Friday, September 17, 2010

Corn Sugar?

Oh the notorious High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). If you watch TV you've likely seen the ad campaigns for HFCS. Pretty smart ads. Kind of creepy too for some reason, at least I think so. Why is HFCS bad again? Because truly sugar is sugar and everything in moderation, right? Yes, true. But not all sugars are equal. And in the case of HFCS, it is a highly processed sweetener made from corn. And just because it's made from corn does not make it "natural" as the Corn Refiners Association would like to make it appear.

To be fair, white sugar is also highly processed. HFCS comes from corn that's been milled, made into a syrup then adjusted with added enzymes. Sugar comes from either sugar cane or sugar beets. The plants are crushed to exude their sweet juices, and the juice is allowed to crystallize into a loose crumble. This crumble can be sold as-is, but it is usually washed, allowed to crystallize, and then sold or refined as needed. In the case of white sugar, multiple washings are used, with some sugar refineries even bleaching the sugar to get it as white as possible.

I've done a couple of posts on sugar and HFCS respectively. But I'm revisiting the subject because of a recent petition from the Corn Refiners Association to change the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup to Corn Sugar. Information and campaigns against HFCS over the years has actually worked and now the association needs to do something to gain the sweetener some acceptance again.

Medium food is definitely synonymous with the "everything in moderation" motto. But it's also an approach to food that requires research and always opting for the best food (within budget) based on that research. I always look for minimally processed items and more importantly, focus on the nutritional impact of the food. Bread, crackers or soup with added sugar in it, HFCS or white sugar, is unnecessary to me. We're getting enough sugar in items that are intentionally sweet, I don't need to serve up more on my son's turkey sandwich.

I skip HFCS all together. I guess you can say the information against it over the years has worked and I just don't want it. The petition to change the name simply reinforces the need to be an educated consumer. Understanding the ingredients lists will arm you with the ability to see through innocent and natural sounding ingredients such as the proposed "corn sugar." If it walks like a... and quacks like a... it's a... - you get it. Let's just stay smart. And let's keep finding the time and energy (that some days we just don't have) to THINK before we buy.


  1. I went grocery shopping the other day and toiled over ingredient lists, putting back everything with HFCS as the sweetener. You'd be shocked to see where it shows up if you're not used to looking for it. Bread? Really? Seems ridiculous. I'm with you, moderation is good - but to me that means moderation of the most natural form of sugar. If I can find something that's sweetened with cane sugar instead, that's definitely what goes in my basket.

  2. You said it perfectly - "moderation of the most natural form of sugar." That's exactly how I approach it. And when it comes down to it, we don't have to settle. Like the article I link to states, even some big brands have eliminated HFCS from their products. We have choices!