Just today I found this excellent article concerning High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) over on SparkPeople.
The author points out the current campaign to brand HFCS as “natural” is fairly meaningless, because there’s no regulation on use of the word “natural.” Does it mean only products that are sold in exactly the same form as found in nature? If that’s the case, there’s not much natural food in the supermarket, since almost all of it has undergone some kind of human intervention before it reaches the grocery store shelves.
Which then puts you on the slippery slope of trying to define exactly how much and what kind of human intervention is permissible for something to still be “natural” and at what point it slides on over into “processed.”
Don’t Let Yourself Get Sidetracked
Another problem with the whole “natural” thing: it takes attention away from the real issue.
Which is: it really doesn’t matter if HFCS is natural or not, the problem is that it (and sugar in general) is everywhere, lurking in all sorts of foods where you don’t expect it. Ketchup, salad dressing, lunch meats. Even stuff you think is healthy. Stuff you feed your kids.
In the past 40 years or so, we as a nation have gotten fat. The culprit is not so much HFCS, per se, as it is our collective sweet tooth. We’ve gotten so used to loading everything up with sugar (and sugar substitutes), we don’t even know what truly unsweetened tastes like anymore.
Not to mention, this stuff is totally without nutritional value. It’s the very definition of empty calories. If you want sweet, eat a piece of fruit. At least it offers vitamins, minerals and fiber along with the sugar.
And this is where the real value lies in the article. It wraps up with a long list of ways to reduce the sugar (and HFCS, fructose, dextrin, malt, molasses, corn sweetener and all their pals) in your and your kids’ diets.
Here are just a few of her tips:
Read the ingredients. She provides a comprehensive list of all the aliases under which non-nutritional carbs and calories can masquerade in the ingredient list. Read it, learn it, and limit your exposure to foods with any of these as one of their first three ingredients.
Reduce the sugar in home-baked goods. She says in most cases you can cut the sugar called-for in the recipe by up to one-third without compromising the taste or texture. This I did not know, but I’m for sure going to be giving it a try!
Use fruit puree in place of sugar. I’d heard of using applesauce in place of the oil when making a cake to reduce the overall fat content, but frankly I hadn’t thought of using it in place of sugar. D’oh! Imagine me slapping myself on the forehead as in those old V-8 commercials. And it’s not just applesauce — think peaches, berries, pears, etc.
Just make sure whatever you use is unsweetened, no sugar added, 100% fruit. (Otherwise you’d be undoing the reason for substituting the fruit puree in the first place.) Homemade is really easy to do in either a food processor or blender and it freezes up beautifully, so none of that whining about how you don’t have the time or how it will go bad before you can use it. Whether homemade or store-bought, it increases both flavor and nutrition! Sweet (in more ways than one).
She’s got a whole bunch more suggestions. To read them all, check out this great article!