Creamed corn, baby corn, and corn-on-the-cob can be tasty, healthy additions to any meal. But what about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a corn byproduct found in numerous food products?

"Corn is a staple crop. That means corn and corn derivatives are utilized for many different purposes in foods and drinks," says Alison Massey MS, RD, LDN, CDE, registered dietitian and diabetes educator with the Center for Endocrinology at Mercy Medical Center.

"Cornstarch is often used as a thickener, while corn syrup is used as a sweetener."

The latter, in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), is an inexpensive option that works well in place of sugar when mixed with a variety of ingredients, making it abundant in many items you'll find on the grocery store shelves.

Foods Containing High Fructose Corn Syrup

Here are some of the types of things containing HFCS that are probably on your shopping list:

  • Beverages such as sodas and sweetened fruit juices
  • Cereals, cookies, crackers, and baked goods
  • Dairy products, including many yogurts and ice creams
  • Soups, sauce, and condiments
  • Candy
  • Cough medicines
  • Low-fat (diet) foods
  • Jam, jelly, and syrups

The Health Impact of High Fructose Corn Syrup

With such widespread use of HFCS, there's been growing concern about the effect that consuming large quantities can have on health. Some scientists believe that the body treats HFCS differently from regular sugar, and can be to blame for serious health consequences. While the jury is still out on this, most medical experts do agree that any type of sweetener can contribute to high rates of obesity, along with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

There have also been claims that genetically modified corn can cause ill effects, although this topic is also quite controversial.

How to Limit Consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup

Massey believes, as consumers, we need to pay attention to our food and beverage choices and develop a better understanding of how our food is sourced. "In regards to the debate over high fructose corn syrup, as a dietitian and diabetes educator, I'm typically advocating for individuals to incorporate more non-sweetened beverages versus sweetened beverages into their diet," says Massey. "As a general rule, we all should be monitoring our consumption of added sugars."

The American Heart Association (AHA) also recommends that women limit daily added sugar intake to no more than 100 calories per day (that's about six teaspoons), and men to 150 calories per day (nine teaspoons).

It's also important to read labels and familiarize yourself with the different names that corn derivatives can be listed as, which include maltodextrins, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, baking powder, and dextrose.

The Importance of Eating Right

Massey and other nutritionists say that beyond paying attention to sugar and other ingredients, the best way to eat for good health is to choose a balanced whole food diet that's high in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limiting unhealthy fats.

Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, reviewed this article.



Sources: "Sugars and Carbohydrates." American Heart Association. N.d. Web. 13 May 2013.

Massey, Alison. MS, RD, LDN, CDE. Registered dietitian and diabetes educator. Center for Endocrinology, Mercy Medical Center. Email interview. 10 May 2013. "High-Fructrose Corn Syrup: Any Health Concerns?" 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 14 May 2013.