The Losing Battle Against High Fructose Corn Syrup


Photo by boeke

Grocery shopping has never been fun for me, but not long ago, it used to be quick and relatively painless. Now, if and when I walk through the aisles of my nearest store, it feels like I’m walking through a minefield, trying desperately to avoid being blown to pieces by a hidden device. Except in this case, the mines are made of high fructose corn syrup.

The corn industry’s ridiculously deceptive TV ads will tell you that HFCS is “OK in moderation” and that it’s no worse than sugar. The problem is, how do you moderate your intake of HFCS when you don’t realize you’re consuming it? And how exactly do they define “moderation?” Is there a specific amount I should aim to stay within every day? Clearly, many people have trouble moderating their intake of sweets, or this conversation wouldn’t be necessary. The print ads like the one shown below are worse, implying that only doctors can have a say on health care, as if the opinions of regular people don’t matter.

cornsyrupad1Image from SweetSurprise.com

High fructose corn syrup extends the shelf life of processed foods, and is also cheaper than sugar, so it has become a frequent ingredient in soda, fruit drinks and other processed foods, including in many foods where you wouldn’t expect to find it.

To make matters worse, a recent study revealed the presence of mercury in 17 of 55 tested brand-name food and beverage products that contain HFCS. These products included barbecue sauces, condiments, dairy products, beverages, nutrition bars, snacks, including Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly, Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. Pardon my sarcasm, but isn’t this lovely to know?

I am admittedly a lazy cook who once was more likely to shop in the freezer aisle than the produce section if given the chance. I’m working on that, but I still have my weak moments. The result is that I would wind up buying a lot of foods that contained added HFCS without realizing it. This isn’t a healthy trend for me or my family, no matter what the commercials would have us believe. But even for parents who enjoy cooking from scratch and try to avoid processed foods, this ingredient has become so pervasive that it is showing up everywhere. Think salad dressings, yogurt and even pickles and toothpaste. Really? My toothpaste, which is supposed to clean my teeth, needs a sugar substitute?

It’s sad to say, but to this point, my family has been losing the battle against HFCS. My insatiable sweet tooth certainly doesn’t help matters. Of course, I now wonder if the reason I love sweet foods and drinks is because I’ve become so accustomed to consuming added sweeteners.  HFCS alone isn’t to blame for that, but it doesn’t help that this cheap ingredient is being added to what seems like everything. Can’t I just get a pickle, with no additives?

In any case, there’s no point in laying blame. This is just another reason why eating organic foods has become so vital in my household. If we eliminate processed food altogether, it stands to reason that we’ll also be able to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, our consumption of HFCS. Now I just need to work on getting motivated to cook rather than just sticking a frozen pizza in the oven. Thankfully, my husband has been putting his amazing culinary skills on display and cooking more often than not, so I really have no excuse.

By jennae

Hi! I'm Jennae Petersen and I'm the eco diva who had the bright idea to share my journey toward green living with the blogosphere. Some of you may know me as the founder of Green Your Decor, my blog about eco-friendly home decor, as a Walmart Mom, from Twitter or from my organic cotton t-shirt line Differently Clothing. Stick around for a while!

9 comments

  1. THANK YOU for this thoughtful post. I too avoid HFCS and refuse to purchase products that have it. It is not easy! I applaud your commitment and courage in taking on this issue. If a favorite product has HFCS or Cotton Seed Oil (another additive I find offensive) I will call or email the company and tell them I won’t buy their product again until they remove the ingredient. I figure if they hear it from enough of us, they will change…. after all we ARE their customers, right?

  2. Well damn—it’s in the toothpaste, too?! Good. Grief.
    I raise my hand and readily cop to the fact that I’m thoroughly addicted to sugar. Recently—over the last month or so—I cut out all of the obvious sugars in my diet… no more smoothies, gummy bears, chocolate bars, ice cream, cookies, etc., because sugar was wreaking havoc on my body. The doctor said the only way to break the addiction was to go cold turkey. But guess what? I still crave sugar. And thanks to you, I now know why. It doesn’t matter if I kick the gummy bear habit if I can’t brush my teeth or have catsup on my hot dog without getting added sugar. And honestly, I can’t always AFFORD to buy all organic products, so what’s a mom to do? ARGH—such a struggle to stay healthy and woke…
    .-= Denene@MyBrownBaby´s last blog ..MyBrownBaby MOM OF THE MONTH: Jennae Petersen =-.

    1. Ok, some facts!!!High Fructose Corn Syrup is a combination of surgas made into a syrup.Fructose is the sugar from fruitsCorn is a sugar plant.Blending these two ingredients makes a super sweet syrup that it doesn’t take very much of so is very much less expensive to use to sweeten foods commercially.There is NOTHING unhealthy about HFCS other than most people eat way too much of it! As you say, it is in virtually every food on the market shelf.Yes, it makes the honey less expensive to serve if they get it blended with HFCS! Real honey is becoming a rarity and very expensive since the congress in all its wisdom decided imported honey was a better way to go and did away with all the tariff on imports and quit sharing that money with the bee keepers. It makes it really hard for the bee keepers to get the bees around to all the fields they are to work. So I recommend if you don’t want this product in your foods, you purchase fresh foods and do all the processing necessary to preserve or freeze them so you can eat most of the year without being subjected to the dreaded sugar.A bit of sugar in most foods makes them taste better, just as a bit of salt does. This does not make these foods unhealthy! It is the quantity of the foods we eat that makes them unhealthy. Also it is just a governmental committee that decides how much of what is healthy for us to eat and what is unhealthy. Did you know it was a Senate SubCommittee that declared we should drink 8 8-oz glasses of water per day? Not a scientist in the bunch. Did you know it was the same Senate SubCommittee that coined the phrase complex carbohydrates to cover all the breads and cereals? Did you also know that it was the same Senate Sub Committee that decreed that we eat half our daily foods allowanace in these same complex carbohydrates ? And they would not be nearly as palatable with out the HFCS!!!!

  3. This is just crazy.I have started recently trying to avoid buying food for my kids that have corn syrup…but it seems almost impossible.Organic food is either too costly or my girls don’t like what they have so I have been more willing to try to make homemade food.I just feel that I cannot trust what this country lets us eat…especially what we allow into babies/children’s bodies. I’ll be so happy when the day comes that we can trust the food,cleaners in our stores without worrying about what it could do to our family.
    .-= Renee Alam´s last blog ..I’m Moving to Virginia!!!! =-.

  4. @Harmony I think I’ll have to start emailing and calling product manufacturers too. My daughter loves Capri Sun juice drinks, but all that HFCS isn’t good for her, and its frustrating that we’ll have to start avoiding even our favorite products.

    @Denene I feel your pain. Really. I’m addicted to sugar too, and I know it. Most days, I’d rather wake up and eat a bowl of sugary cereal than actually cook breakfast, and it has got to stop. I think if I at least attempt your cold turkey approach, I’ll be well ahead of where I am right now, which is well on the road to diabetes if I’m not careful. Hard to admit, but true.

    We can’t always afford to buy organic food either, but I think the key is try to stay away from processed foods. If we cook from scratch with basic ingredients like meats, veggies and the like, we’re less likely to encounter HFCS. So even when I can’t buy organic, I want to start avoiding anything pre-cooked or otherwise preserved. And for products I’m unable or unlikely to make myself, like ketchup, we’re trying to replace them with better options, like organic ketchup or agave-sweetened ketchup like Wholemato: http://www.wholemato.com/agave.htm

    It’s crazy how we have to go to all these extraordinary lengths just to keep ourselves healthy. And it’s really ridiculous how the healthier options, even non-organic ones, always seem to be more expensive than processed food. In fact, it’s worse than ridiculous. It should be criminal.

    @Renee Amen to that! As long as unhealthy food is cheap to produce and nets big profits, food companies will continue to make it. We have to demand better for our children. That’s the only way we’ll get it.

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more. It is exhausting to go to the store and to read every label before purchasing. Since when did crackers need sugar, let alone high fructose corn syrup? There is also the problem of breaking the addiction once you have decided to go HFCS free. It is amazing to me what we are doing to our selves all in the name of convenience.

  6. Even in so-called health food stores, foods are full of cane sugar which isnt that much better than HFCS. There was a time (in real “hippie” stores) where you would be able to find foods and treats sweetened with fruit juice, honey, agave, etc, but now even “heath foods” have sugar in it. I guess its cheaper and companies want to profit from the masses. HFCS is relatively easy to avoid, but sugar is everywhere in general. Sooo frustrating.
    .-= Carla´s last blog ..Green and Chic Product: Erbaorganics Baby Body Wash (discounted) =-.

  7. A few years ago, I made a serious push to make my food out of *food* – not stuff like HFCS. Seriously, I love some junk food, but if my supposedly non-junk food is full of the same stuff, then I have no CLUE how much junk I’m really eating. It got a little hazy again after the baby was born (strangely) but I think 2010 may be the year to re-separate. I’m also considering a year-long “no junk in my junk food” type of thing where I only eat desserts, chips, etc. if they are also made of food.

    (Which means I should probably go ahead and finish eating the holiday candy my husband stores in his desk at work for me and brings home a little at a time.)

    (Okay now that I think about it, the fact that it’s November and candy from last December is still edible kind of freaks me out.)
    .-= Skye´s last blog ..I have become one of THOSE people =-.

  8. I just wanted to add that if is healthier than sugar, why don’t they sell the high fructose in a bottle to be used on the table or in cooking? I’ll tell you why, they would then have to list what the ingredients are along with all the nutrition label, or should I say toxin label. Oh, no they would never want us to see that! Now would they. Please someone has to stop them. It is getting to a point I won’t eat anything or even brush my teeth. My boyfriend thinks I am paranoid and crazy because I check every label, I tell you he is sick of it. However, he is now suffering from skin problems all over his eyes and forehead because everything he eats is full of it. He doesn’t like a lot of fresh foods because he is addicted to that awful garbage. Help!

    Lorraine

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