Sweet, with caramel, earthy undertones, hinting of molasses, turbinado sugar is made from sugar cane.
Today’s flavor comes from a close call with my hummingbird feeder. Sidenote: Turbinado sugar is not a good option if you make your own hummingbird food (which I recommend, although, don't use anything but white cane sugar).
If you’ve ever seen a packet of “sugar in the raw” then you have seen turbinado sugar. It is often touted as healthier, even unprocessed ‘raw’ sugar, however these claims aren’t really true. It is neither, raw nor especially healthier than other cane sugar options. Turbinado is made by juicing sugar cane and then spinning the liquid in turbines to process the liquid into sugar crystals. Because no other bleaching agents or cleaners are being used, the sugar crystals maintain their darker color and a hint of molasses flavoring. During the process of spinning the minerals and vitamins are removed, which is one reason it is not any more healthful than white cane sugar.
From a culinary perspective, turbinado sugar can be used much the same way as any other granulated or brown sugar. It is, of course, sugar, so it is sweet. I think how and where it can be used, is sort of self-evident.
From a health perspective, sugar is a very controversial topic for a wide variety of reasons. First of all, research demonstrates that consuming 100 grams of sugar, which is about the amount that is in a liter of soda, decreases your immune function by about 40 percent for roughly six hours. One way sugar consumption contributes to immune distress is that sugar and Vitamin C are molecularly very similar; sugar competes with Vitamin C and typically wins. Studies show that sugar also significantly contributes to belly fat and dysregulated appetite. Consuming excessive amounts of sugar impairs cognition, contributes to heart disease, and chronic liver issues. Sugar also contributes to disruption and damage in the DNA and mitochondria creating long lasting ill effects, that can even be handed down to future generations.
There are other less degraded types of sugar with supposedly higher nutrient value, although truthfully the amount of nutritional value in sugar cane is negligible. Turbinado sugar does have a higher iron content and a few other nutrients, this is actually what makes it harmful to hummingbirds. Any extra iron for their little bodies is harmful. All of that being said, the occasional use of turbinado sugar in small amounts is not going to make or break your health. The problem is that almost every single manufactured food item, from spaghetti sauce to sodas, has some amount of sugar (or worse yet corn syrup) in it. Which means, most people who eat manufactured food are getting a huge amount of hidden sugar in their diet. Also, to be clear, turbinado sugar and other processed granulated sugars should not be confused with natural fruit or real food based sugars.
One other sidenote: Cane sugar and beet sugar have a little bit different structure but impact the body in much the same way, the only difference is that most sugar made from beets is GMO, unless it’s organic. If you’re processed food with sugar, you want to make sure it says either cane sugar or it’s organic.