Topic: Food Labels and Ingredients 2010-11-02 20:03:14
High Fructose Corn Syrup…Foe or No?
High fructose corn syrup is a hot topic of debate these days. Most people are of one belief or the other. Some feel it is the same as sugar, so what’s all the fuss about? Others believe it is partially responsible for the obesity epidemic and should be avoided at all cost. The rest of us are simply confused. I think the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
In actuality the composition of high fructose corn syrup is approximately 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose. This is roughly the same as table sugar. However, a recently released study in the journal Obesity revealed that most products containing HFCS have a higher percentage of fructose than previously thought, with several major brands using about 65% fructose. This could challenge those who steadfastly insisted that HFCS and sugar are virtually the same. The bottom line is, we all consume too much sugar, no matter what the source. If you read labels carefully, you will find either sugar or high fructose corn syrup in many products that are not inherently sweet. Bread, crackers, salad dressing, ketchup, and many other processed food items contain added sweetener. Of course, we think of soda as the big offender, but the sports drinks and other popular beverages on the market today most likely contain HFCS or sugar.
How do we make the smartest choices for our family? Well, I believe that choosing foods with the most natural ingredients is always the way to go. This requires skill in label reading, but it is worth the benefit to learn. A perfect example is choosing between the ever popular Triscuits or Wheat Thins. Both are the same price, and are found next to each other on grocery shelves. Triscuits have 3 ingredients: whole grain wheat, oil, and salt. Whereas Wheat Thins have a list of at least 15 ingredients, and until very recently, high fructose corn syrup. So, the more natural choice is the Triscuits.
There is almost always a more natural choice for the food item you desire. How about peanut butter? Conventional peanut butter contains added oils, sometimes partially hydrogenated (remember trans fats?), and usually sugar or HFCS. Natural peanut butter is the better choice. Look for varieties that contain ONLY peanuts and salt. No added sweetener!
The debate over HFCS and sugar is bound to linger for quite a while. I’m sure there will be many additional “sugar” sources to come on the market. I’ve seen high maltose corn syrup emerging. It’s just another processed sweetener. The Corn Refiners Association asked the Food and Drug Administration in September to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to "corn sugar." I presume that is purely a marketing technique to move away from the tarnished HFCS name.
In my eyes, we don’t know for sure what if any long term health effects there are to consuming high fructose corn syrup. We do know that an excess amount of any sugar source contributes to obesity and all the complications associated with it. So, avoid added sugars of any kind when possible, and if you do need something sweet, try to find a naturally sweetened version of the treat you seek.
Life is sweet, let’s try to keep our food a little less so…