Corn Syrup

03
Sep
2011

Corn Syrup and Sweeteners

Question:

Hi Kelli, I like to sweeten my tea and things like oatmeal with something to help make it taste better to me.  I had been using a little corn syrup but have read a lot of negative things on it.  Can you help me out on what is best to use?

Kelli’s Answer:

Many say corn syrup is no different from sugar.  Sure, it has the same calories and carbs of sugar.  However, it’s been a long time since I believed that nutrition, fat, metabolism and health were based on only calories.  There are so many more factors at play with metabolism – how do hormones (such as insulin) respond to the food.  Does it provide satiety (fullness), or simply work through you too fast for your cells to notice?  Does it offer anything that benefits you – such as the enzymes, antioxidants, or immune-boosting nutrients found in honey?

And anyway, since when is rating ”as good as table sugar” make it a good choice?

After diving into current animal studies and research, I for one am convinced that it’s an ingredient that does not need to be in your diet (or your friends’ diets, your kids’ diets, etc).  Rats fed a HFCS diet, in one particular Princeton study, gained significantly more fat than counterpart rats fed a regular table sugar diet…the calories, nutrients, and activity being equal.  HFCS is a cheap, processed, broken-down sweetener that is quickly absorbed and used in our bodies.  Since we don’t have to do any “work” to break it down, it travels through our digestive pathways very quickly.  And, you guessed it, likely increases insulin reactions which increase fat storage and impede fat loss.   What a drag.

And energy?  Any high glycemic food shoots energy up, and then drags us down – quickly.  It will not provide sustained energy for Daily Nutrition or even Training Nutrition.  Double drag.

How can you minimize this ingredient in your home? First, whenever you can make things at home, from scratch or close to that, do.  Homemade brownies only take 10 more minutes than boxed.  The same is true for almost-from-scratch spaghetti sauce…just start with crushed tomatoes and go from there.  Secondly, read the ingredients list.  HFCS can be snuck into almost anything: from ketchup to cereals to sports drinks and bars to salad dressings.  And lastly, get rid of the biggest offenders – soda and fruit drinks!

By avoiding HFCS and sweetening with small amounts of honey, agave, or Stevia, you’ll do your energy levels, health, training, waistline, and metabolism a favor.  Put down the HFCS and walk away for good!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rtibbett Rachel Tibbetts

    I’m a bit confused. The question had been about corn syrup but you addressed HFCS. Can you address the differences between Karo type corn syrup and HFCS?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rtibbett Rachel Tibbetts

    I’m a bit confused. The question had been about corn syrup but you addressed HFCS. Can you address the differences between Karo type corn syrup and HFCS?

    • Kelli

      Hi Rachel – thanks so much for your comment and your question.  I am sorry for the confusion – this question was originally longer and indicated that HFCS was an ingredient in the asker’s corn syrup – which brings up a key point: if you’re trying to rid your diet of HFCS, you must read every ingredient on labels of processed foods.  Many “corn syrups” on the shelves have HFCS as an ingredient.  The Karo brand does NOT (when I last checked).  But, many generics do.  The difference between “corn syrup” and HFCS is that corn syrup has no fructose – it is almost 100% glucose (fructose and glucose are 2 types of sugars with slightly different chemical make-ups).  HFCS is enzymatically changed to contain both glucose and fructose (some of the glucose molecules are chemically altered to form fructose) in order to achieve a desired taste and sweetness – more like table sugar, which contains both glucose and fructose.  Some HFCS have 42% fructose, some 55%, some 90%.  Corn syrup actually has a higher glycemic index (the affect on blood sugar) than HFCS, and is NOT a good choice for a sweetener.  However, HFCS may be an even worse choice as its altered chemical make-up may cause more harm in the body – the research I referred to in this post may indicate that the rats’ bodies didn’t recognize it and therefore don’t fill up on it, or that they responded to it differently hormonally, etc  (time and more research will likely tell).  Bottom line, it’s best to avoid or minimize both corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (and table sugar, for that matter) in Daily Nutrition.  Honey, agave, stevia, and as Kelly pointed out, pure maple syrup!, in limited amounts, are all better choices.

  • Kelly

    Coffee and Oatmeal are both excellent when sweetened with pure maple syrup too!!!

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Being originally from Canada….you know I have to agree with that one, right Kelly?  Thanks for your comment.

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Answer:

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Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

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