Take a walk down any aisle in the grocery store, especially the snack aisle, and check out a few food labels. Chances are pretty darn good you’re going to find something you don’t want to on a whole bunch of them: high fructose corn syrup. It may say something else, like corn sugar, maize syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, or something else just as misleading, but it’s all one in the same. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a manufactured form of sweetener that’s much cheaper than regular table sugar. It’s found in all kinds of packaged foods, most notably soda.
While it’s similar to sugar, it’s not exactly the same. To get all science-y on you, regular sugar, or sucrose, is made of two molecules: glucose and fructose. Sucrose is composed of 50% of each of those molecules. HFCS contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose, which is close to sucrose, but with a big difference –there are no bonds holding the fructose. Fructose is sweeter than glucose, making HFCS sweeter than table sugar. Less HFCS needs to be used than sugar which keeps costs down.
The reason HCFS is labeled “bad”, or at least questionable depending on who you talk to, is that there’s no definitive answer on how our body processes fructose differently. Because the fructose and glucose is unbound, it doesn’t need to be digested to enter the bloodstream. That means it happens fairly quickly and causes a big spike in blood sugar. In addition, fructose enters the liver where it’s used to create fats like cholesterol and triglycerides. It can also affect how you feel hunger.
What all of this adds up to is bad news. But there is some good news: if you look carefully, you can find plenty of things that don’t contain the questionable ingredient. Better yet, look outside the package –fresh fruits and vegetables don’t have any high fructose corn syrup either.
Here are 10 snacks you can feel good about sticking in your kid’s lunch box, no HFCS included.
Always read labels –different brands may or may not use HFCS.