The term "refining" means to remove by a purification process, certain coarsenesses or impurities. Sugar refining is the process of extracting out the sugar (sucrose) from the plant materials and then removing other unwanted materials from the extracted raw sugar. These substances can include remaining stalk fibers, soil, insect parts, molds, bacteria and waxes.
Table sugar comes from two primary sources: sugar cane (60%) and sugar beets (40%). Sugar cane grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas while sugar beets, tuberous white bulbs that are members of the common red beet family, are grown in temperate climates. The plants contain juices from which sugar crystals, syrups and molasses are made.
Sugar cane and beets are subjected to the same refining processes and produce identical products. In the repeated processes of washing, boiling, centrifuging, filtering and drying, nearly all of the plant’s nutritional elements are lost. What remains in the raw sugar product is 95% sucrose along with nutritionally insignificant minerals. "Raw Sugar" is not a raw or natural product at all, but is the highly refined, nutritionally depleted, 95% sucrose product before it is even further refined. IF sanitized by steaming this "raw sugar" can be marketed as turbinado. To produce the white crystals we call table sugar, bleaching agents such as lime and carbon dioxide are added. The sugar is then further "purified" (refined) and whitened by being filtered in a water-added liquid state through beef bone char. This process removes even more minerals. Sucrose in its completely refined stage is more familiarly called table sugar. "Pure" sugar refers to chemical purity, devoid of all nutritional and other elements, and not to a wholesome quality.
The completely refined white sugar product is now over 99.9% sucrose and for all practical purposes contains no nutritional elements such as vitamins, minerals, proteins or fibers. This accounts for expressions such as "empty calories" and "junk food".
Molasses is a by-product of sugar refining—a sweet thickened liquid obtained from the second extraction; and black-strap molasses in the liquid left after the third extraction. Light and dark brown sugar are simple refined table sugar to which is added 12-13% molasses. Confectioners sugar (powdered sugar) is pulverized white table sugar.
Sucrose is widely known by a variety of other names including beet sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, confectioners sugar, invert sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, saccherose, table sugar and turbinado.