By Contributing Mama Daphne Biener
It’s one thing to give into temptation every now and then. I should know. I am the first to admit a certain talent for polishing off an entire box of girl scout cookies. It is also I who successfully dives elbow-deep into my kids’ Halloween stash each fall.
But giving in to such temptations is one thing. It’s completely different to be tricked into believing that these things are not indulgences at all.
Which is why an Australia consumer watchdog group recently called foul, and made Coca Cola retract ads they had run spouting off about the wholesome goodness of soda. Let’s get something straight: soda may be tasty, it may be a convenient way to infuse an extra dose of caffeine, but it is no health food.
We have enough information to wade through in our effort to make informed decisions. All I’m asking for is that our indulgences are indulgences, and our healthy choices really are healthy.
So yes, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) really is a big deal. A big bad deal.
Oh come on, the corn syrup lobby is saying. Sugar by any other name… Who cares if that sweetness takes the form of honey or brown sugar or highly processed high fructose corn syrup?
We should care, a lot. If moderation is the key, then HFCS is a slippery Houdini. It’s nearly impossible to moderate the stuff.
How can we even keep track when this sneaky substance lurks in every nook and cranny of the supermarket? It’s not as though we seek it out. It sneaks in to our diets by way of soft drinks, cereals, and condiments. Crackers, bread and peanut butter. And just about anything else that we buy in a box.
It’s everywhere. That Snarky Spy of Safeway. That Trojan horse of Target.
The stuff is messing with our minds. Am I right to be a little peeved to find that after obediently digging into a healthy lunch, (let’s say salad, yogurt and a glass of chocolate milk) I learn that the dressing, the yogurt and the chocolate milk are all packed with high fructose corn syrup? Here, in my deluded quest for health, I have just consumed the equivalent of a jumbo-sized bag of M&Ms. With none of the fun.
And that doesn’t even touch on the myriad of other health issues that hfcs brings to our lives. Studies have found that food items loaded with HFCS have unacceptably high levels of mercury. Mercury is linked to problems in brain development. HFCS is also blamed for the recent and drastic increase in diabetes in our country. That super-sized soda sits on the side of the meal pretending to be a harmless drink; our body devours it like a bag of Halloween candy.
Thing is, our bodies don’t know what to do with the HFCS; we don’t get full from the stuff, and that means we can consume many more calories from HFCS than we ever could from sugar. And trust me, I can consume a lot of sugar.
If I want to eat my candy, I’ll eat my candy. But if I’m going to sit down to a healthy lunch by way of reparation for that splurge, I better get full credit when I eat those greens. I do not want my veggie intake tallied in the dessert column down there in internal accounting. And I don’t want to unwittingly spoon this over-processed, mercury-laden, spy of a pseudo-food into my kids, like I did yesterday when I poured out their Rice Krispies.
Want more information about this stuff? Read Michael Pollan’s book, Omnivore’s Dilemma. It’s one of my favorites. Also add the documentary King Corn to your Netflix list. Two crazy college grads try to grow some corn, and get themselves educated in the process.
Daphne’s Tips at the Store:
1. If the item says HONEY in the title (ie, Honey Wheat Bread,) it usually DOES NOT include HFCS. This is not always true, but a good quick rule of thumb.
2. The aisles on the inside harbor the most hiding places for HFCS. Shop the outside perimeter.
3. If it comes in a box, a bag, or a jar, take a quick glance at the ingredients.
4. Nothing we eat should have 546 ingredients in it.
5. If you want that Popsicle, eat the Popsicle. And enjoy it in full awareness.