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Raw Turbinado Sugar vs. Granulated Sugar: Which is Better?

Are you tempted to buy raw turbinado sugar to replace your granulated sugar? Find out if it really offers any additional health benefits.

While roaming down the aisles of your local health food store, you may have come upon a package of raw turbinado sugar and wondered what it was. This sugar is increasingly being endorsed by the health conscious crowd as a healthier substitute for granulated sugar. In appearance, it resembles a chunkier form of brown sugar, although it’s lighter in color because of its lower molasses concentration. This type of sugar is produced primarily in Hawaii, but is increasingly being sold nationwide in health food stores and even in some mainstream supermarkets. Is raw turbinado sugar really healthier than granulated sugar?

How is Raw Turbinado Sugar Made?

Raw turbinado sugar is made by pressing the sugar cane plant to extract its juice. Once extracted, the juice is heated until it forms crystals which are spun in a centrifuge to remove water and form the large, light brown sugar crystals that are characteristic of the finished product. Turbinado sugar crystals can be used as a substitute for brown sugar or white sugar in baking or other culinary applications.

Is Raw Turbinado Sugar Healthier?

Most proponents of raw turbinado sugar believe it’s a healthier choice because it’s less processed. In actuality, turbinado sugar does undergo some processing to produce the finished product and loses about two-thirds of its molasses content in the process. Because it retains more moisture, it’s slightly lower in calories than granulated sugar. Raw turbinado sugar has 144 calories per quarter cup, compared to granulated sugar which has 194 calories.

The reality is that other than a slightly lower calorie content, raw turbindo sugar offers no real health advantages over granulated sugar. It does contain trace amounts of minerals, but this effect is pretty negligible. When added to foods, it affects blood sugar levels in much the same way as regular, granulated sugar. Even though it’s less refined than granulated sugar, it has undergone some processing and cannot truly be called an unrefined sugar. Some people prefer the slightly richer taste of raw turbinado sugar because of its faint molasses flavor which makes it an especially tasty addition to coffee or tea. On the downside, it is more expensive than granulated sugar.

Is It Worth It?

Turbinado sugar may be worth the additional cost if you enjoy its flavor, but don’t buy it for the health benefits. It really offers no significant health advantages over the granulated sugar you can find in any grocery store.

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