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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.

You can read more of Daphne’s work on The Rocky Mountain Moms Blog, on her eco-fabulous site, A Greener Biener, or here on the mama bird diaries.

15 Responses to is high fructose corn syrup really that big of a deal?

  • Chris says:

    Yay, Daphne!  I’m shouting “Hallelujah” and I’ll give you an “Amen!” sister.

    We’ve got to get back to eating whole foods and (especially feeding them to our kids) and reserve processed, convenience food for occasional consumption.  Great piece!

  • Marisa says:

    Yeah, I really like the ads they are running to promote corn syrup.  Another reason why high fructose corn syrup is a concern is that it’s made from genetically modified corn.  Yuck.  I don’t want a third arm growing from my forehead.

  • stoneskin says:

    “with none of the fun”

    I hate eating M&Ms with none of the fun.

    I don’t think HFCS has had much press activity at all over here.  Not sure if that is because it is in less, or we just don’t know about it!

  • Kirsten says:

    My kids are currently very upset with me for cleaning out our pantry of all HFCS laden snacks.  I was amazed at some of the products that used HFCS.  

    Great post.

  • christy says:

    I’ve only recently become aware of this too and filled a bin with stuff from our pantry. Now I need to find replacements. Like grape jelly. I LOVE grape jelly but I haven’t found one without it yet.  Great post! And I’m getting that book – thanks.

  • I’ve seen first hand how reducing the HFCS just a little has tremendously helped my quirky son’s behavior.

    Which this means I have to get all tree-hugging granola in my kitchen. 

    A yogurt machine and bread machine are two of the best purchases I’ve made.  I can’t go back to the overly sweet grocery store yogurt or the tasteless bread.  Homemade jellies are easier than you think (Seriously, a food processor and freezer jam fruit pectin).  Frozen homemade cookie dough baked up the night before beats twinkies in the kids’ lunch boxes every time.

  • kim says:

    the HFCS and Mercury is a little known fact. which is upsetting, because i just learned of it when a much healthier friend let me in on this secret. the reason it’s upsetting? I’m pregnant. Mercury is a huge no no in pregnancy and no one ever told me that nearly everything processed with HFCS is upping my Mercury levels.

  • christy says:

    Sorry to comment twice, but I went to the grocery store after reading your article, and I checked every single label of the products I was going to buy. I was pleasantly surprised that the brownies in the bakery did NOT contain HFCS. I was very  unpleasantly surprised that almost every single damn loaf of pre-packaged bread did. I went through at least ten loaves before I found one without it – and after eating a sandwich on it yesterday afternoon I’m a convert. So, thank you!

  • Cynthia1770 says:

    My google alert for HFCS picked up your post. Try Arnold’s bread, it’s HFCS-free.
    Also try StopHFCS.com for an extensive list of HFCS-free foods and beverages. Also European import stores are a good bet. Most, but not all, items have HFCS-free foods.  My import store stocks Hungarian jams made with real sugar.
    Ditch HFCS. To your health.

  • Anastasia says:

    Yes, yes and YES!  I so agree with you and am so glad that you wrote this post.  The corn syrup ads on TV have been driving me crazy.  And I know a lot of people love soda but that’s where I draw the line for kids.  Halloween candy, Easter chocolate, Christmas cookies?  Yeah sure, in moderation, I’m no scrooge but soda, NO WAY.  There is just no reason for small children to drink that stuff.

    Thank you!!! 🙂

  • Grace says:

    My son had his first opening ceremony for baseball yesterday and It was thrilling to see my kindergartner in his uniform lined up with his teammates.  They had a couple of speeches then served lunch with a drink; a   choice of water or gatorade.  As usual, I am the parent that everyone thinks is ridiculous be/c I don’t want to give my 5 and 3 year olds that stuff.  Why is it even on the field.  Why are kids drinking it to refuel when playing hard when that stuff is HORRIBLE for them.  When I mention HFCS to other moms they don’t seem to be as concerned as I am.  Why are they not shouting from the rooftops along with me.  Advertising is a very scary thing.  Every week now a different family brings a snack for the whole team and I cringe because I don’t trust that they will bring in something worth eating.  Now everything has to be prepackaged be/c of nut allergies but the laundry list of items in the ingredients of things I can barely even pronounce only seems to concern me. Just very frustrating!

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