What is High Fructose Corn Syrup? Is it Really That Bad? Yes, it absolutely is. It’s a seven-step processes that starts with corn that is likely GMO.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American devours 156 pounds of sugar in one year.
The average child (under 12 years old) eats 49 pounds of sugar.
Half of that measurement – for both adults and children – is consumed in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
Want to know exactly what those 78 pounds consist of?
What is high fructose corn syrup?
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a chemical sweetener blend of glucose and fructose.
Fructose (a.k.a. fruit sugar) is naturally found in many fruits, vegetables and honey. It is the sweetest of all natural sugars and is what gives apples and pears their natural sweetness.
Glucose is also found naturally – produced by plants through photosynthesis and used by humans for energy. It is the least sweet of all natural sugars and proper brain function requires it. In fact, when the body’s glucose level is low it greatly impairs psychological processes requiring mental effort (i.e. self-control and difficult decision-making).
Although both fructose and glucose are naturally in food, HFCS is not.
Who Invented High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)?
This compound was first created in a science lab in the late 1950s. A Japanese scientist made mass production of HFCS possible in the late 1960s.
The United States imposed a system of sugar taxes in the late 1970s, causing the cost of imported sugar to soar. Domestic producers sought less expensive sources and turned to high fructose corn syrup instead. The price of corn is kept very low through government subsidies paid to growers making HFCS a much more affordable and thus preferred option as a sweetener.
How is high fructose corn syrup made?
Although HFCS is derived from corn – a natural and real food – the end result is anything but natural and real.
- Corn is first soaked in 120° F water for 30 to 40 hours to release the starch.
- The corn is ground to separate the germ from the endosperm. Each component is ground separately into a powder.
- The starch is removed from each component by washing, and then drying. This resulting powder is commonly known as corn starch.
- The enzyme alpha-amylase is added to break down the large molecular structure of cornstarch. Note: Alpha-amylase is found naturally in our saliva – it’s what helps us to break down and digest food. However, HFCS manufacturers use alpha-amylase derived from the bacteria Bacillus, which is nowhere near as gentle as our own saliva. There are numerous strains of Bacillus, but those worth mentioning include one that causes anthrax, another that causes food poisoning and a third that is used as pesticide.
- The enzyme glucoamylase is added to break the starch into glucose molecules. Note: Glucoamylase is also found naturally… in mold. Starchy foods such as bread and potatoes grow mold containing glucoamylase.
- With the glucose molecules separated, the manufacturers add glucose isomerase, another enzyme produced through fermentation with a variety of bacteria cultures and microorganisms. This converts the least sweet glucose to the most sweet fructose.
- The resulting liquid is reduced to create a 90% concentration of fructose.
Wow. Did you get all of that?
Soak the corn, grind the corn, dry the corn. Add your choice of anthrax, staphylococcus or insect repellent. Then add mold. Finally, choose from millions of available strains of bacteria, ferment them, and toss it in to make it a bit sweeter.
You now have high fructose corn syrup.
Why is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad For You?
Dr. Robert Post of the USDA doesn’t think it is. He says that both honey and corn syrup metabolize as sugar.
The Corn Association agrees too, claiming that table sugar and HFCS are nutritionally and metabolically equivalent.
However, table sugar is made of sucrose. As we just learned, HFCS is made of a high concentrated amount of fructose. Fructose and sucrose are not metabolically equivalent. Our bodies do not process added sugar and HFCS the same.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration agrees that HFCS is not sugar. If it were, they wouldn’t have turned down a petition by the Corn Refiners Association to officially change the name of high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar.
Just a few months ago, the University of Oxford and the University of Southern California released their results of a study involving HFCS. They found that consuming HFCS can cause negative health problems – separate from and far more harmful than natural sugar.
A team of Princeton researchers also did a few experiments. They found that rats given HFCS gained much more weight than those given sucrose (table sugar). During another experiment, rats given HFCS showed dangerous signs of what humans know as metabolic syndrome. Symptoms include abnormal weight gain, significantly increased triglycerides, an overall increase in body fat, a fatty liver, and a particular increase in visceral fat around the belly.
Mark Hyman, MD talks in depth about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup. He explains the trends in the current obesity epidemic and increase in typical body weight. The fructose content in HFCS creates problems like insulin resistance and can lead to type 2 diabetes.
As if that weren’t enough, some of the enzymes used to create HFCS may be contaminated with mercury. Mercury is toxic – in all its forms.
How to Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup
Simply put, we stop buying it. Read every label and if you see HFCS listed, don’t buy it. Honestly, I think it is rather crazy how many items have high fructose corn syrup!
- Cookies and granola bars
- Soft drinks
- Bread, rolls, and buns
- Ketchup, BBQ sauce, and other condiments
Open up your fridge, freezer, pantry and purge.
Replace those items with an alternate version that doesn’t have HFCS. While regular sugar is still bad for you (here’s how to quit sugar altogether), it’s actually a better choice than high fructose corn syrup.
Better yet, make it yourself! You can save money and avoid bad ingredients including HFCS.
- Need dressings? Here’s Greek, Italian, Ranch, Dairy-free Ranch, and Caesar.
- Need jelly? Here’s cinnamon apple jam or strawberry freezer jam.
- Want to make cookies? Scratch is always better. Oatmeal chocolate chip and ultimate chocolate chip are two of our favorites. At Christmas we like Healthier Sugar Cookies and Healthier Candy Cane Cookies.
- Want bread? Man Bread and The Best White Sandwich Bread are favorites in my house. No Knead Artisan Bread is perfect if you are new to making food from scratch.
Where to Buy Food without HFCS
If you’re in a season where making food from scratch isn’t the best option, there are several places online that have good prices and quality foods. Of course you will STILL need to double check the ingredient lists (I re-learned about that when we did the Whole30), but this is a good place to start.
- Thrive Market – You can read my review about Thrive Market HERE. Crumbs readers get an exclusive 25% off + free 30 day trial membership!
- Amazon – Prime subscribers get free 2-day shipping and can get discounts on groceries at Prime Pantry (more about that HERE). If you’re not currently a Prime member, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial to Amazon Prime!
- Tropical Traditions – They frequently offer free shipping which helps a ton when you order heavy items in bulk. You can order through this link.
- Vitacost – This online store has a wide variety of healthy options that are sometimes hard to find locally. Shop here to see their latest discounts and sales.
Healthier choices and saving money go hand in hand.
I used to be an avid couponer. But once I ditched the boxed foods, the coupons I use to use were no longer valuable. Instead I learned how to buy real food ingredients that ended up costing me LESS.
My course, Grocery Budget Bootcamp, teaches you the tried and true method that I use to save money on groceries. In fact, you can start by taking this free video training to learn the basics of how to shop the store so you can buy good food for a good price.