Your Solution Guide to Foods with HFCS

Although many will argue that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) isn’t bad for you, there is a ton of debate that warrants avoiding the ingredient .  Many nutritionists blame HFCS as a major reason for the rise in our nation’s obesity  rates.  Further, there is a theory that the body processes fructose in high fructose corn syrup differently than cane or beet sugar, which has an effect on how our metabolic-regulating hormones function and can cause our liver to release more fat into our bloodstream.  This can result in our bodies wanting to eat more, while potentially storing more fat.

HFCS is a cheap ingredient and as a result, creeps into many foods that seem otherwise healthy.  Whether or not you believe HFCS is bad, it is good to at least understand what kinds of foods actually contain HFCS, so that if you do want to avoid the controversial ingredient, you can do so.  Here are some highly popular foods that contain HFCS, and ways you can circumvent consumption:

  1. Juice Cocktails: If a juice drink is not made with 100% juice, it generally contains a large amount of HFCS, along with other artificial and natural ingredients and flavors.  Some examples include: Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice, Capri-Sun Juices and Tropicana OrangeAde.
    • Non-HFCS Solution : Opt for buying drinks that are 100% pure juice.  Even better, eat the fruit.  This will give you the fiber  benefits as well.
  2. Soda:Believe it or not, even sodas containing some juice have HFCS.  This includes Orangina, a seemingly healthy soda.
    • Non-HFCS Solution: Try mixing 100% juices with seltzer for a sweeter, more natural alternative.  Also, San Pellegrino soda flavors uses all cane sugar and no HFCS.
  3. Breakfast Cereal: Even seemingly healthy breakfast cereals contain HFCS.  For instance: Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch, Special K  and Smart Start Healthy Heart.
    • Non-HFCS Solution: Read nutrition labels carefully when in doubt.  However, some good brands to try include: Kashi and Nature’s Path.
  4. Yogurt: Once again, seemingly healthy foods like yogurt  often contain HFCS.  Often, it is found in those that contain ‘fruit’ and other sweetened varieties, such as Dannon and Yoplait.
    • Non-HFCS Solution: Opt for plain varieties, which often don’t contain HFCS (always check to be sure).  Mix fresh or frozen berries or fruit into your plain yogurt to add some natural sweetness.  You’ll also benefit from some natural fiber  as well!
  5. Salad Dressings:Believe it or not, HFCS is often added into seemingly un-sweet items like salad dressings.
    • Non-HFCS Solution: Make your own dressings when possible because you’ll know what ingredients are being used.  Find high quality oils and vinegars, even those that are infused with spices, to create yummy salad toppers.
  6. Breads and Baked Goods:Wonderbread, as well as other ‘healthier’ bread products, such as Pepperidge Farm’s line of 100% whole grain breads and Sara Lee Heart Healthy Whole Grain Bread are guilty of HFCS use.  This is a classic case of ‘HFCS hiding behind whole grain marketing’.
    • Non-HFCS Solution: Once again, read your labels.  Sticking with whole grain baked items are often a good choice, but find those that don’t contain HFCS.  A favorite of mine is Arnold’s Natural Fiber and Flax bread.
  7. Candy and Candy Bars:Many name brand candy, such as Hershey’s Watchamacallet and Lifesavers, contain HFCS.
    • Non-HFCS Solution: Buy higher quality candy and/or chocolate bars, such as Equal Exchange and Endangered Species Chocolates.  Being of higher quality, even a small piece of these chocolates can be more rewarding than a whole Watchamacallit.
  8. Nutrition Bars: Don’t let the word ‘nutrition’ fool you.  Many nutrition bars, such as Power Bars, Balance Bars and Zone Perfect Bars contain HFCS.
    • Non-HFCS Solution: Be scrupulous in reading your labels.  Good brands to try: Odwalla and Kashi Go Lean Bars.

In short, it is always best to read the ingredient lists on products.  This is the best way to tell if high fructose corn syrup has infiltrated your chosen product.  Lastly, try to make things yourself and eat whole foods.  If the food isn’t processed, you can be sure there is no nasty HFCS in it!

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  • Brooke

    I’ve been living in Asia for the last 6 years and just moved back to the U.S. a month ago. Wow – I can’t believe HOW MUCH processed food SO many people in the U.S. eat! I’m so used to going into a grocery store (in Asia) and having about 1/3 of the store be fresh food (produce, meat, etc), 1/3 be processed foods (canned and boxed food), and the other 1/3 be non-food items (toiletries, cleaning products, etc.). But in the U.S. I feel like the ratio of processed foods to fresh foods in stores is so much higher – just rows and rows (long ones at that) of boxed food, canned food, frozen food. There really is a disconnect between Americans and what they eat. It took me several years of living outside of the country to be able to look at it from the outside in and really get it. I don’t think it’s going to easily be turned around either. I’m scared about what’s going to happen in the future – I feel we haven’t hit bottom yet, and unfortunately I think that’s what it’s going to take for people to really get it.

  • beau

    High fructose corn syrup is processed from corn along with its close cousin ethanol which serves as fuel for your auto. Doesn’t something seem really wrong with shoving that close cousin to gasoline into our stomachs?

    • Brett

      beau – I couldn’t agree more. Anything that is manufactured or manipulated always seems questionable to me!

  • Brett

    Couldn’t agree more Kristine. I’d rather be safe than sorry!

  • Kristine

    There may be no conclusive evidence that HFCS in the diet is harmful, but there is also no proof the other way. Having been present in our diets only since the late seventies, we are basically 40 years into a giant experiment to find out if HFCS is or is not healthful for humans to consume.

    On the other hand, sugar (and natural foods in general) have been in the human diet for thousands of years. So, I think I’ll stick with natural foods and opt out of the HFCS experiment.

  • Nathalie

    For too many years, as far back as probably 25 years ago, I would wake up with a terrific headache. Sometimes I thought it was my hairspray and would wash my hair in the middle of the night! I loved candy bars and all the items you mention in your article (salad dressing, bread,juice, soda pop). I did not gain weight, but was plagued with headaches & heartburn. Then about 10 years ago, I began having spells of humming in my ears, flashing lights in my eyesight, shortness of breath. I became worried, talking to my doctor and he didn’t know the cause so I began eliminating foods and FINALLY discovered the HFCS ingredient! Problem solved! But not before my vision was affected with a small stroke in one eye!

  • Chris

    It is called a “theory” because there is no conclusive evidence…simply hype by the food freaks who believe everything natural is good and anything else is crap. The body processes HFCS the same as it does sugar. Obesity is clearly linked to eating TOO much sugar and TOO much food and not getting enough exercise. When our schools decided to stop serious Phys Ed programs and society decided to put so much importance behind computers, TV’s and video games, that is when the fattening of this country began.

    When Americans stop looking to blame everyone else for their own bad behaviors, things will start to get better. Quite blaming corporations for everything, stop your whining, stop shoveling so much food in your pie holes and get up and do something!

  • http://www.sheerbalance.com Brett

    Dr. Castle. Thanks for your maple syrup plug. These were just a few examples, you could also mention honey. THAT said, the article was focusing more on those lower calorie sweeteners that are naturally lower in calories. I love syrup though!

  • http://Not Dr. Michael Castle

    Cannot understand why your reporters on Sweetners have not or did not include 100% Pure Organic Maple Syrup…from Maple Trees. You list Mexican sources of Sweetners but not American, i.e. Maple Syrup.

    I and just about my entire extended family use Organic Maple Syrup…coffee made with distilled water and sweetned with Maple syrup…delicious.

    There’s yet a number of Maple Syrup farmers out here…I am not one, but I do know many….and they are picking up on demands for Maple Syrup as more and more individuals are ‘onto’ anything made or connected to Monsanto Chemicals….All products made from Monsanto GMO Yellow Corn….is toxic to any Life Forms having intestines…according to Jeffrey Smith.

    How could you possibly omit Maple Syrup…ever try it on yer Raisan Bran?

    Dr. Castle
    Ohio