My mom started experimenting with raw sugar a few months ago and has been reporting on her progress. I finally got around to trying things for myself a couple weeks ago. At my grocery store it's called "Sugar in the Raw" and you can buy it in boxes up to 2 lbs.
What is raw sugar (also known as "turbinado sugar")? It's sugar that has been less refined than regular granulated sugar. It goes through much fewer steps in the making and doesn't have all the questionable stuff added to it that granulated sugar does.
What's added to granulated sugar? Sulfur dioxide (to make it white), phosphoric acid and calcium hydroxide (to combine and absorb or trap impurities), carbon dioxide (alternately used for the same reason). And then after all that processing, the resulting syrup is filtered through a bed of activated carbon to remove molasses. And that's not even the last step!
But does raw sugar really have any nutritional value? That is up for debate and most people say the nutritional value is minimal and not enough more than regular granulated sugar to switch over.
So here is my mom's and my take on it: Even if raw sugar doesn't have much nutritional value, if it doesn't have the negative additives or the negative effects of regular sugar, we're not against using it occasionally. We still prefer to use honey or fruit juice for most of the sweet things we make, but for other things those options aren't practical. (Like ice cream, which my mom has figured out a tasty recipe for, using raw sugar.)
It is claimed that people can't tell the difference in taste between something sweetened with one sugar or the other, and that's probably true for most people. But I think my family's healthy eating habits have sensitized us to such differences--particularly in how food makes us feel. And my husband and I both agree with my mom that we don't feel the same negative physical affects after eating raw sugar as after eating granulated sugar--such as that short sugar high and then the crash that follows.
Just some food for thought...