Anytime we talk about high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) at EatingWell, we get a lot of passionate input from our readers. Some thank us for our careful reporting, while others argue that we got the story all wrong-and some are just confused. Sometimes they get HFCS mixed up with plain old fructose, and sometimes they assume that HFCS and corn syrup are the same thing. (Both are mistakes.)
So in this final installment of our 5-part series on HFCS, we're simply going to tell you the real truth about what HFCS is and what it is not. The easiest way to do this is to define HFCS and all the other sugars that you hear associated with it.
Here's your sweetener cheat sheet:
High-Fructose Corn Syrup: First available in 1967 and used by commercial food manufacturers, it's made by converting some of corn syrup's glucose into fructose. High-fructose corn syrup is high in fructose only in relation to plain corn syrup; chemically, it's very similar to sucrose: about 50/50 glucose and fructose. (Can high-fructose corn syrup make you fat?)
Glucose: A so-called "simple" sugar naturally found in all foods that have carbohydrate. Starch (e.g., in potatoes, pasta) is many glucose molecules linked together.
Fructose: Another simple sugar, fructose is often called "fruit sugar" because it's the main type of natural sugar in fruits (and honey). (Does honey have health benefits?)
Sucrose: A natural "complex" sugar that's about half glucose, half fructose (two "simple sugars"); it's extracted from sugar cane and sugar-beet plants and refined to make "table sugar." (Does HFCS make kids more hyper than table sugar?)
Corn Syrup: A syrup used mostly in baking that's virtually all glucose; it's made by extracting and breaking down starch from corn into separate glucose molecules.
By Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is deputy editor of features and nutrition at EatingWell. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management. She's addicted to ice cream and pizza. But she also can't imagine going a week without eating sweet potatoes, salad greens or kidney beans. Kale and beets also rank at the top of her favorite-foods list.
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