Sugar is big business. The United States, which ranks fourth in sugar consumption, consumes 8.786 thousand metric tons of sugar per year. The world sugar industry obtains raw sugar from a variety of sources, such as sugar cane and sugar beets. White sugar, the most common type of sugar, is produced by refining raw sugar and removing its molasses content. Unrefined sugars are not chemically processed and retain some of the minerals found in cane and beet juice. However, both refined and unrefined forms of sugar are considered empty calories because of their low nutritional value.
Muscovado is made from evaporated sugar cane juice. It is a particularly sticky and course type of unrefined sugar with a strong taste of molasses. It is popular for baking because it is resistant to high temperatures. Compared to unrefined sugars, Muscovado sugar is low in calories, with 11 calories per gram. It is nutritionally rich, a source of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.
Turbinado sugar is an unrefined sugar made by steaming raw or unrefined sugar crystals. It has a lighter colour than Muscovado sugar and is often used in recipes that ask for light brown sugar. It is a popular sweetener alternative for coffee and tea.
Jaggery is a popular unrefined sugar in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where it is produced by boiling down raw cane juice. It is a concentrated non-centrifugal sugar, which means there is no separation of the molasses and sugar crystals from the cane juice.
Agave syrup or sugar is obtained from agave juice, and besides being a sweetener, is the main ingredient of tequila. Agave sugar is sweeter than regular sugar and has a low glycemic level, which makes it a useful alternative to sugar for diabetics. If you use agave syrup to replace regular sugar in a recipe, use approximately 25 per cent less.