All corn syrups are not created equally

>> Thursday, June 26, 2008

I know a lot of people who avoid processed foods because they want to eat more naturally, and I understand why they make that choice. It's natural to want to understand what your food is made of. But, I have to say, the processing of processed food doesn't bother me so much. I'm not saying that everything that is processed is fine - clearly since we're giving up HFCS - but I don't think that it's all evil either. I have concerns about preservatives and food dyes and various other things, but in general I still think that there is a time and a place for certain processed foods. That said, we are trying to move away from processed foods in general if for no other reason than they tend to be loaded with sugar and bad fats (even the organic versions), and I really want better for my children.

That brings me to corn syrup. If you want to give up all processed foods, then corn syrup has got to go because there is nothing "natural" about it - except that its molecules started in a kernel of corn. (Look for more details on the hows and whys of corn syrup and HFCS in future posts.) For the present, we're not giving up corn syrup. It doesn't ring my alarm bells the way HFCS does. Corn syrup is composed mainly of glucose (or dextrose, if you'd rather call it that) with no fructose and is not quite as sweet as table sugar (otherwise known as sucrose - a disaccharide of glucose and fructose). And while it's probably wise to limit consumption of corn syrup because too much sugar is just not what a body needs, glucose is processed quite nicely by your body. So, for now, plain ole corn syrup stays.

I don't use corn syrup much in my cooking. The one place time that it does get used is to make pecan pie, and that is a rare treat around here. I did come across something that I found unusual when cleaning out my pantry of HFCS items the other day, though. Light corn syrup (and light refers to it's clear color, not it's caloric content) is a mixture of corn syrup, HFCS, salt, and vanilla. Dark corn syrup, on the other hand, has no HFCS in it! It does have an ingredient called "refiners syrup," which for those interested is a type of molasses and is a byproduct of the cane (or beet) sugar industry. So, I guess we can still have the occasional treat of pecan pie made with dark corn syrup. Yay!


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