It’s no secret that food manufacturers are using sugar and its artificial counterparts in gross abundance. Every product outside of the meat and produce departments seems to include sugar or a sugar substitute on the ingredients list. Science has proven that sugar and its substitutes can trigger addictive qualities in some and including sugar is viewed as a “security ingredient” when ensuring the commercial success of a product. Sweeteners are an important part of our general health conversation yet most people don’t know the difference between fructose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Here is a quick breakdown of the differences between the two:
Fructose is a naturally-occurring sweetener that is found in fruits and vegetables. Fructose can also be found in sweeteners such as sucrose, crystalline fructose and corn sugar. It’s important to note that fructose is the sweetest, meaning it can be used in smaller quantities while maintaining the same sweetness, which keeps calorie counts lower. Fructose also has a lower glycemic index than other sweeteners so it will not cause surges or dips in the body’s blood glucose levels compared to glucose and sucrose. Fructose is also one of the least carcinogenic of all the nutritive sugars.
The most misleading of all sweeteners is often high fructose corn syrup. This is a different sweetener from fructose. HFCS contains almost equal parts glucose and fructose and shows up in foods ranging from baked goods and processed fruits to some beverages and frozen desserts. Here is where it gets a bit trickier; sucrose is made from a combination of glucose and fructose and it is very similar to HFCS. From sucrose, a new sweetener can be produced called crystalline fructose. Crystalline fructose shows up in myriad products from dry cereals, confections, baked goods and fruit packs to most beverages ranging from powder concentrates, flavored waters, sodas as well as most low-calorie products. If there is one product from that list that should raise a red flag, it would be low-calorie products. Avoid these products at all costs.
In summary, if you have the option to choose, fructose should be the sweetener you look for when shopping for food. Not only does it remain in its most natural state, less of it can be used while maintaining sweetness and taste. By using less fructose, calories can be limited and fructose does not disrupt blood glucose levels nearly as much as glucose or sucrose. HFCS and its counterparts seem to show up in most processed and diet foods. This sweetener along with the food it’s found in is essentially synthetic and can be detrimental to your health. Look out for foods proclaiming they are “diet” or lower in calories because there is a good probability that artificial sweeteners such as HFCS are used and the long-term effects are far worse for your overall health. Eating a healthy diet can be tricky but when you start to identify some of these differences, the path becomes easier to navigate.