Sugar seems to be everywhere these days, from obvious places like cakes and candies to less obvious processed foods like bread. Most processed foods have at least some added sugar, and over the course of a day, the amount of added sugars a person eats can really add up, especially if processed foods are a regular part of your diet. Instead of regular table sugar, most of these foods now contain High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS.
What is HFCS?
HFCS is corn syrup that has had its molecules rearranged with glucose isomerase. The glucose isomerase turns the glucose in corn syrup into fructose. Corn syrup does not naturally contain fructose, and the more of the glucose that is converted, the sweeter it becomes.
HFCS & Diabetes
One in twelve people in America has diabetes, and there is great concern for the rate at which the disease is growing. It is a difficult and painful disease to deal with, and it can lead to devastating secondary health issues such as eye disease and foot and leg infections. Left untreated, these complications could lead to blindness and loss of limbs.
HFCS have been shown to increase insulin resistance, the primary problem with diabetes, and it can push people who are pre-diabetic over the edge into full-blown disease. Fructose also reacts with protein molecules to form advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs, that appear to contribute to the onset of renal, ocular, and vascular diabetes complications.
Since fructose is an addictive substance, low dose, repeated fructose ingestion is an ideal way to produce diabetes and pre-diabetes in people. Fructose is hidden in many foods going by other names, and that makes it almost impossible to tell how much you are eating when you ingest processed foods.
The major risk factors for diabetes are sedentary lifestyle, heredity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, unhealthy diet, and obesity. Many of these risk factors are within a person’s control, and simply avoiding HFCS can go a long way to reducing your risk of developing the disease. Avoiding HFCS helps prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight and having a healthy body also makes exercising easier, and that potentially eliminates another risk factor.
HFCS & Metabolic Syndrome
A group of disorders consisting of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), hypertension (high blood pressure), and lipoprotein issues (such as high cholesterol and triglycerides) characterizes metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome affects over 50 million people in America, and about half of Americans are predisposed to it. That qualifies it as one of the more serious health problems affecting the nation.
Metabolic syndrome is the result of ingesting too many soft drinks containing HFCS and eating other high-fructose-containing, non-nutritious foods. These drinks and foods create insulin resistance when they are continually eaten, and that means a person’s muscles are no longer able to produce the glycogen they need for energy from carbohydrates in foods. The insulin resistance can promote excess fats in a person’s blood stream and lead to metabolic syndrome.
Insulin resistance disturbs the way your body handles the proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids it gets from the foods you eat. Exercise is an effective way to fight insulin resistance, and not consuming products with HFCS is a good way to avoid having it in the first place.
HCFS & Immune Systems
Sugar is no friend of your immune system, and in fact, it is an enemy to a great deal of your body’s processes. Fructose can inhibit the activity of your white blood cells, and these cells are one of the key parts of your immune system’s functioning.
As hidden and obvious sugars, such as HFCS, have increased in the food supply, so have immune system issues like eczema, multiple sclerosis, asthma, lupus, hay fever, and food allergies. Sugar starts suppressing your immune system as soon as 30 minutes after you consume it and the suppression can last up to five hours.
When you eat a food or drink a beverage containing HFCS, your immune system is essentially down for a long time afterwards. This suppression makes you more susceptible to the parasites, germs, viruses, and bacteria in your environment. One easy way to strengthen your immune system is to avoid ingesting foods and beverages with HFCS and other added sugars.
HFCS & The Aging Process
Eating HFCS helps speed up the aging process because of its role in insulin resistance. Insulin sensitivity is a key element for longevity, and eating foods with high levels of HFCS and other added sugars will age your body faster.
Cells that are not sensitive to insulin will cause the levels of insulin in your body to go up. This is a common factor in many of the previously discussed conditions. High-fructose corn syrup remains the main culprit when it comes to insulin issues. If you want to control your insulin levels, avoiding sugar in any form is a place to start. Doing this will help you stay looking and feeling younger.
How To Avoid HFCS
You will find HFCS in all kinds of foods and beverages, including:
- Dairy products
- Baked goods
- Salad dressings
- Canned fruit
- Jelly and jam
- Carbonated beverages and sodas
These are just the obvious places where HFCS lurks, but you can find it in countless other process foods. Some food labels just say things like “flavoring”, and that is another possible source of HFCS. Food manufacturers want to keep the presence of HFCS a secret in many foods because they know that health conscious consumers will read the ingredient lists and avoid buying the foods if it’s listed on the label. The only way to avoid HFCS completely is to eliminate processed foods from your diet. Otherwise, you have to read labels carefully and support initiatives to make food labeling clearer.
Alternatives to HCFS
One safe and tasty alternative to sugar and HFCS is Stevia. Stevia is an herb from Central and South America. The leaves are sweet and have almost no calories. The extract from the leaves is 200 to 300 times as sweet as sugar. Stevia should not affect your blood sugar, and is appropriate for you to use if you are managing diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Xylitol is another alternative sweetener and it is made from the birch tree. As an added bonus, it is good for your teeth and can help prevent tooth decay. Both xylitol and stevia should be available at your grocery store, but if not, you can try your local health food store or order them online.
Honey is also an excellent source of added sweetness, although it is not technically a sugar. Raw organic honey actually has additional health benefits including increased memory, reduced stress, and diminished signs of aging. However, be sure to limit the quantity of honey in your diet as it does contain a high amount of fructose.
Avoiding HFCS can be as simple as preparing healthy meals at home from whole food ingredients. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and only buy single ingredient foods. Try shopping at your local farmer’s market, if you have one, and buy local, organic produce as much as possible.
Understanding the Dangers of HFCS
High-fructose corn syrup is bad news for your body, and it is prominent in foods everywhere. The good news is that by eating a fresh, whole foods diet, you can avoid HFCS and help reduce or eliminate your sugar and HFCS related health issues or prevent them from every happening in the first place. Today is the day to start giving your body the right fuel it needs to thrive, and if you do, you can look forward to better health, more energy, and a better life.