A Heavy Problem

Seven years ago, I weighed 10-15 pounds more than I do now. It took one switch in my regular lifestyle to drop the weight without even realizing what was happening. What did I do? I cut out EVERYTHING that contained high fructose corn syrup. I now check ingredient labels on everything I buy, and if high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) shows up I simply don’t buy it.

High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener that prolongs the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, so food companies love sneaking it into just about anything that comes in a box, bag or bottle. The problem is that it is linked to a wide range of health problems, primarily obesity. While I don’t necessarily believe that high fructose corn syrup directly causes obesity, I do believe that the foods containing it do. Anything processed in a factory that is designed to sit on a shelf for months should not be eaten by a human being.

For me, this ingredient is unnatural, unhealthy and unappealing. If HFCS has the same calories as sugar, why wouldn’t I just opt for real sugar? And two recent U.S. studies found that half of tested samples of commercial high fructose corn syrup contained mercury, which is toxic in all forms and in all levels. Considering that many food products most appealing to kids contain HFCS, why would I give my daughter “fun” foods that contain a chemical element thought to cause heart disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and autism???

So, how do we avoid the HFCS trap without sacrificing fun at the dinner table? First of all, I make almost everything from scratch. For example, instead of snacking on a Chips A’hoy cookie, I make homemade chocolate chip cookies. If you can’t — or don’t want to — make a special treat at home you probably don’t need to be eating it in the first place! And, we don’t buy soda or juices with this ingredient — there are always HFCS-free options if you take the time to seek them out. By now I can easily recall which products contain HFCS and which ones don’t, so grocery shopping is a breeze.

Also, some foods you might *think* are healthy actually contain this icky ingredient, including (but certainly not limited to):

Kellogg’s Special K cereal
Kellogg’s Raisin Bran cereal
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
Dannon Yogurt and Columbo Yogurt (why not make your own and avoid all the garbage?!)
Nabisco Wheat Thins
Pepperidge Farm Light Style Oatmeal Bread
Kraft Fat-Free Salad Dressings (in my opinion, the best salad dressing is one you make at home with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper!)
Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail
Edy’s Light Ice Cream (so simple and quick to just make your own!!)
Mott’s Original Apple Sauce

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1 Comment for this entry

  1. Michal says:

    we cut out all high fructose corn syrup when those studies came out about mercury. i knew it wasn't good for us, but was alarmed that a toxic metal like mercury was lurking in our food. i am diligent about reading labels and always mention at checkout how much i appreciate being able to find ketchup or limeade that doesn't have HFCS in it. like you, i make most of our food, but we do like to eat some cold cereals and crackers–and have had to give up several kinds that were full of it.
    i wish it had helped me lose, weight, though. i'm afraid that less sugary foods in general would be a good idea for me:)

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