There’s been a lot of talk about how unhealthy high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is. There’s been enough talk that the industry is changing its name to “corn sugar” in the hopes that people won’t realize they’re the same thing. They go on about how it’s perfectly safe in moderation, without noting how, in the standard American diet, it’s really hard to consume HFCS in moderation. That stuff is in foods you’d never expect to need sweeteners.
No matter which side of the argument you’re on, you can probably agree that avoiding unnecessary sweeteners is a good thing. Most of us don’t need the extra calories or the potential health issues. It pays to know that studies are showing definite issues with HFCS, such as a study done at Princeton where rats fed HFCS gained more weight than rats given table sugar, even when the total calories were the same.
There’s one simple step that will help you avoid significant quantities of HFCS: avoid processed foods.
It’s amazing when you look at the labels of processed foods and realize how many of them are sweetened, usually with HFCS. It’s massively overused because corn subsidies make it a very, very cheap sweetener. It’s one of the big reasons why I don’t like corn subsidies. There are many crops I would rather see grown.
You will also need to look at things like the bread you buy. Many store bought breads are made with HFCS. I was quite surprised to see sugar, honey and molasses listed on the ingredient list of my favorite store bought bread, which costs less than many other brands. Too often that’s not the case.
Rather than eat processed foods, focus on cooking from scratch. Yes, it is more work. With a good attitude, cooking is something you can look forward to. Give yourself some time and you won’t think all that well of the taste of processed foods.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a big part of this. In season is best, but go with what’s available to you to keep things fresh rather than processed.
Try a variety of grains too, rather than sticking with basics such as rice. My kids don’t like quinoa on its own, but if I cook it with the rice, they like the combination better than rice alone. I like that we’re getting something a little better than plain rice out of the deal, and it’s no harder than making regular rice. I even use my rice cooker.
Most especially, avoid most sodas and fruit drinks with HFCS added. Some sodas have regular sugar added instead, and if you want a soda, that’s a better choice than HFCS sweetened products. Some juice drinks have significant amounts of sweetener added, and very little real juice involved. Check the ingredient list and go for the real stuff if you’re after sweet.
When you’re talking about your health, you have to pay attention to what you’re eating. Don’t let a name change fool you into thinking a product is new or better. You’re better off eating foods where it’s clear what they were made from, rather than processed into blandness, then sweetened to make them more appealing. The flavor variety of real foods is far more interesting.