What does that flower have to do with today’s topic? Absolutely nada. It’s an offering of pretty, because we’re about to broach an ugly subject.
Since my kitchen is delayed in completion for at least another week, I decided to use the non-cooking time to blog about something near and dear to my heart. If you know me in person, you know that I have strugged with my weight my entire life.
Part of that, I believe, was due to a lot of processed food throughout my childhood. My parents simply didn’t know that Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, Hamburger Helper, and lots of sugary juice were bad for me. After all, the labels said “Natural”, “Wholesome”, and “Nutritional” – little did they know the deals mega food companies have made with the FDA over the years to use those labels on food that is anything but. Just ask Jamie Oliver – he’ll tell you the FDA is outdated and in general, just a nasty piece of work.
One ingredient that I cannot stand, and avoid like the plague, is High Fructose Corn Syrup. When I was finishing my degree last year, I read several studies about the problems with HFCS. Mercury, weight gain.. it went on and on.
And while the Corn Refiners of America will insist that HFCS is fine in moderation (and maybe it is), HFCS is in nearly EVERY processed food out there. If your diet consists of boxed, bagged, or manufactured-in-a-factory food, you’re taking in much more than a “moderate” amount of High Fructose Corn Syrup.
I’ll agree that the science and studies behind this product are by no means complete. But I also know how products containing HFCS make me feel. I feel ill, sick to my stomach, the back of my neck prickles and feels heated, and I have headaches. Part of this is because fructose is metabolized by the bloodstream sometimes 30 times faster than glucose (normal sugar). Sugar highs and lows like whoa.
Some of the biggest offenders, for me, are the ones that I just never even suspected until I started watching labels like a hawk. We all know Heinz ketchup has it (thank you, Hunt’s, for switching to HFCS free!), but below are a few products that you may never have suspected:
Campbell’s Tomato Soup
(image source: http://mcchronicles.blogspot.com/2009/01/mcdonalds-soup.html)
I’m pretty sure when Campbell’s was founded in 1869, High Fructose Corn Syrup was NOT on the ingredient list for tomato soup. So far, this is the only variety I’ve found with HFCS.
Yoplait LIGHT Yogurt
(image source: http://blogs.pitch.com)
These yogurts have a clever marketing campaign, and amazing flavors like Raspberry Cheesecake, Apple Turnover, and Boston Creme Pie. And typically, the 3rd ingredient on the list is High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Philadelphia Strawberry Cream Cheese
(image source: Walmart.com)
Any and all sweet flavors of Philadelphia Cream Cheese contain HFCS, usually the 2nd ingredient, higher on the list than any sort of fruit or spice (I’m lookin’ at you, cinnamon swirl cream cheese).
It would be better to get their regular flavor (it is HFCS free) and mix in jam or jelly just before you put it on your toast or bagel. However, this brings me to my next offender of the sensibilities:
Smucker’s Jams and Jellies
(image source: Smucker.com)
You can see right there in the photo, the 2nd ingredient in this little packet of jam is HFCS. It’s the same for the big jars of the stuff. Are you having this on your toast every morning?
Don’t you normally have these in tomato soup? Oh wait.. what’s that about moderation?
(image source: gawker.com)
These are great with yogurt, marshmallows, as a snack… (by the way, both of those have HFCS too).
(image source: underconsideration.com)
It’s got to the point where there are exactly two brands of sliced bread, one brand of hot dog buns, and one brand of hamburger buns in my local grocery store that do NOT contain HFCS. If I want english muffins, bagels, or pitas, I’m out of luck, Chuck. If I want bread that costs less than $2.50 a loaf? Outta luck there too.
Here’s my beef: If we were doing like the Corn Refiners of America suggested, having HFCS in moderation, then fine. But here in front of you, you have items that any parent could feed their kid, as part of what they feel is a sensible eating plan, all in one day! Not to mention, companies like Heinz and Smuckers make a heck of a big deal in advertising campaigns about knowing where their produce comes from.
All well and good, you know, except that then you taint those tomatoes, strawberries, and raspberries with chemically processed sweetener.
One way to avoid HFCS is to buy organic. Not “Natural”, but “Organic”. The reason for this is that the FDA has been bamboozled by the food companies into agreeing that if at any time the ingredient was part of a plant, it can be called Natural. High Fructose Corn Syrup was at one time, Corn. Therefore, it can be called “natural”.
That’s not exactly how I’d define natural. How about you? Luckily, the same cannot be said for the organic label (though there are other problems with that) – but a lot of people, especially right now, can’t afford to buy organic. What’s a family to do?
Especially when our friends over at the Corn Refiners of America are currently lobbying Washington and the FDA to allow them to simply go by the moniker “corn syrup”. Corn syrup, like Karo, is nothing like HFCS. So to give them the name, so that Americans will once again feel “safe” purchasing products, because they are none the wiser what kind of corn syrup is in their food, is downright despicable.
We, as a nation, have a right to know what is in the items we purchase, and what we put in our mouths. We have a right to know whether they contain mercury, or are linked to higher rates of obesity in rats, or metabolic syndromes.
What I ask is simple: start reading labels. If you see HFCS in the ingredients list, don’t buy it.
My intention is not to put them out of business. My intention is to get them returning to the basics. To the food they made when companies like Campbell’s and Wonder Bread first began. Foods that don’t require acronyms or a pronunciation key.
If we all vote with our feet and our wallets, the big food companies will get the message. Several already have. (Look to Hunt’s, Wheat Thins, Pepperidge Farm)[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Food vs. Fauxd – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]