Several months ago I went into the grocery store and saw some Pepsi products called throwback. When I looked closely at these limited time only products made with “real sugar”, I was both humored and saddened at the same time. Humored because I wondered when did something as simple as using real sugar in a product become a thing of the past that it’s considered a throwback? I was saddened because, when I considered the alternative, it was actually disturbing to me. I also blogged about the use of trans fats being used in profits before health. We’ve all seen those commercials produced by the Corn Refiners Association; The High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) “Sweet Surprise” Ad campaign. In case you haven’t, the dialogue goes something like this:
(Girl offer’s her boyfriend a bite of her Popsicle)
Boy: I thought you loved me?
Girl: Take two bites.
Boy: It has HFCS in it
Boy: You know what they say about it…
Girl: What? That it’s made from corn? Has the same calories as sugar and it’s fine in moderation.
(Boy takes and eats the Popsicle.)
So what’s the big deal? The commercial failed to mentioned is that HFCS is a highly refined, artificial product. Mercury, caustic soda, and hydrochloric acid are used in processing it. Manufacturers love it because:
- it is both sweeter and cheaper than sugar (cheaper, partly because of generous federal subsidies and trade policies that encourage farmers to grow more corn)
- it is not as susceptible to freezer burn, easily dissolves and has a longer shelf life
The reality is that HFCS is very different from Table sugar. Table sugar is a combination of fructose and glucose which are both simple sugars produced naturally by plants. The combination is called sucrose (not to be confused with sucralose, brand name Splenda, which is also artificial). Unlike sugar, corn syrup is mainly glucose produced from corn starch. There is no naturally occurring fructose in corn which is why corn isn’t sweet. But, in the 1950’s, scientists found a way to chemically and artificially convert the glucose (in corn) to fructose. The resulting concoction is 90% fructose (very sweet) that is mixed with corn syrup (not sweet), thus the high fructose corn syrup.
The problem with this super sweet, super cheap product is that:
Research has shown that “high-fructose corn syrup” goes directly to the liver, releasing enzymes that instruct the body to then store fat! This may elevate triglyceride (fat in blood) levels and elevate cholesterol levels. This fake fructose may slow fat burning and cause weight gain.
Of course, there are serious health consequences for not using natural sugar in moderation, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. But I believe that consuming too many foods and beverages containing HFCS is like taking the superhighway to compromised health…evident in the increased incidence of childhood obesity and diabetes. Below is a video response to the Corn Refiner’s Ad campaign. (I’m not into name calling so please disregard the printed statement at the end of the video)
But how can you avoid it with there being so many foods containing HFCS? I gravitate to those foods that clearly advertise “No HFCS” on the label. I suggest checking the label…often times, it’s one of the first ingredient listed. Also, many products are meeting the demands of consumers by removing this ingredient. To get you started, here are a few:
- Bread. Nature’s Own and Sara Lee does not contain high fructose corn syrup.
- Pancakes. Aunt Jemima pancakes do not contain HFCS. Neither does Log Cabin pancake syrup.
- Cereal. Any of the Kashi cereal brands do not contain high fructose corn syrup. Cheerios, Grape Nuts and Life cereal are also good options.
- Condiments. Any of the Annie’s Naturals products and Welch’s fruit spreads are free of HFCS. Heinz and Hunts ketchup and Hellman’s mayonnaise are also good options, but you may have to look for the ones clearly marked advertising “No HFCS”
- Ice cream. Breyer’s All Natural ice creams are free of HFCS . Many of the Ben and Jerry’s flavors also meet this requirements, although a couple of the ones that contain candy or chocolate may have minor amounts.
- Chocolate. Most Cadbury and Dove chocolates are free of HFCS. Surprisingly many Hershey’s chocolate also does not have HFCS
- Applesauce. Mott’s Natural Applesauce is the only main brand applesauce free from HFCS (although there are plenty of organic options – which are better for you anyway, since conventional apples are high in pesticides).
- Soda. Although these are more difficult to find, lesser known soda brands like China Cola and Blue Sky soft drinks don’t contain HFCS.
- Pasta sauce. Any of the Ragu flavors and most of the Classico brands will not contain HFCS.
Have you ever thought about HFCS in foods? Do you check the labels before purchasing food items?