Allow me to put food politics aside and honestly tell you that there is no reason for anyone to consume High Fructose Corn Syrup and every reason for us to avoid it like the plague. An excess of any type of sugar is hard on the body so intake should be watched with a mindful eye, but consumption of HFCS is particularly foul. The sad facts and horrific research are far better documented by books such as Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Delima or In Defense of Food, or Greg Critser’s Fat Land, than I can present here. For our conversation it is sufficient to say that I was MORE than willing to avoid the stuff when I learned how it is processed by the body. It does not trigger the message to our brains that we are satisfied, causing over eating and a confused response by the body’s normally very efficient system for handling sugars. Learning that it prevented male rats from developing their testes, the females from producing live young, caused hypertrophy (swelling until it explodes) of the heart, and cirrhosis of the liver, well that was enough for me to decide that I should nail the coffin shut on my use of HFCS before I face a coffin of my own.
The FDA and too many other resources we count on for sound nutritional advice can’t come out and proclaim that this stuff may be the reason our children have shorter life expectancies than we do, or that HFCS along with hydrogenated fats may be the source of soaring rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. There are political and financial ties that bind them from screaming the truth. Having no such restrictions and a true desire to share all I have learned require me to strip off the sugar coating and clearly state that there are far safer ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. I make a particular plea to PARENTS! Make the effort now to satisfy your children’s longing for sweets with healthy choices and the ramifications will last for generations to come. Literally! No one knows the damage to our reproductive systems that may be caused by HFCS, so a little caution now can benefit us, our children, and countless generations to come.
Now that I’ve shared the reasons to avoid HFCS, let’s dig in and share EASY ways to avoid them…
1) Read labels. You will find HFCS in the craziest places, not just the sodas and sugary sodas that you would expect. It’s in almost every processed food and even some you might not expect such as breads and meats. Watch out for condiments which can be especially high in HFCS. The simple process of reading labels and passing on items that contain HFCS may change your life a bit. You may find that to get a ketchup or a chocolate syrup that does not contain HFCS you may need to switch stores. Before you freak out about how inconvenient that might be, consider this. A once a month trip to a health foods store or a Trader Joe’s may save you big bucks on over the counter meds and creams that you buy for the odd little things that HFCS can contribute to. Not to mention the behavior changes you may see in your little ones from this simple change.
2) Avoid processed foods. This may seem like and obvious one to those of you who’ve been on a healthy eating path, but for newbies this is critical. HFCS is also a preservative, allowing foods to last much longer than those sweetened with let’s say maple syrup. Making this change will not only reduce your intake of HFCS but probably of lots of other suspicious man-made nutrients that may do more harm than good such as hydrogenated oils.
3) “Be The Change you wish to see in the world.” It turns out that Ghandi’s advice is ideal in the nutritional realm. If your kids see you drinking sodas and surgary frappuccino’s at Starbucks they are more likely to follow your example than your advice. Healthy changes you make will be noticed and curious kids (not to mention your friends) will inquire about your new choices. You may improve the health of others just by making a healthy change for yourself.
4) Be willing to pay a little more now and reap a lot more later. Let’s look at Maple Syrup as an example: a typical bottle of Aunt Jamima’s Maple flavored high fructose corn syrup is likely to cost half, if not less, than a bottle of real maple syrup. But you have to take into account more than the face value price. The real thing is more flavorful so you will use less. Your kids won’t know the difference and may drown their breakfast in the stuff so you’ll have to help out at first. Second, our bodies will recognize this natural sweetener and we won’t want to eat a stack of pancakes a mile high. Finally the behavior and health benefits from consuming a little natural maple syrup as compared to the havoc wrecked by HFCS is priceless. If you are environmentalist (and we all should be at this point) the cost of HFCS to the environment is one more unseen cost of purchasing what appears to be the more economical choice.
5) Reach for whole foods. Instead of trying to avoid HFCS in quick fix snacks or meals that are processed, reach for simple whole foods. This will instantly lower the amount of HFCS you expose your body, and/or your kid’s bodies to. This may sound simple and obvious, but healthy eating is exactly that!
Over the next month I will share many of my favorite desserts and sweets. These recipes will not only avoid HFCS but will also be made with the natural sweeteners I prefer; agave, stevia, maple syrup, honey, figs, dates, raisins or good old whole fresh fruits. This may be taking it a bit father than some of you are willing to go, but hell if your still reading now I figure I will honor your attention with the best recipes I have for alternative sweets. For now check out the Banana Almond Shakes and check back for new recipes. I invite you to share your healthiest dessert recipes with me as well as your favorite ways to replace processed sugars with healthier alternatives.