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Q&A: High Fructose Corn Syrup

Posted Mar 18 2010 12:00am
I was wondering if you have ever tried doing a high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) free diet. I recently saw a youtube video called " Sugar: The Bitter Truth ". It's really long and kind of boring, but it scared me away from HFCS. I've been thinking about trying to do a HFCS free diet, but I've noticed it's in just about everything we have. Have you tried this? Have any tips?

My Views on Sugar

I limit the amount of sugar that I consume for many reasons.  Sugar consumption leads to obesity, heart attacks, artery disease, tooth decay, diabetes, metabolic issues, concentration issues, fertility problems, and upsets the balance of the endocrine and nervous systems. 

Our ancestors did not consume sugar in the same ways we do and our bodies were not designed to consume it in large quantities.  In the past, natural sweeteners were used sparingly to sweeten foods and desserts were viewed as a treat reserved only for special occasions.  But now, the average American consumes more than 22 teaspoons of sugar per DAY (mainly from beverages like soft drinks) and many children and teenagers consume almost double that amount.

If you shop in the grocery store and consume mostly processed foods, you can pretty much guarantee that everything you eat has some type of sweetener in it.  Our taste buds have grown so accustomed to tasting it, that we hardly recognize exactly how sweet our foods are.

And here is the problem with the way we consume sugar in our society - most of our sugary foods (like soft drinks and candy) do not contain fat.  Fat slows the sugar from entering our blood stream in a rush and stimulating insulin and hormone production.  Our "high carb/low fat" diets are literally killing us.  In fact, we should be doing the opposite - consuming higher levels of healthy fats and less carbohydrates.

As a rule for myself, I avoid refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and even some "natural" sweeteners.  The only sugars I consume are fruits, raw honey, and unrefined maple syrup.  Occasionally I will crave a soft drink or a cookie with sugar, but I reserve those foods for special occasions and do not keep them in the house for myself.

This year for Lent I gave up sugar (except fruit) - honey and maple syrup included - and have not intentionally consumed it for over a month now.  For the first four days my body crashed.  I was irritable, tired, and hungry all of the time.  We forget that sugar is actually a drug (an addictive one) that affects not only your blood sugar, but also your brain chemistry.

But once I made it past those first four days, I noticed that my energy levels started to increase and my mind felt clearer than normal.  After a few weeks more, my appetite started to decrease and I now don't feel the need to snack as much.  My body no longer craves those foods throughout the day.

So, you're probably wondering - what can a person eat if they avoid sugar completely?  Here was my food intake yesterday
Breakfast - 2 slices of raisin toast with butter and 2 scrambled free-range eggs mixed with chopped spinach.

Snack - some almonds and a few apple slices

Lunch - canned tuna mixed with olive oil and salt/pepper, and a few slices of cheese on homemade bread

Snack - a banana and some pumpkin seeds

Dinner - chuck roast (with the broth used as a condiment for dipping), okra breaded in spelt flour and fried in olive oil, and a bowl of grapes

Snack - 3 pieces of cheese and a slice of homemade toast with butter
My beverages most days consist of unsweetened hot and iced teas, water, and fruit smoothies.

The hardest part about going sugar-free is not having condiments with your foods.  Most store-bought condiments contain HFCS - ketchup, barbecue sauce, taco sauce, salad dressings, mayo, salsa, etc.  In order to have condiments with your food if you are going to go sugar-free, you have to make your own.  If you are just trying to eliminate HFCS from your diet, most organic brands of condiments contain organic sugar or other sweeteners.  They are a little more expensive, but worth it in my opinion - just use a little less to make up for the cost.

Other ways to avoid HFCS and sugars
  • Make your own jams and jellies, or buy the brands labeled "no sugar added".  Fruit is sweet enough; it doesn't need more sugar to taste good on bread. 
  • Make sure your fruit juice has no added sugar.  Many juices can contain as much, if not more sugar than a can of soda.
  • Make your own salad dressings.  My favorite recipe is a mixture of virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a squeeze of raw honey, garlic, salt, pepper, and any herbs I am in the mood for (dill, sage, rosemary, etc.)
  • Buy plain peanut butter.  The average brand of peanut butter contains more than one type of sugar - HFCS, molasses, honey AND sugar.  Usually when you eat peanut butter, you are spreading it on bread with jelly, which is sweet enough.  You don't need added sugar in your peanut butter.
  • Bake your own bread.  You can even substitute raw honey for sugar in most bread recipes to avoid refined sugars.  Or even better, make some homemade sourdough without any sweeteners at all.
  • Always read your labels and buy unsweetened/plain when available.  You can always add a little honey or sugar to your food if it needs it, but you rarely need the amount that is in the sweetened versions of foods (for example: applesauce and yogurt).
  • Don't buy canned fruit.  Aside from the fact that the lining of the cans is toxic, most of the fruits are soaked in syrup.
  • Cook your food at home.  Nearly everything you eat at a restaurant contains HFCS and sugar.
  • Avoid buying processed foods that say "sugar free".  The sugar in these foods has usually been replaced with artificial sweeteners, which are just as bad for you as HFCS.
  • Watch your processed meats.  Most of them contain sweeteners.
What is the difference between a natural sweetener and a refined sweetener?  Which ones are the best for me?

The following are natural sweeteners. This means they are the least processed and they contain more vitamins and minerals. Use these if you have a sweet tooth!
  • Raw Honey
  • Unrefined Maple Syrup
  • Agave Nectar
  • Date Sugar
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Fruit
The following are natural sweeteners that should be avoided for various reasons.
  • Concentrated Fruit Juices - They are composed mainly of fructose in levels so concentrated that your body is unable to regulate blood sugar properly.
  • Raw, Natural, Turbinado, Sucanat, and Florida Crystals - They upset your body chemistry and are refined, which removes most of the nutrients.
  • Brown Rice Syrup - The rice is cooked with enzymes, which are many times genetically modified.
  • Stevia - It is a calorie-free, herbal substitute that does not affect blood sugar. Although it has many medicinal uses, including the treatment of heartburn, its safety is still questionable.
  • Molasses - A byproduct of the processing of sugar cane with a strong taste and moderate sweetness. If it comes from sugar cane grown in the right type of soil, it can contain especially high levels of iron, calcium, zinc, copper and chromium.
The following are refined sweeteners that should be avoided.
  • White Sugar (sucrose) - has little, if any, nutritional value
  • Brown Sugar
  • Refined maple syrup - formaldehyde is used in the production.
  • Corn syrup - is usually genetically modified.
  • Fructose - causes deleterious effects, especially in small children
  • Glucose
  • Dextrin - made by boiling corn starch with acid
  • Dextrose
  • Processed honey
  • Maltodextrin
The following are artificial sweeteners, which have been linked to headaches, gastro-intestinal problems, panic attacks, depression, nervous system disorders (specifically fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis), male infertility, cell damage, and cancer (specifically bladder and reproductive organs).  NEVER EAT THESE!
  • Aspartame - linked to cancer of the reproductive organs.
  • Saccharin - linked to bladder cancer
  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol - labeled to warn of nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Xylitol
  • Splenda (sucralose) - a chlorocarbon (contains chlorine) linked to organ, genetic and reproductive damage. Lab rats show a 40% shrinkage in thymus gland (foundation of immune system) when given Splenda.
Here's the bottom line!

Avoiding sugar is easy to do if you are willing to put in a little hard work first.  Your body is going to have to detox and it is going to be uncomfortable for a few days or even weeks.  But, once you get past the initial withdrawal, you will start to feel so good that you'll realize a soda isn't worth it.  Your taste buds will also change and most of the foods you once thought tasted good will become too sweet for you.

Make your own food and read your labels.  And as always - everything in moderation.  You're not going to die if you eat a cookie or drink a soda every now and then, but when you eat them day after day your body and brain become addicted and the sugar begins to get every system in your body out of whack.  Stick to natural sweeteners and use them in moderation.

-Jess

Sources

"Exactly What Is Splenda? .: Ask Dr. Hull." Dr. Janet Starr Hull, PhD, CN - Website. Web. 11 Sept. 2009. .

"Substitute Natural Sweeteners for Artificial Sweeteners." Body Cleansing / Detox Plan and Natural Cures. Web. 11 Sept. 2009. .

"Top 10 Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners." Nutrition Supplements News. Web. 11 Sept. 2009. .
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