Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Food Rant of the Week: High Fructose Corn Syrup

What is this stuff, anyway? I see it everything from store bought cookies to hummus to candy bars to stuff you just wouldn't expect to see it in but that's slipping my mind at the moment. Oh like ketchup, jams, and soft drinks!! Did you know that beginning in the late 1990s Americans now consume more HFCS than sugar? Though the process of making HFCS has multiple stages and various chemicals, it's cheaper than sugar too! So I guess it shouldn't be surprising that we see HCFS in processed foods.

HCFS was an invention of the 1970s so did packaged cookies have sugar in them? How is that we went to the real stuff to the fake stuff and that we let it happen?

That HFCS is so unnatural should be no surprise given the the unnaturalness of creating it. The process involves two enzymes that have been genetically modified to withstand higher temperatures before they become unstable. Did you know that 80 percent of corn is genetically modified? So if you're a consumer trying to avoid genetically altered foods, then HFCS is definitely something to avoid.

When I was working, I sometimes traveled which taught me not to take for granted the variety and depth of wholesome food and ingredients that I have access to. Sometimes my travels took me to places rural areas where the local grocery store is a Safeway, Food Max, or an Albertsons at best. I remember once wanting chips and hummus and for the life of me I could not find one hummus that did not have HFCS. Not one. Anyone who knows anything about hummus knows that it does not and should not have HCFS in it and that it should not taste sweet! And if you have, you know that this is why the Athenos brand tastes a little junky. Hummus does not have any added sugar in it except for what naturally occurs in the ingredients. Do a taste test and tell me which one you think is better. Why do these food companies add HCFS to something that shouldn't be sweet to begin with? If you have an answer to this, I would love to hear it.

It's no wonder we're so fat. And it's not surprising that the incidence of diabetes and every other bad disease is increasing. This is a hypothetical but work with me.... I bet if people altered their diets to exclude HCFS, without changing their exercise routine (or lack thereof one), people would be a bit healthier and might lose weight? Hmmmmm. Just a thought.

This is why I have the homemade rule -- I won't eat it unless I know it's homemade or if I can read the ingredients off the box myself so that I can discern the 'badness' myself. If it's homemade it most likely does not have HCFS. Homemade may have a stick or two of butter but isn't that better than hydrogenated oil this or that?

I'm definitely not saying that you should stay at home and spend hours and hours making homemade treats because we're busy people and there just isn't enough time to do that all. But at many grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes they have lots of packaged cookies and treats that do not contain HCFS or hydrogenated oils. And some are really good. Some aren't as good but for the most part, you can't go wrong. They taste better and are better for you.

1 comment:

Meryl said...

I think they use corn syrup instead of sugar here because sugar prices are fixed higher than they should be. In the UK more stuff has regular sugar because it's cheaper there. The things it should be in (sodas, candy, ...) taste SO much better as a result.