As a health nut, it’s a fair assumption that I avoid a number of ingredients in my diet.
Processed or packaged foods are a prime source of unhealthy ingredients, but I’ll admit to enjoying the occasional “earned” meal every now and then.
Yet there’s one ingredient that gets a hard pass from me every single time. Whether it’s in my food or my drink, I stay away from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and I have good reason for that.
What is HCFS? Well simply put, it’s the devil of all sugars.
High fructose corn syrup, as its name suggests, is an artificial sweetener derived from corn starch.
Thanks to generous agricultural subsidies to U.S farmers, HCFS became an attractive alternative to refined sugar, which was fast gaining a bad reputation amongst health skeptics.
Lower priced corn and its byproducts, namely HCFS found its way into everyday produce. You will be surprised to know that many store-bought foods are high in HCFS, not just soda. Wheat-thins, deli meats, sauces, regular peanut butter, cereal, snack bars and even juices all contain HCFS in varying quantities.
There are even varieties of HCFS made from genetically modified corn, which is a whole different health problem that deserves its own article.
HCFS’s primary constituents are glucose and fructose. However, it is the latter’s higher concentration in HCFS that worries me.
Though fructose is otherwise regular fruit sugar, it can only be broken down by the liver. Meanwhile, glucose can be easily broken down and absorbed by every cell in the body for energy.
How the body metabolizes fructose internally is still a matter of research and debate among members of the scientific community.
In conjunction with the abundance of HCFS in most foods, Americans are consuming an alarming amount of added fructose daily.
Research and studies have associated excessive fructose intake with diabetes, liver fat, weight gain and other serious diseases. It also promotes the formation of uric acid and free radicals – agents which harm the body by damaging cell structures and enzymes.
Some reports have also proposed that the broad increase in obesity in the US seems to have coincided with the introduction and proliferation of HCFS in our diet.
Thankfully healthier options do exist. Coconut water for instance is my go-to for a sports drink and natural peanut butter is still one of my ingredients for a nutritious snack.
The American Dietary guidelines recommend no more than 10% of daily calories should come from added sugar.
So, the next time if you’re at Costco or Walgreens, it pays to be extra vigilant to scan the labels just to be sure you leave out HCFS from your foods.