In Part 3 of my series I'm discussing High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). In my opinion, this is the most controversial element of what I talk about. I wish it wasn't in existence, however it is. I don’t believe all sugar is the same; our bodies process sugars derived from foods differently than a chemically produced ‘sugar’. High Fructose Corn Syrup, like a PHO, is industrially manufactured so it enters the body as a foreign substance and wreaks havoc throughout the digestive system.
When I think about the information here and how to share it, I feel a need to raise my voice, placing emphasis on each and every word! This all matters so much and I want others to understand the gravity of this situation.
Did you know?
- Sugar (sucrose) is a 50/50 ratio of tightly bound fructose to glucose
- HFCS is a 55/45 ratio that is an unbound form of fructose to glucose
- Higher concentrations of fructose can cause more long-term damage to the body.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is cheaper to produce. That's why it has been used as a sugar substitute in sodas, sauces, juice, and a myriad of other foods, some of which surprise me--like ketchup. Similar to my mention about spaghetti sauce in the Nitty Gritty post, why sweeten ketchup, spaghetti sauce, or any other savory foods? You can even find it in breads, crackers, and of course, candy.
Because HFCS is an unbound form of fructose to glucose, it's absorbed more rapidly into the bloodstream and then ends up at the liver, the only organ equipped to process fructose. When consumed in high amounts it turns into fat. And, High Fructose Corn Syrup doesn’t signal the trigger in our brains to indicate when we are full and satisfied. We end up gorging ourselves; not realizing we have eaten an entire bag of snack size candy bars or consumed an entire can of pop trying to quench our thirst. Because HFCS has a sharp, sweet flavor it can also desensitize our taste buds. Satisfying our sweet tooth becomes more difficult, so we consume much more - it's a vicious cycle.
Our bodies have a difficult time processing higher fructose levels, levels above 55% are unhealthy. Agave nectar fructose levels hover around 70%. Conversely, unrefined sugars and natural sugars found in fruit are much better for our bodies, breaking down more slowly than its counterpart HFCS which is in liquid form. Most fruits, except most dried fruits, are well below 55%.
A few naturally sourced sugars: I'm hesitant to include Agave Nectar on this list. Even though it's naturally sourced, it's processed similarly to Partially Hydrogenated Oil which diminishes the original benefits of the plant.
- Real Maple Syrup, not the Mrs. Butterworth’s ™ variety
- Stevia, a product I haven’t tried, so my verdict is still out on this option
- Agave Nectar
Not so naturally sourced: In one 12 oz. can of pop there are 39 g of carbohydrates - all in the form of sugar. If we were measuring out a comparison to sugar it is equivalent to 10 tsp of sugar, which is significantly more than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Think about this - it will not be the only thing you consume during the day that contains sugar.
- RDA is 6 tsp equivalent to 25 g = 100 calories.
Did you know?: When you read the label on a can of pop, no matter what size, it indicates 1 serving.
Try this experiment to get a visual image of how much sugar is in a can of pop-- measure out 10 tsp of sugar into a glass, or clean surface. I'm amazed every time.
Recently I spoke to an Assistant Store Manager at my local Publix, he visits an area community school of 3rd-5th graders and talks to them about nutrition, growing veggies, etc. which I think is pretty awesome. During a recent visit he was addressing the amount of sugar in pop. At the beginning of the session he asked the students how many teaspoons they think are in a can, he received a variety of responses. As he started scooping out the sugar he asked them to holler stop whenever 'they thought' he should be finished. After only three teaspoons several students yelled stop, but he just shook his head and continued. By the time he did finish, they were amazed, but not in a good way. We've got a lot to learn from them.....
Within the past couple of years many of the beverage companies are offering a throwback to the days when it was made with real sugar. I haven't tried any of them, except for a Mexican coke, which has always been made with real sugar. If you have a genuine craving, try the real sugar version and see what you think. Or, if you need a bubbly, carbonated fix, try LaCroix Sparkling Water™ it's made with natural essence oils extracted from fruit.
After I got my stomach discomfort in check I felt a pull to wean myself off of sugar, I was definitely eating more than my fair share, especially the refined variety. First I tried quitting cold turkey, but that didn't stick. I wanted to do it the sustainable way, so I researched sugar cravings which opened a whole new world of foods that were incredibly delicious, satisfying, and easy to find or prepare.
I started by increasing my healthy fat intake, this helped me to feel satiated so I wouldn't go searching for something sweet after my meals. I used real, grass-fed butter on my bread, ate half an avocado as a side dish sprinkled with lemon, salt, and pepper, and used EVO on my salads. Then I increased the amount of beans in my menu, whether it was red beans and rice, or a bean spread with carrots for dipping, I found a way to use them more frequently. And, If I did have a chocolate craving I bought bars with a higher cocoa content. I've always loved darker chocolate so this transition was easier for me than most, if you're struggling try increasing the percentage gradually until you adjust to the less sweet but bitter flavor.
Eventually the bitter won't be offensive at all, in fact you may find milk chocolate is much too sweet for your palate!
It wasn't until later that I learned about fermented foods to aid in sugar cravings, but once I tried them I was thoroughly impressed and hooked. Besides fermented foods being beneficial for your gut health, these foods can add some unexpected zest to your meals. One of my favorite go-to meals is kimchi over rice with an egg on top, yum.
To help curb sugar cravings:
- Increase your healthy fat intake, yes there are plenty of fats that are beneficial to our bodies.
- Eat dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content, the higher the fat content the more satiating, and lower in sugar. If you buy a bar, a square or two can hit the spot. Plus you get the benefit of anti-oxidants, I can subscribe to that!
- Beans they are higher in carbs, so they satisfy your desire for sugar and since the fiber slows down digestion you feel more full.
- Bone broth, I've been learning about this miracle food lately.
- Fermented foods are very beneficial to your gut health, helping to squash those sugar cravings. Look for sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, yogurt, pickles, homemade sourdough starter bread, and kefir.
- Supplements like Chromium Picolinate or L-Glutamine may help to reduce cravings.
- I’ve also read recently where people will brush their teeth shortly after a meal to trick themselves, essentially they create a new habit to avoid eating sweets after a meal. Pretty clever if you ask me.
That's really what it's about, creating a new habit to create change, I recommend you start small. When you start small those are the habits that stick, you do it again, again, and again, and then you gain momentum which is so sweet! Pun intended!