You see it on the labels of a lot of the prepackaged food and drink – it’s high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). What is it? Simply put, it’s heavy-duty sugar. More technically, it’s corn syrup that undergoes processing to increase its fructose content, them is blended with pure corn syrup (100% glucose). The process was developed in the late 1950s and later improved upon by Japanese researchers in the 1970s. HFCS made its way into prepackaged foods and drinks in the US starting in the late 1970s, and exploded into our prepackaged foods shortly thereafter.
While HFCS seems like a good substitute for good old sugar, it is increasingly becoming a target for the reason for the explosion in cases of obesity in the United States. In April of this year, the FDA actually concluded that HFCS cannot be considered a natural ingredient. This may seem strange considering its production starts with a natural vegetable like corn, but it’s the process that makes it unnatural. In fact, its use is banned in Europe.
I do my best to avoid HFCS, but sometimes it’s very hard to do so. I don’t drink any soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi, or sports drinks because they are loaded with the stuff. On the rare occasion where I have, for example, working in the yard in the summer heat and I perspire a lot, I will drink a small amount of Pedialyte to prevent dehydration because it only contains a small amount of glucose and fructose (there is no HFCS on the ingredients list). But if you look at a lot of prepackaged foods like cookies, cereals, crackers, snacks, sauces, breads – just about anything – HFCS is in there.
While I am not blaming the entire causes of obesity on HFCS, there does seem to be a coincidence that the massive increase in the numbers of obese Americans seems to relate to the same increase in the use of HFCS in our foods.
How does one avoid HFCS? It can be done. First, if you drink soft drinks, stop, or severely restrict your intake. My recommendation is to even avoid the low/zero/once calorie drinks. Even if the latter says it doesn’t have HFCS, there are probably a lot of non- natural additives that could be doing who knows what to your body long term. Second, read the ingredient labels of everything you buy that are prepackaged. If it has HFCS in it, especially as one of the top 3 ingredients, don’t buy it and keep looking until you find something that doesn’t contain it or contains very little. Third, buy only fresh fruit and veggies; be especially cautious of canned fruits because their syrups usually contain HFCS. There are probably many more things you can do to avoid HFCS that I haven’t; listed here – the best thing you can do is simply be aware of what is in the food you eat.
Contact your senate and congress representatives and tell them you want this product out of your food, or its use minimized. I hate the idea of over-regulation, but maybe HFCS is too great a risk to our health. It at least deserves more scrutiny. But most importantly, take responsibility for what you are eating and avoid foods that provide you little health benefits, or maybe even a health risk.
After all, you ARE what you eat.
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