Conventional white sugar is stripped of all nutrients during processing. To create a clean, white, uniform product, manufacturers extract the juice from sugar cane or beets, then send it through a multi-step process that includes boiling, filtering, bleaching and carbonating. Unprocessed sugar is made from evaporated cane juice. The lack of processing creates a product that still retains some of the nutrients found in the sugar cane plant. Unprocessed sugar is still sugar, however, and should be consumed in moderation.
Calories and Macronutrients
Evaporated cane sugar is equal to sugar in terms of calories. It contains 16 calories per teaspoon, just like granulated sugar. Unprocessed sugar contains no fat or protein. It is 100 percent carbohydrates, with 4 grams per teaspoon. Because it is slightly sweeter than granulated sugar, so you might use less, evaporated cane sugar might help you save a few calories.
Vitamins and Minerals
Processed sugar is stripped of its molasses, from which any nutrition sugar does provide exists. Unprocessed sugar is not a nutritional powerhouse, however. It provides mineral salts and only trace amounts of minerals. A particular type of unprocessed sugar, called Sucanat and produced through a patented method, provides potassium, but not in amounts large enough to impact your diet.
Other Unprocessed Sugars
Date sugar comes from dehydrated dates that are pulverized into a sugar. Dates are a minor source of B vitamins, vitamin K, and the minerals calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and magnesium. Coconut palm sugar is another unprocessed option harvested from the sap of palm trees. It has a lower glycemic index than granulated sugar, meaning it does not cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar levels.
Sugar labeled as "raw" in the U.S. has been purified to remove any potential contaminants and is thus still processed. Brown sugar is simply white sugar with some molasses added back in, so it too is processed. Demerara sugar and turbinado sugar are other raw sugars that might have undergone steam-cleaning before packaging. These sugars are close to being unprocessed, but are not as pure as raw cane syrup. If you use raw honey in place of sugar because it has more nutrients, note that it too is still sugar and offers just 1/100 of the daily value for protein, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, calcium and iron.