Turbinado Sugar Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Turbinado sugar, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Turbinado sugar is a light-colored sweetener that is only minimally processed, so that it retains some of the molasses that is naturally present in sugar cane. The word "turbinado" is a Spanish-American derivative of the word turbine—a machine used to process sugar. 

This blond sugar goes by several different names, including demerara sugar or raw cane sugar. Turbinado sugar crystals are larger than other brown sugar or white refined sugar crystals. Turbinado sugar may offer health benefits to certain people depending on their dietary preferences, but since it is still sugar, it should be consumed in moderation.

Turbinado Sugar Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 teaspoon (4.6g) of turbinado sugar.

  • Calories: 18
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0.1mg
  • Carbohydrates: 4.6g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 4.6g
  • Protein: 0g

Carbs

All of the calories in turbinado sugar come from carbohydrates. There are 18 calories in a 1-teaspoon serving of the sweetener. A commercial packet of turbinado sugar is likely to contain a 1-teaspoon serving.

All of the calories in a serving of turbinado sugar are sugars; there is no fiber or starch. The glycemic load of turbinado sugar is estimated to be 3, which is very low. However, remember that glycemic load takes serving size into account. So if you consume more than a teaspoon, the estimated glycemic load will increase.

Fat

There is no fat in turbinado sugar.

Protein

Turbinado sugar provides no protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

When consumed in typical amounts, turbinado sugar provides no significant micronutrients. However, in larger amounts, the sugar may provide some minerals. One cup of this sugar provides a small amount of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, and zinc.

Health Benefits

Turbinado sugar is often praised as a healthier alternative to refined white sugar. There are a few reasons that this claim may have some merit. 

Less Is More

The crystals of turbinado sugar are larger than those in regular granulated white sugar. For that reason, you may consume slightly less of it when you spoon it into your morning coffee, berries, or cereal. This sugar also retains some natural molasses flavors, which might be more satisfying for some—and help them to consume less. 

Provides Antioxidants

Raw sugar may provide more antioxidants than other types of sugar. Antioxidants are substances (often naturally found in foods) that may help prevent or delay cell damage. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that raw cane sugar was higher in antioxidants than refined sugar, corn syrup, and agave nectar.

Suitable for Vegans and Vegetarians

Turbinado sugar may also appeal to those following a vegan or vegetarian diet. This sweetener is not exposed to bone char, an animal product used to refine sugar. So those following a plant-based diet may prefer to use turbinado sugar over white table sugar or other sweeteners.

Allergies

Sugar allergies and sugar intolerance are possible. Symptoms may include mild digestive discomfort, gas, headaches, or more severe side effects such as fainting.

If you suspect a sugar allergy or intolerance, speak with your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Adverse Effects

Any health benefit of turbinado sugar—or any sugar or sweetener—must be weighed with the drawbacks of consuming sugar in the first place. Most of us consume too much sugar, often without knowing it. Added sugar can hide where you don't expect it, such as in spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, and other savory foods.

Overconsumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened products may lead to weight gain, dental problems, obesity, and other conditions, including type 2 diabetes.

Sugar is found naturally in many different types of food—such as dairy products and fresh fruit. For that reason, there is no recommendation for the total amount of sugar to consume each day. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you consume less than 10% of your calories per day from added sugars (the sugar in fruit and milk is naturally occurring sugar).

Check the ingredients label on your packaged foods to look for added sugar. As of January 1, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to list both "sugar" and "added sugar" on the nutrition facts label.

Keep in mind that many foods that are high in added sugar provide very little nutritional value in the form of fiber, vitamins, or minerals. These foods also tend to be higher in calories.

Varieties

Most grocery stores carry turbinado sugar in the baking aisle. When you are dining out, look for brown packets usually labeled Sugar in the Raw (a brand name).

Storage and Food Safety

Store turbinado sugar for months or longer in an airtight bag or container in a cool, dry place. If stored in humid or hot conditions, the sugar may clump and cake, but it is still safe to consume.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

Cook with raw sugar just like you cook and bake with other types of sugar, without any adjustments to the recipe. You may notice a slight taste or texture change when you use raw sugar for baking. Cakes that have higher moisture batters tend to be lighter and fluffier with raw sugar. But in recipes for muffins and other baked goods with lower-moisture batter, raw sugar does not fare as well.

You can also use raw sugar outside the kitchen. The large crystals and the sweet scent of raw sugar make it a preferred ingredient in body and lip scrubs. To make your own at home, simply combine the sugar with coconut, almond, or olive oil.

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Article Sources
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  3. Sweet Stuff: How Sugars and Sweeteners Affect Your Health. National Institutes of Health. Updated October 2014.