As a mom I care about what my son puts into his mouth. Since he is only 18 months old, he can’t make those decisions by himself. So as his parents, Kevin and I are responsible for feeding him healthy and nutritious foods to help him grow up to be a strong, healthy person.
One of the hot topics in the food industry world right now is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It seems like it is getting a lot of bad press and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) just recently banned HFCS as a sweetener in the school lunch program in the United States. Under the new guidelines, only non corn-based sugar sweeteners will be allowed. The guidelines do not require an overall reduction in the amount of sugar in canned fruits and vegetables, but instead put a preference on the type of sweetener used. Even though my son is not in school yet, this topic still resonates with me.
As corn farmers we care about our crops and also how they are used once they are harvested and leave our farm. We shop in grocery stores just like everyone else and know that HFCS is used in a lot of different products; things that we eat every day. So I decided to do a little research and see what I could dig up about HFCS, not only to inform myself, but to let you all know the facts of HFCS.
First of all, let me define what HFCS really is. Despite its confusing name, high fructose corn syrup is really just corn sugar. It is not high in fructose as its name would suggest. As you can see from the chart below, HFCS has just about the same amounts of fructose and glucose as does table sugar and honey.
The Corn Refiners Association is petitioning the Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to just corn sugar, since that is what it truly is. As a consumer I like to know where my food comes from and calling HFCS corn sugar makes a lot more sense to me and I think would clear up a lot of confusion for consumers.
The USDA has said that there is no nutritional difference between HFCS and sucrose (table sugar), but yet they banned HFCS from schools. The Corn Growers Association has been working with the USDA to reverse their decision. They are not encouraging more sugar in children’s diets, in fact they would not object to an overall reduction. However, they feel that one sugar is singled out (HFCS) while other sugars still remain.
When on the SweetSurprise website it says that neither sugar nor HFCS are healthier than the other. Both contain approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose, have the same number of calories a most carbohydrates and when eaten, the human body cannot tell the difference between the two sugars.
HFCS is highly versatile and valuable. According to the Myths & Facts from SweetSurprise it often plays a key role in the integrity of food and beverage products that has little to do with sweetening:
- In baked goods, high fructose corn syrup gives a pleasing brown crust to breads and cakes, contributes fermentable sugars to yeast-raised products, reduces sugar crystallization during baking for soft-moist textures, and enhances flavors of fruit fillings.
- In yogurt, high fructose corn syrup provides fermentable sugars, enhances fruit and spice flavors, controls moisture to prevent separation, and regulates tartness.
- In spaghetti sauces, ketchup and condiments, high fructose corn syrup enhances flavor and balance (It replaces the “pinch of table sugar” grandma added to enhance spice flavors.) and balances the variable tartness of tomatoes.
- In canned and frozen fruits, high fructose corn syrup protects the firm texture of canned fruits and reduces freezer burn in frozen fruits.
- In beverages, high fructose corn syrup provides greater stability in acidic carbonated sodas than sucrose, so flavors remain consistent and stable over the entire shelf-life of the product.
As you can see there are a lot of benefits of using high fructose corn syrup in the foods that we eat every day. By talking HFCS out of our schools, it is not going to reduce the obesity rate. We need to make an overall reduction in all sugars in order to do that. Also by taking HFCS out of the school lunch program it will raise the cost of the meals.
I’m sure there will be many more studies that come out on this hot topic and when I come across one of them, I will be sure to share it with you!
If you have any questions, please leave me a comment and I will be in touch with you!
Sources: USDA, sweetsurprise.com, corn.org and cornsugar.com