Bombarded with information lately on sugar?
Trying to make sense of all the different types of sweeteners out there?
High fructose corn syrup, also known as (HFCS), has been in the spotlight lately, and for a reason. Actually… the reason high fructose corn syrup has been in the news is anything but good.
There is growing concern that as the volume of high fructose corn syrup has increased in what we eat.
Why does that matter? Because at the same time, the obesity rate has also skyrocketed.
Is there a connection between high fructose corn syrup and obesity? What impact does high fructose corn syrup have on your health? How can you make sure that you are doing everything in your power to accomplish your life goals of improved nutrition and wellness?
What Exactly IS High Fructose Corn Syrup?
High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn. The manufacturers of HFCS claim that it is a natural product because it comes from corn…and technically, this is "true." HFCS does not contain artificial color additives or synthetic ingredients...
But, how exactly is corn grown? Well, about 88% of the corn in the US is GENETICALLY MODIFIED. So, the chances of your HFCS even being organic is slim. But that isn't even the worst of it!
How is High Fructose Corn Syrup Made?
To make HFCS, corn is first milled to make cornstarch. Water is then added to the cornstarch after which it undergoes several different processes. The end result is two types of high fructose corn syrup, one, HFCS 42 – 42% sucrose and 53% fructose – is approximately the same sweetness as white sugar. The other is HFCS 55 – 55% sucrose and 42% sucrose – is sweeter than table sugar.
Both HFCS 42 and 55 are used in a variety of food products. HFCS 42 tends to be in food while HFCS 55 is most prevalent in soft drinks.
"Okay, Isabel, what in the world does that all mean?
Well, for starters, high fructose corn syrup is sweet, at least as sweet as regular table sugar (sucrose), and in the case of HFCS 55, even sweeter than sugar. The real kicker is that HFCS is cheap – it’s made from corn, and farmers are actually paid to grow corn here in the U.S.
Sugar by comparison, is relatively expensive - there are quotas placed on sugar grown in the U.S. and an import tax on foreign sugar. U.S. (and Canadian) sugar costs almost twice what is does in other places around the globe. When you factor in that HFCS acts as a preservative, adds flavor and texture of food products, stays stable in acidic foods and beverages, and helps retain moisture, in addition to being extremely cheap, it’s no wonder why it is used so widely.
Where is High Fructose Corn Syrup Found?
Because it is cheap and serves the food manufacturers, high fructose corn syrup has been added to nearly everything that is packaged and sold on the shelves – food and beverages alike.
- If you haven’t done so yet, take a look through your refrigerator and pantry. Read the labels on each one of your packaged food products. How many of them list high fructose corn syrup?
So many things that we've considered to be “healthy” or “natural” has high fructose corn syrup listed, and in a few instances, it can be fairly high up on the list of ingredients.
In case you didn’t know, manufacturers are required to list ingredients on food in order of the amount contained in the product. Therefore, the closer an ingredient is to being listed first, the more of it there is compared to the last ingredients that are listed last. Read those labels.
Regardless of whether you see “healthy” or “natural” on the packaging, if HFCS is listed as an ingredient, ditch it quickly because it is not likely to be a high quality product with significant nutritional value.
About That Sugar
While white sugar has been used for hundreds of years and honey has been around for thousands of years as part of the human diet, HFCS is a relatively new addition.
Science indicates that too much sugar of any kind is damaging to the body, but especially added sugars. Added sugars account for a tremendous number of extra calories in the diets of many people today. These extra calories, can mean extra pounds if they are not burned off throughout the day (in exercise, for example).
In addition, excessive sugar consumption can lead to serious and potentially devastating health complications and conditions.
High Fructose Corn Syrup can contribute to weight gain and obesity, which is a risk factor in the development of type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that can damage nearly every system in your body. While type 2 Diabetes may have a small genetic component, it's primarily caused by diet and exercise choices, which are factors that are completely controllable by you.
It is known that a diet high in sugar is linked to heart disease. In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, in 2014, this link between diets high in sugar and cardiovascular disease was confirmed. This study took it one step further however and found that not only is there a higher risk developing of cardiovascular disease, but there is a higher incidence of dying from cardiovascular disease, in people who consumed a high sugar diet – even if they were not overweight… even if they ranked high on eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Sugar is no laughing matter.
Where's the Nutrition?
Being a sugar (sucrose/fructose) product, HFCS provides plenty calories, but they are empty calories.
These empty calories are not filling therefore you may end up eating more in order to feel satisfied. This may create a situation where your caloric intake exceeds your ability to burn them, and the result: weight gain. HFCS offers little to no nutritional value to your body. If something is not adding value to your nutritional profile, then be sure to cut it out!
Detoxing from High Fructose Corn Syrup
Cutting back on this dangerous sugar sounds simple enough, right?
But, how do you know how much you are consuming, and what should be your goal?
Take a look at the labels on the foods you are eating. Just because something doesn’t “taste” sweet to you, doesn’t meant that unnatural sugar hasn’t been added to it – added sugar creeps up in surprising places.
High fructose corn syrup (a combination of sucrose and fructose) is hidden in numerous processed and packaged foods. Looking at the labels is a start.
Does this sound overwhelming? If so, start slowly and first eliminate the products in your house that contain high fructose corn syrup.
Then begin to trim down the foods where sugars are listed in the first few ingredients on the label. Think about what foods might have HFCS in it – sodas, juice, bread, cereal. Ditch those foods immediately!
The goal is not to completely eliminate sugars, but to limit them and whenever possible, obtain them from foods that are closest to their natural states. Think fresh fruit or raw, unprocessed honey.
Over time, you may even begin to notice that your taste buds are transforming… no longer do those processed foods, loaded with high fructose corn syrup for them to taste good. If you are able to retrain your palate to truly appreciate and savor the natural sweetness found in many foods – without added sugars - you will be amazed at how satisfying healthy foods can be. It may take some time to work through those cravings for cookies, candy, and cereals loaded with sugars, but it is well worth the work to achieve your goal of wellness and better health through nutrition.