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Hidden Nasty – High-Fructose Corn Syrup

We all want to feed our families healthy foods, but sometimes there are nasties hidden in everyday foods. Today we want to talk about one of those nasties – high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

What is high-fructose corn syrup?

High-fructose corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made from corn. Put simply, corn starch (processed from corn) is further processed into a liquid, which is how we end up with corn syrup. Corn syrup is 100% glucose. Enzymes are then added to convert some of this glucose into fructose, which is where the name high-fructose corn syrup comes from.

Source: https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-to-know-about-high-fructose-corn-syrup

It sounds innocent enough, but there is a LOT of processing that goes into making HFCS. The nutrients from the original food (the corn) are unrecognisable by the time we have HFCS. As far as we’re concerned, we want to have as much of our diet made up of wholefoods as possible, and with HFCS we’re a long way from Kansas, Toto.

HFCS is hidden in lots of foods in the supermarket – most commonly found in ‘treat foods’. You’ll find high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks, lollies/candy, ice creams, yoghurts, savoury sauces, dips, cereals (general commercial ones) and commercial desserts of basically any form. You might find this article titled 12 Common Foods with High Fructose Corn Syrup interesting, and perhaps surprising.

HFCS is VERY concentrated sugar, and it’s easy to consume a lot of it without even realising it. We really want to avoid concentrated sugar as much as we can because they don’t do our bodies any favours. Places like the American Heart Association suggest no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily for women, and no more than 9 teaspoons daily for men, yet a single 12oz (~340ml) cola soda/soft drink has about 10 ¼ teaspoons of sugar in it. Orange flavours may have up to 13 teaspoons or more, per drink.

Why avoid refined sugars like HFCS?

Here are some of the reasons we encourage our clients to avoid concentrated/refined sugar as much as possible:

  • Refined sugar adds significant stress to our bodies
  • Concentrated fructose adds immense pressure to our whole metabolic system, creating metabolic imbalance
  • Concentrated fructose makes the liver and pancreas work much harder
  • It contributes to non-alcoholic fatty liver
  • Impacts on our ability to sense the healthy foods we need. Our body seeks nutrient-dense food for minerals, vitamins and trace elements, but the more sugar we eat, the more of these nutrients we need.
  • Our gut microbes adapt to the food we eat and thrive, then steer what we choose to eat. Ever noticed if you eat a lot of sweets, that you crave more?
  • Consume more sugar, crave more sugar. Sweeteners have ‘cytotoxic effects’ on our gut. {‘Make the switch’ webinar – Root Cause Protocol website}
  • It creates a lot more work in the gut AND in our organs

Other types of sugar

Ideally, we want to eat wholefood as much as possible. Of course, eating wholefoods exclusively in this current day and age is really tricky. So when choosing packaged/processed foods, we recommend checking the label for not just the type of sugars, but how many different types of sugars are in the product. For example, one product might include maltodextrin AND sugar AND dextrose listed in the ingredients list. In other words, sugar on top of sugar on top of more sugar.

In countries such as Australia, we more commonly see ‘corn syrup’ or ‘glucose syrup’ added to foods. This isn’t the same as HFCS, but it’s still a concentrated, processed sugar. In fact, there are a large number of different names for processed sugar, here’s a list of 40+ examples. Needless to say, we suggest being mindful of including it in your general diet.


What about FRUCTOSE from FRUIT?

You may be worried about hearing about ‘fructose’ in this article that fruit is a problem or needs to be off your table. Fructose is in many fruits, but it’s not concentrated like the processed foods we’ve discussed today. Eat a piece of fruit here or there while it’s in season and where you can, without any added sugars, and savour every bite, don’t fear it! Try to source produce from ‘regenerative agriculture’ farmers and you’ll optimise the nutrients you get while eating those natural sugars.

Please be mindful that using juicers to concentrate fruit in such a way that you may eat much more than if you ate the whole fruit – eg 5-6 apples may end up in your cup and not be much liquid. We don’t recommend this level of concentration either.


What do we do instead?

To be quite honest, it’s pretty difficult to completely avoid refined sugar. But there are some things we can do to minimise how much our families consume.

  • Cook your own food as much as possible (we love our Thermomix!)
  • Bake treats at home – so you know what’s in your food
  • Read labels – don’t assume the advertising on the front is accurate
  • Look at the ingredients list – make informed purchases
  • Choose alternatives – if there are 2 products available, see which is better
  • Check where your food comes from – so much is imported these days

In short:

  • Choose products with minimal ingredients
  • Stick to wholefoods as much as possible
  • Avoid multiple types of sugar

We love this approach: good > better > best. Trying to be 10000% perfect is impossible and can cause a great deal of stress. Stress impacts our bodies more than most of us realise and so rather than beating yourself up for not nailing it, be kind and work towards good options to begin with. Then once you’ve done that, start working on better options. Then, maybe one day, you’ll be able to incorporate the best options possible.

Eg. Your family’s snacks are 90% processed foods right now, for convenience.

Good: Eliminating a handful of processed snacks
Better: Only 50% processed snacks
Best: Minimal processed snacks

Good: Eliminating HFCS from 1 processed snack per week
Better: Eliminating HFCS from 50% of your processed snacks per week
Best: Minimal HFCS in snacks, mostly making your own

Want to learn more? Join the Health Club!

If you’d like to learn more about this and discover what other everyday supermarket items to steer clear of, we’d love to share some more info with you. This is one of the many healthy habit topics we explore inside the Health Club, our online membership that anyone can join. We host live Q&As, we share resources, and we are here to guide you along your journey to better health.

Come and check out the Supporting Balance Health Club! We’d love to support you.

Ps. If you want to understand how the body manages fructose metabolism, a fantastic book is ‘Nature wants us to be fat’ by Richard J Johnson – but please see the note below.

Whilst Kristan doesn’t agree with some of the dietary and lifestyle recommendations as a part of the book, but the scientific explanation of High Fructose Corn Syrup and it’s impact on the body is thorough and very relevant. It’s worth being aware that Richard’s awareness of minerals such as copper within the book are minimal. Kristan and Morley Robbins both agree that there’s more from an RCP perspective (copper function and bioavailability) that can support health than what Richard outlines, but his coverage of fructose and the impact of HFCS is comprehensive and suitable for those who want details.

Join with the Intro Price – just $9.99 for 30 Days!

If you’re interested in seeing what the Supporting Balance Health Club is all about before you commit – take the opportunity to get started with our 30 day intro price of $9.99 for new members.

If you have previously had a consult with one of the SB team, you may be eligible for your first 30 days in the club free! Ask us how.

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