Our guest this week has a passion for healthy eating. Cathy is a stay work-at-home-mom with a PhD in chemical engineering trying to revamp how her family eats and learning a little more about the foods they eat along the way. She shares insight into the world of High Fructose Corn Syrup…
High Fructose Corn Syrup. Have you noticed that it’s in seemingly everything? Even things that aren’t sweet – like breadcrumbs – have high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in them. The Corn Refiners Association would have you believe with their recent ads that HFCS is as natural as a freshly picked ear of corn. So, let’s talk a little about HFCS. What is it and why do people get so worked up about it?
High fructose corn syrup is composed of glucose (aka dextrose) and fructose and is produced through a complicated series of chemical reactions. The only thing natural about HFCS is that its molecules originated in a kernel of corn. HFCS was first introduced in the 1970s. It’s cheap, and as its use increased, the price of junk foods plummeted. You can thank HFCS for the cheap Big Gulp at your local convenient store.
High fructose corn syrup is generally 42-55% fructose. The free fructose – and the staggering amount of fructose that people consume through foods containing HFCS – is what is concerning. A healthy diet shouldn’t have too much of any sugar, but fructose in particular gives me the willies because our bodies have a difficult time metabolizing it. High fructose consumption has been linked to diabetes, high triglycerides and bone loss among other things. Yes, we also get fructose from fruit and honey and maple syrup, but not in the quantities found in products that use HFCS as an ingredient, and when foods containing HFCS start to replace fruits and other natural foods in our diets, we lose all of the other wonderful nutritional benefits of those foods.
Some would argue that HFCS is no worse than table sugar (aka sucrose). Sucrose is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose – 50% glucose and 50% fructose held together by a glycosidic bond. It’s enzymatically digested to glucose and fructose in our stomachs. While it does have to go the extra step to release the fructose, our bodies seem to do that fairly easily. Over-consumption of sucrose can also result in health problems – tooth decay, obesity, and blood sugar regulation problems to name a few.
It’s unclear whether HFCS is as evil as it is made out to be. Is the free fructose in HFCS worse than the fructose bound in table sugar or does it get a bad rap because of the types of foods that it is in and the quantity that we consume those foods?
In the end, I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. HFCS is found in the worst of foods, and by giving up HFCS we’re cutting out a lot of junk and refocusing our eating energy toward healthier foods. Credible studies that both vilify and redeem HFCS seem to come weekly, but rather than worrying about the latest study, we’ve decided to focus on the fact that there is little to be gained nutritionally from foods containing HFCS. In fact, just the opposite as foods that contain HFCS seem to displace truly nutritious foods.
We’re striving to eat healthier in our house, and HFCS is not a part of that goal. I want my children to crave fruits and vegetables and whole grains and not the sickly sweet foods that contain HFCS. Hearing statistics that life expectancies are starting to go down for the first time only solidify our resolve. We want better for our children and for ourselves. So bye-bye HFCS! You have no place in our house anymore!
So, what contains HFCS, what are some tasty, healthy options that are HFCS free? As frequent visitor of Cathy’s site A Life Less Sweet I find answers to these questions and much more. You definitely want to be well informed when it come to the foods you and your family eat.