HFCS – What is it and is it really bad for you?

HFCS stands for high fructose corn syrup. It is a sweet-tasting viscous liquid that is made from corn starch. HFCS was first developed in 1961 in Japan. Yoshiyuki Takasaki worked at refining the industrial production process of HFCS from 1965 to 1970. It finally made its way to the American food industry in the early 1970s. HFCS is often found in processed foods because it’s sweet like table sugar, mixes well with most foods, it’s cheap, and it doesn’t go bad for a very long time.

Types of HFCS

HFCS-55. The 55 type is made of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. It is used in soft drinks.

HFCS-42. The 42 type is made of 42% fructose and 58% glucose. It is used in canned fruit, ice cream, desserts and baked goods.

As a reference, table sugar is made of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Both HFCS and table sugar have 4 calories per gram. Your body metabolizes both HFCS and table sugar in identical ways.

How is HFCS Made

First, corn kernels are soaked in a mixture of sulfur dioxide and warm water. This mixture adds moisture to the kernels, which helps in separating the kernels into its starch, hull, protein and oil. The wet kernels are then milled to remove the germ. The milled corn is washed, then added to the water mixture. It takes three different types of enzymes to break down the starch into glucose and fructose and create the perfect ratio between the two. After the enzymatic process, the result is a syrup which is evaporated until the consistency is perfect for shipping.

Health Concerns

In the past, there has been criticism that HFCS contributes to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and liver disease and that it is more harmful to your body than table sugar because it has been highly processed. Opponents to these claims argue that HFCS’s chemical composition is almost identical to table sugar, and therefore does not affect the body any differently than table sugar. In 1976, the United States Food and Drug Administration classified HFCS as “generally recognized as safe.”

However, any over-consumption of sweeteners (be it table sugar, HFCS or molasses) is highly associated with weight gain because of our body’s ineffectiveness in sensing satiety.

HFCS are derived from corn syrup, which may come from genetically modified corn crops. If you are abstaining from eating any genetically modified organisms, you should also be avoiding anything made with HFCS.

Foods That Probably Contain HFCS

  • Soft drinks
  • Salad dressings
  • Ketchup
  • Jams
  • Sauces
  • Ice cream
  • Bread
  • Dried fruit
  • Crackers
  • Condiments
  • Sausage
  • Ham
  • Cereal
  • Juice cocktails
  • Nutrition bars
  • Candy and candy bars
  • Cough syrups

Tips For Avoiding HFCS Intake

  • Say “no” to fast food.
  • Read food labels.
  • Just because the label says “natural” does not mean it is HFCS free.
  • Foods with “100% organic” labels are safe from HFCS.
  • If you want canned or bottled beverages, buy from brands that use sugar instead of HFCS or from Canada or Mexico.
  • Cook at home instead of eating out. You will definitely know if there’s any HFCS in your food.
  • Use natural sweeteners like raw honey, sucanat, maple syrup, agave, fruit juice, apple juice and brown rice syrup.

Brands That Don’t Use HFCS

  • Bread: Nature’s Own, Amana, Ezekiel, Open Nature Wheat Montana and Sara Lee
  • Cereal: Kashi, Cheerios, Grape Nuts, Nature’s Pride Organic, Shredded Wheat, Wild Harvest Natural Cereals and Life
  • Condiments: Annie’s Naturals, Nature’s Best, Welch’s fruit spreads, Simply Heinz ketchup, Trader Joe’s Organic ketchup, Hunt’s ketchup, Frenchs honey Dijon mustard, Woeber mustards, Trader Joe’s Hot and Sweet mustard, Duke’s mayonnaise and Hellman’s mayonnaise.
  • Ice cream: Breyer’s All Natural, Breyer’s Pure Fruit, Stoneyfield Farms, Trader Joe’s Floes and most Ben and Jerry’s.
  • Chocolate: Cadbury, Nesquik chocolate syrup and Dove
  • Applesauce: Mott’s Natural and all organic applesauces
  • Soda: China Cola, most Bawls guarana soda, Boylan’s, Jarritos, Jones Pure, Goose Island, Nantucket Nectars, Thomas Kemper, Trader Joe’s Vintage, Virgil’s and Blue Sky
  • Beverages: Gatorade
  • Pasta sauce: Ragu and Classico
  • Crackers: Wheat Thins, Dare Vinta, Milton’s Nabisco Original Triscuits, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish
  • Marinades: Acadia Naturals Tuscan Grill and Consorzio Brand
  • Peanut butter: Jif, Laura Scudder’s Old Fashioned, Skippy Super Chunk and Trader Joe’s
  • Jams: Bonne Maman, Hero and St Dalfour
  • Cookies: Destrooper, Keebler, Lu Le, Nature’s Best, Newman’s Own and Pepperidge Farms
  • Salad dressings: Annie’s Naturals, Blanchard & Blanchard, Brianna’s Blush, Drew’s, Newman’s Own, Olde Cape Cod and South Beach Living
  • Yogurt: Breyer’s, Brown Cow, Chobani Greek Yogurt, Dannon Activa Yogurt, Faye Greek Yogurt, most Great Value light nonfat, Mountain High lowfat, Stoneyfield and Wallaby
  • Granola bars: Kashi

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