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When I was younger a standard day would be cereal for breakfast, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread for lunch, and cookies for a special after school treat. Aside from the cookies, I thought I ate a healthy and well balanced diet, but looking back, I can’t believe how much high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) I was eating each day. You may think high-fructose corn syrup is only in sweet things, like the jelly on my sandwich or corn flakes in my cereal bowl, but it was also hiding in my whole wheat bread.
There are a lot of claims that a sugar is a sugar no matter what kind, but the fact of the matter is that we metabolize certain sugars differently. While fruit sugars get converted into glucose by your liver, high-fructose corn syrup gets converted into fat. That means that if you choose to snack on an apple in the afternoon that will be converted into energy to help get you through the rest of your day. But if you choose to snack on gummy bears, not only will that be converted into fat, it won’t give you the energy you need and will probably result in an energy crash.
Not only will you get an energy crash, but this conversion of fructose into fat also causes fatty liver disease which helps contribute to type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, cancer, heart attacks and stroke. It’s not hard to see that high-fructose corn syrup has a major factor in the obesity epidemic we are experiencing today.
What foods contain high-fructose corn syrup and how can you cut back?
Avoid canned or bottled drinks. Soda, sports drinks, iced teas and fruit juices all contain high doses of high-fructose corn syrup. Soda is basically water mixed with high-fructose corn syrup.
Avoid or ‘crowd out’ processed foods. The best way to avoid high-fructose corn syrup is by avoiding processed foods altogether. Crowd out the processed foods with fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Read your labels. Most highly processed foods contain high-fructose corn syrup. Check the labels of yogurts, jams, jellies, crackers, breads, protein or granola bars, salad dressings and frozen foods before buying them.
And remember not all sugars are created equal.