As the U.S. currently has an inadequate and deceptive labeling system, which fails in implicating the total health risks associated with certain foods and ingredients in foods, I decided to create a list of foods to avoid at all costs (This will be part of an on-going series to help better educate readers about the foods they should and should not be eating):
1. Anything that contains high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient
The worst part about high fructose corn syrup is that it is in nearly everything. This may be due to the fact that the U.S. government subsidizes corn, while making cane sugar unaffordable. Food companies have a few main options: they can choose to reduce the sizes of products that they sell, they can choose to increase the prices of the products that they sell, or they can decide to switch their ingredients from sugar to high fructose corn syrup. From my own personal experience, many foods which I once enjoyed consuming have decided to go down the path of changing the ingredients from sugar to high fructose corn syrup.
So what is wrong with high fructose corn syrup? Aren't there commercials saying that it is safe to ingest, that, "whether it's cane sugar or corn sugar, your body can't tell the difference?" Well, two young men, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, decided to grow their own corn crops and create their very own high fructose corn syrup. After asking several companies how to make it, they finally received a detailed instructional recipe for high fructose corn syrup. Their ingredient list included: corn, water, sulfuric acid, alpha-amylase, glucoamylase, and glucose isomerase. Now, corn and water are absolutely "normal" foods to consume. Alpha-amylase is used in the process of breaking the bonds between glucose monomers in the cornstarch. Glucoamylase, like alpha-amylase, is an enzyme. It may actually provide health benefits, mostly for those who suffer from gastrointestinal problems. Glucose isomerase allows for the process of isomerization, in which glucose is converted to fructose. The sweetness of high fructose corn syrup may be at least partially attributed to this process. Unlike the aforementioned ingredients, sulfuric acid is a very strong, highly corrosive chemical. It is found in car battery acid and certain household items, such as detergent and toilet bowl cleaner. Additionally sulfuric acid, as you've likely guessed, is highly poisonous to the body. Symptoms from swallowing sulfuric acid include though are not limited to: breathing difficulty due to swelling of the throat, fever, rapidly lowered blood pressure, vomiting with blood and vision loss. If these are the symptoms which occur from swallowing pure sulfuric acid, one can only imagine its deleterious effects on the human body from consuming it in the form of high fructose corn syrup for months or years of time.
How do you avoid high fructose corn syrup? Well, that's a tough one to answer, seeing that it is in rougly 52,000 food items. However, you can be sure that high fructose corn syrup is not in any "certified organic" products, although it can be part of the ingredient list on products labeled "natural." Your best bet is to take a look at the ingredient list on the container of whichever food you wish to be purchasing. I would have never guessed that high fructose corn syrup would be in many consumer items, such as a container of almonds. Yep, that was the last ingredient list I saw it on and it read "Ingredients: almonds, salt, high fructose corn syrup."
Despite the initial annoyances one may experience with having to check all food items prior to consumption, the extra few seconds of reading may truly prove to be beneficial. High fructose corn syrup may cause weight gain and pre-diabetes. Some studies suggest that high fructose corn syrup may even possess addictive properties. However, those are the least of one's worries when it comes to this pervasive ingredient. Cancer may be attributed to high fructose corn syrup, according to one fairly recent study.