Whole Foods and Your Health, Part 5: High Fructose Corn Syrup

       A. Additives
             1. MSG
             2. Preservatives
                 a. BHA and BHT
                 b. Aluminum
                 c. Nitrates and Nitrites
            3. Food Coloring
            4. Sweeteners
                 a. High Fructose Corn Syrup

The last of the additives: sweeteners. This is a hard one for everyone. It hits home one way or another. There are two kinds of sweeteners that you truly should avoid at all costs: High Fructose Corn Syrup and Artificial. Now you’re thinking, “How am I supposed to do that?!” High Fructose Corn Syrup is in everything from chips to fruit juice. Artificial sweeteners seem to be a good alternative to sugar; they are low-calorie sweeteners that don’t affect blood sugar the way natural sweeteners do. We’ve heard people rant and rave about how bad they are, but no one seems to explain WHY they are bad.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has not been around for very long; in fact, it was invented in the 1960’s. HFCS was intended to be a cheap alternative to sugar. According to Karo Syrup’s website:
Since the early 1980’s, high fructose corn syrup consumption has tripled and recently estimated at 60 pounds per person annually. During the same time period, the rate of obesity has also increased dramatically. Some researchers believe there is a link between the increase in obesity and the increase in high fructose corn syrup consumption. There are other researchers, however, that do not believe there is a connection.
Is there or isn’t there a connection? In 2010, Princeton University published a test done on lab rats. Their findings showed a distinct association between HFCS and weight gain.
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.
It is made from corn by changing the sugar in cornstarch to glucose and fructose. Remember one of the definitions of a whole food? A food that is minimally processed. EHow says,
The process used to manufacture corn syrup became possible in the 1960s. Corn kernels are soaked in warm water containing sulfur dioxide. This warm solution hydrates the kernels and makes it easier to separate its starch, hull, protein and oil components. After soaking, the kernels are wet milled to remove the oil containing germ. Next, the remaining corn starch is washed. Three types of enzymes are added to the resulting starch and water mixture to break down the starch into glucose and fructose and create the desired balance of the two. The resulting syrup is then place through an evaporation process to create the desired consistency for shipping.

Sulfur dioxide is often used a preservative in foods. It has a history of causing worsened asthma for one in nine asthmatics. Asthma has also been caused by sulfur dioxide.

CNN states:
 Rutgers University said they’d identified compounds in HFCS which may start a chemical chain reaction, leading to diabetes.
It also causes oxidative damage that leads to wrinkles and premature aging. And there is the possibility that it may contain mercury. In Livestrong’s article “The Problems With HFCS,” Sadie Bell says,
According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, high fructose corn syrup might contain higher levels of mercury than previously thought. In fact, the way the syrup is made is linked to the mercury content, which raises several flags about the potential of mercury toxicity, which can cause lung disease and speech problems.
To sum up high fructose corn syrup, Katherine Zeratsky, a Mayo Clinic Nutritionist, recommends that moderation is the key since more research is needed.
  • Avoid sugary, non-diet sodas. Drink water or other unsweetened beverages instead.
  • Choose breakfast cereals carefully. Although healthy breakfast cereals can contain added sugar to make them more appealing to children, skip the non-nutritious, sugary and frosted cereals.
  • Eat fewer processed and packaged foods, such as sweetened grains like cookies and cakes and some microwaveable meals.
  • Snack on vegetables, fruit, low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers, and low-fat, low-calorie yogurt instead of candy, pastries and cookies.

Do I have HFCS in moderation? Not at all. We NEVER compromise on HFCS. It’s very easy to avoid. Not to mention all of the health reasons to avoid it! If you are interested in learning more about HFCS and corn, you should watch King Corn. Most corn is genetically modified, which is whole other post. Genetic Modification is yet another reason to avoid HFCS.

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