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The evil among us

January 23, 2008 - Kathie Evanoff
These are four little words that can strike fear into the hearts of dieters, High Fructose Corn Syrup.

It seems harmless enough, but those words have created a debate among dieticians and scientists that seems to have no conclusion.

HFCS is made by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose, which is simply another form of sugar. Food companies love it because it doesn’t take much to sweeten a product and is cheaper to use than real sugar.

Barring any unknown scientific data, I have a problem with HFCS because it is both a sweetener and a preservative, which is why it can be found in foods where you least expect it. It is the sweetener in soft drinks and some juice drinks, but it is also in some canned tomato sauces and, my personal objection, in bread.

We are told by dieticians, diet doctors, and everyone else who has some sort of degree to prove they know what they are talking about, that we should check the ingredients in our groceries. If partially hydrogenated oils (we’ll talk about this another time) or high-fructose corn syrup are among the first five ingredients listed; we should pass on that product. I defy you to find a loaf of bread in the grocery store that doesn’t have HFCS at least fourth on the list. I’ve stood in the bread aisle for several minutes, holding up lines and annoying other shoppers while I read labels and lists. It is always there.

According to Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., at, some nutrition experts blame HFCS for the growing obesity problem in this country. It is theorized that HFCS is processed differently by the liver than regular sugar, and that HFCS is more quickly converted to fat in the bloodstream. The problem is, this theory has never been proven. Zeratsky also says that studies with animals show a link with HFCS and diabetes and high cholesterol, but these “links” aren’t as clear in human studies. Regardless of the studies, as far as I am concerned, HFCS adds non-nutritive, unnecessary calories to our food.

Recently, while I was looking for sandwich rolls, I had a difficult time finding any packaged varieties on the grocery store shelf that didn’t list HFCS as one of the main ingredients. At that time, I bought the rolls, telling myself that at least they were 100 percent whole-wheat.

I have since found HFCS-free sandwich buns at a local organic food store, but they are mightily expensive and have no preservatives, so I keep them in the freezer until I’m ready to use them. I’m sure someone feeding a family with children who like their burgers, wouldn’t want to spend more than $3 for a package of eight rolls.

I look for those hidden non-nutritive calories in everything I buy. It takes a little longer in the grocery store, but I feel better about where I’m spending my food allowance.

What do you think about the whole HFCS debate? Do you think it is important enough that food companies should stand up and take notice? After all, we are seeing labels saying “no trans fat” in everything these days. What about HFCS?

I began my day with my usual cup of tea (not shown) and a breakfast of whole grain cereal with a cup of milk and an apple. I prefer oranges for breakfast, but am all out, and it turns out, I didn’t have the apple for breakfast anyway. I did, however, have it with my lunch, so I got the fruit in after all. Once at the office, I made another cup of tea, but I only drank about half of it while I worked.

Tuesday is my busiest day of the week and I seldom have time to think about snacks and food and I didn't take the time to pack a lunch. Instead I chose a grilled chicken salad and a medium size sugar-free iced tea from Dairy Queen Brazier, which is within walking distance of the Niles office. I asked for no bacon bits or cheese on my salad, and it came with only iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, but it was filling enough. I also asked for no dressing because I keep my own fat free dressing here. I didn’t put any sugar or sweetener in the iced tea.

Because it’s Tuesday, there is no time for an afternoon snack. But by the time I got home for dinner, I was pretty hungry and wanted something that would stay with me the rest of the evening. I still had some leftover brown rice from my stir-fry the night before, and my husband had made a small pot of chili with ground beef and red and white beans. I put some of the rice in the bottom of my bowl and ladled chili on top. I topped the dish with about a quarter cup of 2 percent milk shredded sharp cheddar cheese and a dollop of whipped cottage cheese. No, that is not sour cream you see there, but whipped cottage cheese, and you’ll be reading more about that as well. I also had a glass of fat free milk with dinner.


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Breakfast: 1ounce grains, 1 dairy, 1 fruit, 30 discretionary calories (sugar in tea)