One of the big things that I’ve learned in the recent years along my journey to improve my health, has been to read what ingredients are in the foods I eat. I’m a label reader first and foremost, checking how many calories, how much fat, and how much sodium are in the foods I buy. I also read the ingredients list before I buy food. If the items on the list are unfamiliar, or I can’t pronounce them, normally I don’t buy it. There has been a lot of buzz lately about an ingredient known as high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS. High-fructose corn syrup is a preservative that is added to food products to not only extend their shelf life, but to make the foods sweeter.
Pure sugar is no longer the main sweetener in a lot of foods on the market. It has been replaced by HFCS. Most of these foods are considered to be “junk” food items, however it’s also found in other food items. Just a few of the items that contain high-fructose corn syrup include:
- Soft drinks
- Pancake syrups
- Fruit juice (those that aren’t made with 100% fruit juice)
- Frozen yogurts
- Canned and jarred pasta sauces
- Barbecue sauces and ketchup
- Breakfast cereals that are highly sweetened.
Health Risks Of High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup is metabolized differently than other types of sugar. This is because corn is not a vegetable, but rather a grain. For this reason, HFCS is metabolized into fat a lot faster than other sugars, and it causes big spikes in blood sugar levels. High-fructose corn syrup has been linked to several problems and diseases. HFCS has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Heart Disease and Stroke
HFCS has been linked to a higher level of triglycerides and bad cholesterol (LDL) in some people. High levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides can result in greater risks of heart attack and stroke.
Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s
High-fructose corn syrup is a lot sweeter than other sugars, more than twice as sweet. It causes high spikes in blood sugar, and if the muscles don’t use up that sugar right away, it’s converted into fat. An increase of fat and cholesterol can slow down the circulation of the blood that goes through the brain. This can accelerate the rate that cells die because they’re not getting the proper amount of oxygen. The more cells that die in the brain, the greater risk there is of developing memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease.
Also due to the fact that HFCS is so sweet, it can wreak havoc with people who have diabetes. It can cause large spikes in blood sugar levels, and can throw off their glucose levels which can cause serious problems.
Because high-fructose corn syrup is found in almost all desert type foods, it has been linked to obesity. There’s no nutritional value at all in high-fructose corn syrup. It’s one of those ingredients that make you feel hungrier after you’ve eaten instead of feeling full. Because of this aspect, if you eat something with HFCS, you may eat more. And of course, the more you eat, the more calories you consume, which can lead to weight gain.
How To Avoid It
The following ideas are ways to avoid HFCS when you’re at the store.
- Avoid buying processed food
- Stay away from food items that contain excess sugar
- Opt for fresh fruit instead of fruit juice or drinks that are fruit flavored
- Opt for canned fruit in which the fruit is packed in the actual fruit juice and not heavy syrup
- Avoid sodas
It might take awhile to learn how to take out foods that are made with natural ingredients, but in the end it is all worth it. Once you get into the habit of reading the ingredients list, you’ll have no problems picking out foods that are healthy for you. The next time you’re at the store, make sure you read the ingredients label of the foods you buy. I bet that you’ll be surprised at just how many food items contain high fructose corn syrup. Eating foods that contain natural ingredients is better for your health, rather than eating foods that contain artificial ingredients and preservatives.
Photo by Simon Cocks