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Food vs. Fauxd

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 Just ask Jamie Oliver – he’ll tell you the FDA is outdated and in general, just a nasty piece of work.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?

Saltine Crackers


(image source=mrmilkman.com)

Don’t you normally have these in tomato soup? Oh wait.. what’s that about moderation?

Graham Crackers


(image source: gawker.com)

These are great with yogurt, marshmallows, as a snack… (by the way, both of those have HFCS too).

Bread


(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]

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Amber

Friday 20th of August 2010

Kat, have you seen that even Mexican Coke isn't going to be safe soon? Coca-cola's doing everything they can to replace it with HFCS, and then the only way you'll get sugared coke is to buy the stuff they make for Passover.

The bread's kind of a moot point for me at this time, as I actually can't eat it anymore. But I will get that book for my husband, who is the bread baker in our family.

Kathleen

Friday 20th of August 2010

Great post. Franz makes english muffins without HFCS; ask your grocer to stock them.

My husband used to drink cokes with HFCS. Now he drinks "Mexican" coke which has plain sugar or he makes his own using our SodaStream and simple cola mix (that contains sucrose, not HFCS). It's still too much sugar but it's helped cut down his corn intake.

For bread, it's worth learning how to make your own no-knead bread. It's easy, you can keep the dough for up to two weeks in your fridge and kids LOVE to make the loaves themselves. I recommend the books Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day or Kneadlessly Simple. If you buy yeast in bulk, the loaves cost less than 45 cents each and they contain what bread should, just flour, salt, yeast, water...

mw

Monday 9th of August 2010

What a great post. My husband is completely addicted to soda, as was I until a few months ago. I stopped drinking it and lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks! It pains me to watch him continue to drink the stuff.

I'm wondering what the difference between Karo corn syrup and HFCS is - I always assumed they were one and the same.

Oktobre Kerketta

Tuesday 8th of June 2010

We avoid HFCS as much as possible. The other thing that concerns us about our food is the amount of sodium in everything. Also the BPA used in the linings of most canned goods is extremely frightening.

Amrik had never suffered acid reflux until he moved here to the US. Now, like me, he has to take daily antacids.

Amrik's sister came to visit with her just over a year old baby last year. She fed little Emily what she thought was pretty much the same diet as she gets back home in the UK. Unfortunately our food in the US is very different than that in the UK. We have tons more preservatives and additives than they do in the UK and I believe this is what poor little Emily had an allergic reaction to. She was covered in hives. Jasmine was so worried about her, but didn't know what else to do but go home early to get her away from what ever it was that was causing the allergic reaction. I suspect it was the muffins and breakfast food she was eating at the hotel, but it is likely we will never know for sure what caused the problem.

The FDA is corrupt, in my opinion. They aren't there to "protect" us. Our system is broken and our people are being poisoned by the very food that is supposed to sustain us. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to buy organic, buy from your local farmers (farmers market) and eat whole foods as much as possible. We need to start making food from scratch again and stop relying on shortcuts to make meal preparation quicker. It is difficult to make those transitions, but we are slowly working towards those goals.

Maggy@ThreeManyCooks

Tuesday 8th of June 2010

Great post, Amber. It really amazes me how much food has HFCS in it - thanks for highlighting some of the worst offenders, I'll be sure to steer clear of those products. And I agree - we need our voices to be heard loud and clear, we don't want this for ourselves, our family or our children. I, for one, will be voting with my wallet right along with you.