blackstrap molasses also has 25% of daily magnesium, 20% of daily calcium, a few hundred milligrams of potassium (blackstrap’s got so much potassium that it’s caused hyperkalemia), plus appreciable levels of iron, copper, and manganese.

Do the minerals outweigh the sugar? I strongly suspect they do, as many of the specific minerals play a role in sugar metabolism and overall metabolic health.

Magnesium deficiency is associated with insulin-resistance in type 2 diabetics; those with higher serum magnesium had greater insulin sensitivity. Chronic magnesium supplementation in magnesium deficient subjects has been shown to stave off progression into full-blown type 2 diabetes.

In Korean adults, low intakes of copper, magnesium, and manganese are associated with metabolic syndrome.

A significant inverse association exists between potassium intake and metabolic syndrome. High potassium, low incidence of MS.

In teens, calcium intake is linked to a lower risk of insulin resistance. Same goes for adults, although men may need higher intakes for protection against metabolic syndrome.

If you’re sensitive to sugar—you’re insulin resistant, you’re diagnosed with diabetes—the sugar content could be problematic in the short term. But the added mineral intake will probably win out over time and lead to better long-term sugar tolerance and metabolic health. One way to mitigate any short-term disturbances is through intense exercise; simply time your molasses intake to coincide with your workouts. Prior to taking the molasses, deplete some glycogen. Lift some heavy stuff, run some sprints, run a mile, do something that utilizes the glycogen stored in your muscles. If you’re not training that day, eat your molasses before a walk. Then, the 11 or so grams of sugar in that tablespoon of blackstrap molasses will go to good use.

But as long as the added sugar from blackstrap molasses doesn’t put you into energy excess, you’ll be perfectly fine. And likely better off than you were before.

Hi Mark,

Let’s say I have a non-primal treat that I know I’m going to eat: a piece of regular old birthday cake, for example. I’m going to eat the whole piece regardless, but is there any benefit to saving half of it for later in the day, or maybe the next day… or is it better to just eat it all at once and “get it over with”? Are there pros & cons of spreading out eating a treat vs. eating it all at once?

Shannon

It’s helpful to consider these junk food forays as training sessions. Rather than representing your everyday diet, they are acute, short-term perturbations of dietary homeostasis. Just as the marathoner who runs 20 miles a day is following an unhealthy, unsustainable habit, the person who eats cake every day is doing himself harm. And so, just like I prefer my workouts short and intense as possible, I tend toward eating the whole piece of cake in one fell swoop. It’s usually better to present singular acute stressors rather than multiple lesser stressors spread out. Think of the entire slice as a max deadlift.

Also: a big whopping slice of cake is a treat. It’s a special occasion. And then it’s over. Stretching the cake out across multiple days runs the risk of normalizing it. You may end up “grabbing something sweet” every day. Then it’s after every meal. Then you’re snatching handfuls of Skittles from your coworker’s feed trough every time you pass the desk. What’s the risk? It’s just a “few.”

No. Make your cheat days count. Eat the cake. The whole slice. Then be done with it.

If you run out of steam midway through and can’t finish it, toss whatever isn’t eaten. Leftover cake doesn’t really work. The exposed edges get stale, the frosting crusts over. It’s no good. You don’t want to “waste” your cheat on subpar dessert.

That’s why cheating with something like fat-free frozen yogurt is silly, in my book. Just eat the real ice cream.

I know you’re an advocate of squatting for the toilet, and you’ve mentioned that episode where you really messed up your knee and had to suffer having that immobilized for a number of weeks. How did you reconcile the two concepts?

I’ve had my left knee fused since high school (circa early 80s) and the equivalent of one long bone from hip to ankle means no real squat position remotely possible. Chemotherapy and other drugs gives me drastic swings in “ease of going” with the most time spent at “not very”.

Any notions on how to get the benefit of squatting without actually being able to assume that position?

James

Try the samurai pooping technique. It’s what I did when I couldn’t squat.

Sit on the toilet.

Cross your legs, placing one ankle on top of the opposite knee.

Rest your hands on your knees and sit tall, extending and straightening your spine upward. No hunching!

It’s not a squat, but it’s certainly better than sitting hunched over grinding one out in futility and frustration. I’ll still use it when I just don’t feel like squatting.

It may not work quite as well, since your leg with the fused knee won’t be able to form a 90 degree angle with the foot flat on the ground. But give it a try.

That’s it for today, everyone. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comment board!

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51 Comments on "Dear Mark: Sugar in Blackstrap Molasses, Eating Cheat Foods All at Once or in Installments, and Healthy Pooping with a Fused Knee"

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grisly atoms
grisly atoms
1 year 4 months ago

How timely this article is for me! I have a container of blackstrap molasses and just this morning added a teaspoon into my coffee for the first time ever.

I was savoring this new way of taking my coffee when I opened up MDA and voila, found this. Must be a good omen!

Maegan
Maegan
1 year 4 months ago

I just tried your coffee and molasses idea. Not too bad, thanks!

Brian
Brian
1 year 4 months ago
I think the fructose content in Blackstrap Molasses is negligible. I’ve often read that those with fructose intolerance can get away with eating foods that are around a 1:1 ratio with glucose (which Blackstrap seems to be). With that said, sugar is still sugar and should be moderated. I have a jar of this in my cupboard and I often forget about it. I know blackstrap Molasses is very rich in nutrients and if someone is intent on using a sweetner, Blackstrap is probably your go-to item due to it’s other mineral content. Has anyone every take the stuff straight,… Read more »
2Rae
2Rae
1 year 4 months ago

Yes, we used to do “Molasses Milk” in the evenings when we needed a bed time snack, warm milk with a tablespoon of it. So eventually you can just eat a spoonful straight. When I made syrup for pancakes out of brown surgar I would flavor it with molasses. Of course, don’t do that anymore but it was the BEST ever!!!

grisly atoms
grisly atoms
1 year 4 months ago

“Murder Burgers” IMO sounds like a great name for a fast food joint 🙂

Misabi
Misabi
1 year 4 months ago
grisly atoms
grisly atoms
1 year 4 months ago

OK, somebody else has great acumen for fast food chain names.

I suppose the name “Redrum Burgers” is out too – Stephen King might file suit.

Angie
1 year 4 months ago

Hahaha! Great! Especially with all the reports by the World Health Org this week about processed meats causing cancer.

Marge
Marge
1 year 4 months ago
About the piece of cake – One of the facts that I never forgot from Dr. Atkins diet book is this: if you are following a low-carb, semi-ketogenic or ketogenic regime, your body is not in the habit of producing large amounts of insulin. When you indulge temporarily in something sweet, it takes your body a bit of time to get insulin production going and get it out into your bloodstream. Dr. Atkins advised that if you were going to cheat, GET IT OVER WITH IN UNDER AN HOUR, and your body will not be equipped to assimilate the sugar!… Read more »
PrimalGrandma
PrimalGrandma
1 year 4 months ago

Well this is timely — there’s an article on today’s thealternativedaily site about 12 ways to use Blackstrap molasses. It also gives some glycemic info and compliments Mark’s info, as well.

Jed
Jed
1 year 4 months ago

Here’s a nice little sweet snack for you.
2 TBS cocoa powder,
2 TBS coconut oil (or butter)
1 TBS blackstrap molasses
Mix well and eat, or put in fridge and eat cold.
You’re welcome.

Jillian
Jillian
4 months 23 days ago

This was gross, no thank you.

Time Traveler
Time Traveler
1 year 4 months ago

Ha Ha, I just had a post work out organic and sulfur free black strap molasses. You want to increase minerals absorption even better? Mix it up with a little organic apple vinegar and warm water.

Lana
Lana
1 year 4 months ago

Please write about the Who report saying red meat is probably elevating risks of cancer. Processed meats apparently do and I’m not surprised, I stick to grass fed beef. But what about this report… I look forward to reading your thoughts on it, and also the argument that raising beef thanks so much resources and water. Even if it is Grass fed etc

JacqsFlyingPrimal
JacqsFlyingPrimal
1 year 4 months ago

Yes, I too am hoping for a report from Mark on this. I am certain they did not separate out grass fed from commercial feed lot beef.

Deanna
Deanna
1 year 4 months ago
I’m actually interested in reading this, too. The processed meat didn’t surprise me, but the dubious words like “probably carcinogenic” in regards to red meat make me wonder by what standards? Probably? An interesting little article exploring why meat seems to “suddenly” cause cancer after thousands of years explores the notion that the quantity of meat and the predominance of muscle meat over organs and other nasty bits probably factor in, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark says something to that effect, and then some. I don’t even know if I can speak to the quality of the source,… Read more »
WBryanH
WBryanH
1 year 4 months ago

Yes, Mark, please, that WHO mega-meta-study on postivie correlation of processed/red meat to cancer that surfaced today, your thoughts soonest. Thank you!

vince
vince
1 year 4 months ago

I second what Lana said about the WHO report on red meat causing cancer. Perhaps traditionally raised beef, for which there is a huge sample size available in terms of study participants vs. organic beef, is the culprit?

For anyone concerned about the sugar in molasses, I would just eat it with a proportional amount of fat or protein to lessen the insulin impact.

Vicki
Vicki
1 year 4 months ago

From what I’ve read, the WHO report didn’t even really find a correlation, they just suspect one, and that’s due to the ways in which it so often cooked (grilled, fried at high temps)

Vern
Vern
1 year 4 months ago

I think there are many of us here who are awaiting Mark’s response to the WHO.

Jack Lea Mason
Jack Lea Mason
1 year 4 months ago

Throw away the cake and make Molasses ice cream.

Julie
Julie
1 year 4 months ago

Tonight is gonna be pizza and beer after improv. So gonna dig into it then eggs, meatballs, and spaghetti squash for breakfast.

Linda Thoresen
Linda Thoresen
1 year 4 months ago

Re the Who report, people may be interested to read zoeharcome.com as she pretty much debunks thr report as misleading observational data. It’s really worthwhile and I’m sure an argument that we would easily read here on MDA. Keep eating meat and ask your butcher how he makes his sausages! Best wishes Linda

Ross
Ross
1 year 4 months ago
I would like to think blackstrap molasses helped save my father’s health as a small child and my existence. His family was so bad off in 1930 they moved TO Oklahoma. He remembers eating only rice, beans, turnips (including greens) and okra with a very rare addition of mystery meat (probably crow or rabbit). Not enough for a growing body and brain. The before bed treat was a spoonful of bootstrap molasses. After four years, my grandfather got a steady job in upstate New York. My father went on to be a high school regional champion in track and wresting… Read more »
paul
paul
1 year 4 months ago

Grind one out-got a gross visual! I think molasses post workout sounds good, mixed with what though?

Christine
Christine
1 year 4 months ago

Molasses and tahini, 50/50, tastes pretty close to Nutella. Super nutrition there too.

Angie
1 year 4 months ago
I swear I’m going to come to the States with an empty suitcase, fill it up with all the Primal products that I can’t find here, and cross my fingers at Customs! Blackstrap molasses – never seen it here. I can find Muscovar sugar, which Wiki describes as ‘an unrefined brown sugar with a strong molasses content and flavour’. It also contains vits and mins: Mineral content of muscovado sugar (per 100 g): Total mineral salts 740 mg max. Phosphorus (P) 3.9 mg max. Calcium (Ca) 85 mg max. Magnesium (Mg) 23 mg max. Potassium (K) 100 mg max. Iron… Read more »
Finley
Finley
1 year 4 months ago

Hi Annie, if you are in the UK it is available – I buy Meridian organic, non sulphur over the net.

Jon T
Jon T
1 year 4 months ago

My favorite way to get blackstrap molasses and potato starch (and a bunch of healthy spices): Paleo gingerbread dough! A bit high in almond & honey, but tastes amazing. Next time I make it, I’ll have to remember to down it all at once 😉 then Samurai it out the next day!

Doug McGuff, MD
1 year 4 months ago

How about the Pistol poop? Take a picture and it could be posted on the Crossfit WOD.

Seriously….I doubt you can achieve the cross-legged position than mark suggests. I would suggest the foot stool for the good leg and hugging your thigh and under the knee on the fused leg.

Nwity
Nwity
1 year 4 months ago

I’ve read that leaning over so that chest touches knees/top of the thighs achieves a similar effect in straightening the rectum – is that true?

Zibby Stonemason
1 year 3 months ago

It’s absolutely true, you just need to be careful with gases as prolapsing anus can be a bit of a problem, especially in the winter.

Angela Goplen
Angela Goplen
1 year 4 months ago

Many people forget, that the S.A.D in it’s entirety, is the pitfall of society’s health, and not just one thing. Those that are consuming large amounts of processed meats are also consuming large amounts of other processed foods and junk. I’m not going to be afraid to eat my bacon-I eat it in moderation, from animals that have been treated right, and follow Paleo dietary habits.

kay
kay
1 year 4 months ago

Mark, indeed! Leftover cake doesn’t really work. Same goes to “cheat days” for people who want to lose weight and feel great after changing to a new diet or lifestyle. “Leftover” concept will in fact create a bad rhythm and habit to still continue allowing yourself to have junk food aka non nutritional value at all kind of food as a reward. That isn’t consider a reward, instead, it is a kind of burden and toxic building in our body! Delay gratification is very important in road to success weight loss or better energy or reverse weak epigenome!

Rob
Rob
1 year 4 months ago

Mark – I am a type 1 insulin dependent diabetic and was wondering if blackstrap molasses is OK for me to include into foods that require sweetening or best to stick with maple syrup or honey? Am also short in magnesium since eating Paleo from the beginning of the year and often but not always get leg cramps after training?

Kris K
1 year 4 months ago

I have two bottles of blackstrap molasses right now and am finding if very interesting that their nutritional content is quite different and both are different than the brand Mark sites. I wonder how important the brand is.

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I have been taking a tablespoon of black strap molasses per day since winter began this year. Started doing it years ago but then forgot (?!) for the last 5 or so years. My immune system seems to benefit from it. I have PA (pernicious anemia-inherited) so I need to support my system well and I’m a proponent of the molasses.

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