Tag Archives: vegan eating

The Not-So-Sweet Impostor: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

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‘Tis the Season for immune issues, tooth decay, and metabolic syndrome, right?  Well, in America, where each of us now consume on average well over 60 pounds of HFCS per year, it seems that these sweetener-induced health issues aren’t just treats to be enjoyed once a year anymore.  

Since you’re probably not guzzling corn syrup out the bottle (please PM me if this indeed describes you), how exactly are we getting so much HFCS in our diets?  HCFS is in almost all sweetened beverages (fruit juices and sodas, in particular), most store bought baked goods (I can hear your collective screams), canned fruit, packaged cereals, and dairy products (think sickeningly sweet yogurt and ice cream). Further, HFCS is often added to low or nonfat products  — along with other preservatives, chemicals, and thickeners  — to boost flavor and prolong shelf-life.  Basically, if a food is highly processed and contains absolutely no nutritional value, you can be sure HFCS is on the ingredients list. 

HFCS lurks in many fast food items as well, including that bizarre non-melting shake, ketchup and florescent nugget dipping sauces or dressings, burger buns, pancakes, all desserts, maple syrup, and of course in that gigantic super-sized soda.  Fun fact: a 20-ounce soda or HFCS sweetened drink has the equivalent of 17 teaspoons of sugar. (To put this in perspective, our ancestors used to consume about 20 teaspoons of sugar per year.) 

The people who make HFCS want you to believe it is a natural product and interchangeable with cane sugar (“sugar is sugar!”), and yes, HFCS is derived from corn, but the highly-processed final product is anything but just another sweetener.  Basically, natural cane sugar is glucose and has to be digested, while HFCS contains industrially-engineered fructose (not natural fruit sugar), which is absorbed directly by the liver, hence immediately spiking insulin levels. This “free” fructose can actually make small holes in our intestinal lining, triggering inflammation and a host of health problems: insulin resistance and diabetes, fat deposits in your liver and elsewhere, heart disease, various types of cancer, dementia, metabolic syndrome, empty calories (=junk in your trunk), teeth decay, and a speeding up of the aging process (yours for free!).  The manufacturers of HFCS are extremely secretive about the processes used, and for good reason. High fructose corn syrup is laced with contaminants and toxins, including mercury. Not exactly a glowing report. . .unless we’re talking about a potentially radioactive glow?   

Obesity rates have tripled over the last few decades, and our diabetes rates are up seven fold. Certainly HFCS is not the only culprit, but since its invention in 1957 some of the numbers are indeed startling. And it is no coincidence that many fast food chains replaced real sugar with HFCS as it became readily available – and extremely cheap — due to highly subsidized corn in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

In a (corn)nut shell, we should all avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague it is. Do yourself – and your intestinal lining – a favor; eat more whole plant foods, and when you buy processed foods, check the labels and eat smart. 🙂 

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