Turbinado Sugar: Nutritional Information, Benefits, and Uses

Turbinado sugar is a type of sweetener that you may know for its color and flavor. We'll tell you more about it here.
Turbinado Sugar: Nutritional Information, Benefits, and Uses
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Written and verified by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Last update: 20 November, 2022

Turbinado sugar is a sweetener. It’s a product that has larger crystals than other types of sugar.

Its color is light yellow or light golden brown. The name “turbinado” comes from the word “turbina” and refers to the method used to process it.

If you don’t know it as turbinado sugar, you may have heard of demerara or raw cane sugar. In this article, we’ll explain more about this type of sweetener, the possible health benefits it provides, and how it can be used.

What is turbinado sugar?

Turbinado sugar is made from sugar cane and is partially refined, retaining some of the original molasses, which gives it its caramel color. It’s often thought of as raw sugar, because of the little refinement involved in obtaining it. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assures that it’s not entirely raw.

Sugar that is not fully refined is not safe for human consumption, as it may contain impurities. Although turbinado sugar does have a cleaning process, it’s not as exhaustive as the one applied to regular, refined sugar.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: White, Brown, and Muscovado Sugar: Similarities and Differences

How is it obtained?

The process for obtaining turbinado sugar is almost the same as for other types of sugar, except for the last part.

First, the sugar cane or beet is washed and chopped. Then, the sweet juice is extracted, which contains large amounts of sucrose, the main compound. However, this juice also contains impurities, which are removed in the filtering process. This prevents the growth of bacteria.

The next step is dissolution, which occurs when water and sucrose are combined. This water evaporates when the cane or beet juice is boiled to a saturated solution that thickens the product. At this point, the sucrose begins to form crystals with a subtle brown color.

When turbinado sugar is prepared, a small part of the sucrose doesn’t crystallize because of its water content and impurities and caramelizes until it becomes slightly bitter. This is the molasses with a slight caramel flavor.

Then, if you want to obtain refined white sugar, the molasses is eliminated. This is not the case with turbinado sguar. The molasses is partially left and, depending on the amount of molasses, it’s considered brown, turbinado, demerara or mascabado sugar.

Turbinado sugar
 The brown version is another variant of this type of sugar that depends on the amount of molasses that remains in the final product.

Nutritional information for turbinado sugar

Turbinado sugar provides certain nutrients and minerals. We’ll tell you more about this in a calculation based on 1 teaspoon, which is equivalent to 5 grams of sugar:

  • Calories: 18
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 0.1 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 4.6 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugars: 4.6 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Calcium: 0.55 milligrams
  • Potassium: 1.33 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 0.01 milligrams
  • Iron: 0.017 milligrams

Despite having some minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and iron, their values are not relevant to the average diet. However, the caloric value is as high as that of refined sugar.

In addition, there are studies that claim that molasses by-products, including turbinado sugar, can provide antioxidants left over from processing. However, they are also very few in comparison to other foods.

The benefits of turbinado sugar

Turbinado sugar has several health benefits. Although there’s always one big caveat: it is still sugar. Therefore, its consumption should be monitored.

It has more nutrients than regular sugar

Compared to the nutrients provided by regular refined sugar, turbinado sugar provides more minerals (calcium, magnesium, and potassium) than regular sugar. Meanwhile, refined sugar only provides calories, but no minerals.

However, you would have to consume a lot of sugar to meet the intake requirements of these micronutrients, and this is not healthy.

It contains more antioxidants

A scientific study compared turbinado sugar, refined sugar, and brown sugar. The aim was to investigate the antioxidant capacity of the products, as well as their toxicity.

It was shown that turbinado sugar was better than the other two types of sugar because its moisture content was lower and its ash content higher. As well as its mineral concentration.

It was also revealed that the main antioxidant compounds of this sugar are 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, chlorogenic acid, protocatechuic acid, trans-ferulic acid, and apigenin. On the other hand, no toxicity was identified.

It has a lower glycemic index than other types of sugar

The glycemic index (GI) is an indicator of how quickly a food can increase blood sugar levels. That is, it determines how the body responds to a carbohydrate food.

The GI is measured between 0 and 100. The faster carbohydrates are broken down and raise blood sugar, the higher the glycemic index. So, the closer to 100, the higher the GI of a food.

Although still high, turbinado sugar has a GI of 75, while refined sugar has a GI of 80 and high fructose corn syrup has a GI of 87. There are other sweeteners, such as stevia, agave, and fructose, which also have a lower GI.

The indication or not of this sugar, for certain diseases, must be authorized by a health professional. For example, in diabetes, foods with a low GI are required, so turbinado sugar would not be part of the menu.

Turbinado sugar and blood sugar
The lower glycemic index does not enable this product to be part of the diet of patients with diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

Contraindications

The reality is that, to reach the number of vitamins and minerals that the body needs, using only turbinado sugar, it would be necessary to eat more than recommended to see any benefit. Recall that the amount of sugar indicated for males is a maximum of 9 teaspoons; for females, a maximum of 6.

That is equivalent to a maximum of about 36 and 25 grams per day, respectively.

The previous calculation that included the nutritional information for turbinado sugar was for 5 grams. So let’s take the example of calcium:

The body needs 1000 milligrams of calcium per day. The amount of sugar turbinado to reach that requirement would be enormous.

Scientific evidence points out that consuming sugar in excess can bring various consequences:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems

Like this article? You may also like to read: Muscovado Sugar: Everything You Didn’t Know About It

Uses of turbinado sugar

Because of its light caramel flavor, turbinado sugar is often used in baking. It’s also mixed into juices and smoothies, but its most common function is as a topping for desserts.

It’s often found sprinkled on cakes, cookies, pies, and cupcakes. Many people start their day by putting it on cereal.

However, it’s still sugar, so we recommend using it in the recommended amounts of a maximum of 36 and 25 grams for men and women, respectively. Remember that sugar is associated with chronic problems if consumed in excess.

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