High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the most common sweetener used today, and is incorporated in virtually everything on grocery store shelves, including soft drinks, cereal, bread, ketchup, pancake syrups, unnatural fruit juices, fruit-flavored and frozen yogurts, and barbecue sauces.
Additionally, HFCS is made from genetically modified corn that’s treated with a variety of GM enzymes to rearrange the molecular structure of the glucose for conversion to fructose.
High fructose corn syrup is linked to insulin resistance, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and higher weight gain compared to table sugar.
The process of making high fructose corn syrup is radically different from making cane sugar. To begin with, there is no fructose in corn syrup. Fructose is artificially added. Corn syrup contains glucose, considerably less sweet than fructose.
High fructose corn syrup consists of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose resulting in 55% fructose and 45% glucose.
The more refined cane sugar is, like table sugar, the worse it is for overall health. William Dufty, author of Sugar Blues, claims the consumption of refined sugar is the number one cause of diabetes, and argues that refined sugar is an addictive drug, comparing sugar to opium, morphine, and heroin.
And refined sugar is a negative nutrient — “it is literally devoid of nutrition and using it actually makes your body use up stored nutrients to process it.”
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin, which are commonly found in most diet sodas (drinking diet sodas increases risk of stroke and heart attack), have long been connected with health issues including tinnitus, headaches, nervous system disorders and cancer.
Leah Zerbe, online editor with Rodale, whose website features news about health, wellness, and the environment, has named a few sweeteners listed below and explains why we should avoid including them in our kitchens.
Sweeteners To Avoid
There’s conflicting evidence regarding the safety of aspartame, a common chemical sweetener used in diet soda and other low-cal or low-sugar goods, but some people report headaches or generally feeling unwell after ingesting anything containing the chemical.
A University of Liverpool test-tube study found that when mixed with a common food color ingredient, aspartame actually became toxic to brain cells.
Aspartame is used in many diet sodas, and studies have found drinking diet soda may increase your risk of developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Also of concern with aspartame, researchers have found that one harmful breakdown product is formaldehyde.
Many agave nectars consist of 70 to 80 percent fructose—that’s more than what’s found in high-fructose corn syrup! If you don’t want to give up agave, look for types that contain no more than 30 to 40 percent fructose, recommends Christine Gerbstadt, MD, PhD, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Agave is also very heavily processed in an extremely energy-intensive manner that’s similar to the way corn is converted into high-fructose corn syrup.
While sucralose, better known by its brand name, Splenda, may originate with sugar, the end product is anything but natural. It’s processed using chlorine, and researchers are finding that the artificial sweetener is passing through our bodies and winding up in wastewater treatment plants, where it can’t be broken down.
Tests in Norway and Sweden found sucralose in surface water released downstream from treatment discharge sites. Scientists worry it could change organisms’ feeding habits and interfere with photosynthesis, putting the entire food chain at risk. The chemically derived artificial sweetener acesulfame K (sold under the brand name Sunett) was also detected in treated wastewater and tap water.
Raw Honey and Fructose Best Sweeteners
The healthiest sweeteners for your family are fructose, the sugar found naturally in fruits, and raw honey. For example, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are packed with antioxidants, and contain Vitamins C & E, beta carotene, biotin, calcium, iron, magnesium, and a host of other minerals.
Leah points out that honey also contains a bounty of cancer-defending antioxidants, and local honey has been said to help alleviate allergy symptoms. And honey also has a low glycemic index, so adding it to your tea or yogurt won’t lead to energy-busting blood sugar drops later in the day.