Raw sugar, sometimes called turbinado or demerara, comes from sugar cane like white sugar. However, it has a warm, golden brown color and coarser grains. When producers extract raw sugar from sugar cane, they let it dry in its natural state instead of refining it to remove its color. Raw sugar has the same nutritional value as white sugar. The USDA suggests that you limit your added sugar consumption, which includes all sugar that does not occur naturally in foods like fruit and milk.
Sugar cane is the source of 70 percent of the world's sugar, according to Plant Cultures. This perennial grass grows in several regions, but it originated in New Guinea, and then spread to Asia, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Modern processed sugar may have its origins in India, where historical texts mention boiling the juice from cane stalks to produce granulated sugar in 1 B.C. Before this discovery, most people simply peeled stalks of sugar cane and chewed the pulp.
A tablespoon of raw sugar has 57 calories, with 14 grams of carbohydrates. Raw sugar is made of sucrose, and the content in 1 tablespoons is 14.18 grams of the total weight of 14.3 grams in a tablespoon.
Raw sugar contains trace amounts of essential minerals, though not enough to offset the calories that it packs. The primary minerals are potassium, at 4 milligrams, calcium, at 2 milligrams and iron, at 0.05 milligrams. A tablespoon of raw sugar also has minuscule amounts of magnesium and copper. It has no vitamins, fat or cholesterol.
Sugar in all forms contains four calories per gram, but not all sugar has the same weight using common cooking measures, according to Colorado State University. Honey is denser and weighs more than raw sugar. It has approximately 66 calories per tablespoon. Blackstrap molasses, a product of sugar cane, has 43 calories per tablespoon, but the calcium content is 116 milligrams and the iron content is 2.3 milligrams, according to the New York Times.
Most of the sugar in the American diet comes from added sugar, which has calories but few nutrients. Scientific evidence shows a strong link between excess sugar consumption and tooth decay, but there is no evidence that sugar causes any specific diseases. Children, diabetics and people with certain metabolic disorders need to monitor all sugar intake. Raw sugar costs more than plain white table sugar. People who prefer minimally processed foods may find the additional cost acceptable, despite the fact that raw sugar has no nutritional advantages.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23
- Drexel University: Sweeteners
- New York Times; Personal Health, Jane E. Brody; December 17, 1986
- Colorado State University: Sugar and Sweeteners
- Plant Cultures: Sugar Cane
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Chapter 7
- Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.