Posted on October 19, 2017 at 10:25 AM by Natalie Te Grootenhuis
As we approach the holiday season we begin to see the array of all things sugar filling up groceries stores. As you scan the shelves of your local store this year you may see more packages labeled with things like “Non GMO” “Organic” “Natural Flavors” and of course “No High Fructose Corn Syrup.” These labels are normally bold and feel more like a warning against eating any of those things in these food groups entirely. Many shoppers will automatically assume that the package with the least amount of ingredients and the most amount of ‘warnings’ has to be the healthiest option for their family. But what if I told you most of those “warnings” were actually not a warning at all but rather a marketing technique to get you to reach for the higher priced product on the shelf. Over the next few weeks we will take a deep dive into many of these food myths and marketing campaigns but today we want to start sugar.
With Halloween right around the corner the amount of sugar Americans will be consuming in the next few weeks is almost triple the recommended daily allowance. We are in no way encouraging Americans to consume more sugar than recommended, and fully are aware of the health risks that come with high consumption of sugar. The myth we are discussing today is simply there is no difference between any kinds of sugar. The most common debate is between table sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). To fully understand the argument that all sugar is sugar we must first go back to your high school chemistry class (minus the weird hair and clothing of course).
Table Sugar chemically is made up of Glucose and Fructose molecules when you put them together they make sugar. HFCS is made from corn and the kernels on an ear of corn contain starch, which chemically are glucose chains that are all linked together. Scientist are then able to take some of those glucose molecules and flip them so they make fructose because they have the same chemical make up just in a different order. The name High Fructose Corn Syrup is because it has higher fructose than normal corn syrup but is no different than normal table sugar. When it is all said and done there is the same amount of both molecules in HFCS as there is in table sugar. Many scientist will tell you that when you compare the molecular makeup of different kinds of sugars it is almost impossible to tell them apart.
So why do food manufactures put HFCS in our food? Well for one it’s a lot easier to access here in the U.S. because table sugar is most often made from Sugar Cane which has to be imported from South America US food manufactures started using a product that was locally grown and readily available.
Why do some companies label it? Short answer, because they can. HFCS has become a marketing term that many companies have started advertising to get consumers to pay more money for a product that does not contain HFCS. Most of the time the substitute sweeter they are using is more expensive so in return they must charge the consumer more.
The moral is this holiday season when you are eating your weight in sugary goodies keep in mind that all sugar is the same and minimal amounts is always better.
To learn more about HFCS checkout these great resources: