The Sweeteners that are even sweeter than sugar?

High fructose corn syrup and it’s variants are found in a wide variety of processed foods including soft drinks, breakfast cereals, muesli bars, confectionery,  packaged cakes, biscuits, salad dressings, McDonald’s sauces, jams, ice cream and even some breads. Soft drinks are the biggest offenders for Australian kids as it’s been estimated than more than 50% of Australian kids consume sugary drinks daily.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is commonly used as a sweetener because it's so cheap compared to sugar. It’s about half the price and it’s 75% sweeter than sugar. Though unlike sugar, which is grown in a field, HFCS is made in a lab or a factory which is the main reason I avoid it.

So how is it made?

  1. Start with a crop of corn, fresh, healthy, real food.
  2. Mill the corn to produce corn starch, a simple carbohydrate with very little nutritional value - the ugly kind.
  3. Mix the corn starch with water
  4. Then add enzymes, produced by a bacterium which breaks down the starch into a more refined carbohydrate with even less nutritional value
  5. Add another enzyme, produced by a fungus, which breaks the product down into glucose molecules. At this point you’ve made corn syrup
  6. To make high fructose corn syrup, you add another enzyme, produced by a bacterium which converts some of the glucose into fructose.
  7. This enzyme converts the glucose to a mixture of about 42% fructose and 53% glucose, with some other sugars as well. This version of HFCS is used in foods and bakery items and has the same level of sweetness as natural sugar.
  8. To make HFCS which is used commonly in soft drinks, step 6 is repeated until the mixture represents 55% fructose and 42% glucose, and the sweetness is around 75% more than sugar.

Now I’m not advocating that sugar is good for you, but just highlighting that compared to HFCS it’s practically spinach! Sugar and sweet foods should be eaten as treat foods and in my opinion the best ways to enjoy sweet flavours is with fruits like berries, watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, plums, peaches, etc or by using whole dates in recipes rather than refined sugar. You can also use over-ripe bananas in baking and reduce the amount of sugar added or use banana and fresh berries in smoothies and skip the honey.

Eating sweet foods as a wholefood rather than a refined processed food product is much better for you and your family. It’s also harder to overeat these products, compared to soft drinks, lollies or milk chocolates. Check your labels and be aware of the amount of HFCS your family is eating and drinking.