Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Are Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup the Same Thing?

Karo Syrup doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup according the banner across the bottle I have in my cupboard.  And it's true.

Corn syrup is a liquid made from the starch of corn in the United States (wheat, potatoes or tapioca elsewhere where corn isn't the predominant crop) and is used to prevent sugar cystallization and to create a smoother texture in prepared foods.  It has a higher percentage of glucose than it's cousin high fructose corn syrup.  Both fructose and glucose are derivatives of the sucrose molecule (or sugar).

Fructose, or fruit sugar,  and glucose are naturally occurring substances found in fruit and vegetables and essential to the function of the human body.  Fructose is substantially sweeter than glucose and is quicker at being absorbed into the blood stream.  Fructose is taken in by the liver and converted to glucose -- leading some to believe that the increase in fatty liver disease is caused by a high intake of high fructose syrups.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is most prevalent in the United States and can be found in many processed foods and drinks in the grocery store.  The sweetness of the product is addictive, perhaps driving over consumption.  Research on HFCS is inconclusive, but some have associated it to an increase in cavities, increased triglyceride levels, poor nutrition and weight gain.

Regardless of where the added sweetener is derived, the American Heart Association, recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories of added sweetener daily and men 150 calories.

If you prefer a sweetener from natural sources, consider honey that can be used 1-to-1 ratio, or replace 1 cup of light corn-syrup with 1-cup of white sugar and 1/4 cup water or 1-cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup water to replace 1-cup of dark corn-syrup.  I would suggest an organic cane sugar over the less expensive (but heavily processed) beet sugar.

On a final note, some food manufacturer's separate out their corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup if both are used.  But as a caution, the United States Department of Health and Human Services doesn't require the separation and companies can label high fructose corn syrup as simply "corn syrup" is they choose.

In the end, yes there are differences between corn syrup and HFCS, but it is wise to limit the addition and consumption of any sweeteners to your foods.  HFCS is almost entirely avoided in our house.  I do have that one bottle of Karo Syrup, but it's been in our pantry for a while.  We almost always choose a natural sweetener when needed and use plenty of raw honey for that purpose.


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