Food Facts: high fructose corn syrup - is it really that bad?
We’ve all heard that high fructose corn syrup, the highly processed sugar in sodas, desserts, sauces (in addition to products like bread, pre-made meals, etc.), is bad for us.
Truth is, it's not great. But...as always with nutrition, there is more to it.
What is it?
First off, let’s define what HFCS is. It’s a highly processed sugar derived from corn. The sugar in corn (corn syrup) is nearly 100% glucose. Glucose syrup is treated with enzymes which convert some of the glucose into fructose, much like the composition of table sugar or sucrose.
After processing, the liquid HFCS is a stable, easy-to-use nutritive (meaning it has calories) sweetener. Not to mention, it’s much cheaper than table sugar since it’s derived from corn.
Why does it have a bad rap?
HFCS is widely used, especially in processed foods. It’s usage correlated directly correlated with rising obesity rates, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. Many scientists have blamed HFCS for the rise in negative health conditions in the US and rightly so.
However, it’s important to examine the many other possible factors. The most obvious one is that foods containing HFCS are generally highly processed, high calorie, low nutrient foods which, if consumed in excess, will harm anyone’s health. And in the last five decades, our nation’s consumption of these foods and the sedentary lifestyle have become the norm.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Like many highly processed ingredients, HFCS is not an ingredient you want in the food that you consume daily. But, it’s also not poison, either.
HFCS has pretty much the same effect on your blood sugar levels as sucrose, so don’t be fooled by products that use “natural cane sugar” in lieu of HFCS - most of the time, your body won’t know the difference.
If you’re looking out for your health and the health of your family, choose real, wholesome foods that nutrient dense, with a sweet treat on-occasion.