Ingredient Profile #1: High Fructose Corn Syrup

The ingredient labels on the food that we purchase and then eat are so confusing.  You almost need a magnifying glass to read every single word on the label, and half of the ingredients are impossible to pronounce, super complicated and misleading.  I mean, who REALLY knows what xanthan gum is, what really makes an acid “citric” and I’m just throwing this out there…how can an ingredient be a color (RED 40!)?  Therefore, one of the goals of my blog is to shed some light on some of the most cunning and controversial ingredients out there.  Although I certainly don’t have all of the answers, I hope that you’ll find my research and knowledge helpful.  I love questions too, and I’m always willing to find an answer, so feel free to post comments about ingredients you’d like to know more about!

I thought that I’d start my Ingredient Profiles with the one and only, High Fructose Corn Syrup.  It constantly has its name in lights, whether it’s being showcased and debated in the newspaper, the radio, or the TV.  HFCS is genetically modified sugar and it’s almost unnerving as to how many foods it can be found in at the grocery store.  Literally, from hamburger buns to salad dressings to breakfast cereals to soda, HFCS is lurking.  In addition, it’s found in some candy, which is another reason that I thought writing about it would be fitting, because it’s almost Halloween.

HFCS is not a “whole” food and it cannot be found anywhere in nature.  At its core, HFCS is a sweetener that food manufacturers rely heavily on because it is cheap and makes their products more attractive.  Furthermore, on average, Americans consumed 58 pounds of it in 2006.  Due to the fact that it’s sugar, it does lead to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, but what I find most interesting about it is how it is absorbed into the body.  Unlike regular sugar, which consists of 50% fructose and 50% glucose, HFCS is made of up of 55% fructose and 45% glucose.  Unlike regular cane sugar, the fructose and glucose in HFCS is not chemically bonded together.  Consequently, the body doesn’t have to digest HFCS, which almost instantaneously finds its way into our bloodstream.  HFCS then slowly but surely deteriorates the liver, not to mention the enormous low blood sugar that can come quickly after consuming it in large amounts.  Lastly, HFCS is not purely HFCS, instead traces of contaminants have been found in it, the first and most important contaminant being mercury.  However, it is impossible to know the exact traces and amounts of contaminants, because, as a general rule, food companies don’t like this kind of information to be released.

I love love love (did I mention that I LOVE) Sir Francis Bacon’s quote, “Knowledge is power” and I think that it applies a great deal to making healthy food choices and being a proactive and empowered consumer.  While we can’t live in fear about what we’re eating and become paranoid about the ingredients that make up our food, it is beneficial to have a general understanding of some of the most common chemicals found in our food.  It’s unfair that food labels are so unclear, and I hope that in reading this blog, you feel compelled to find some answers to a daunting question, “What’s REALLY inside the food that we eat?”

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

🙂 Katie

References:

Bruso, Jessica. “Cane Sugar Vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup.” Livestrong. Demand Media Inc. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

Hyman, Mark. “The Not-So-Sweet Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup.” HuffingtonPost. The Huffington Post. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. 375 Hudson St. New York, NY: The Penguin Group, 2009. Print.

Advertisements

H2O – The Rockstar of All Beverages!!!

I don’t think that water is given enough credit as a beverage, and is often times overlooked.  This week, try to focus on your water intake.  I guarantee that if you change nothing in your diet except for increasing the amount of water you drink, at a minimum you’ll notice an increase in your energy levels.

At the first Project Lunchbox: Let’s Eat nutrition/cooking education class this past Monday night, one of the activities we did was try to put a variety of beverages in order from most to least sugar.  As you can probably guess, the bottle of water sitting on the table had the least amount of sugar, no calories, no artificial flavors, no preservatives, no chemicals…you get the idea!  Water is a wonderful all natural route for hydration.  This number increases/decreases depending on your height and weight, but generally, eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day is necessary and beneficial.

If you don’t love the taste of water by itself, spruce it up with some fresh lemon or lime juice…a little goes a long way in terms of flavor!  And remember, you can’t go wrong with water at lunchtime!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

🙂 Katie

Everything Is Not Always What It Seems…

I was at the grocery store the other day and came upon a cardboard display filled with energy drinks.  On the front of the display were pictures of Fuse, Powerade, Smart Water, and Vitamin Water.  Underneath these pictures was a slogan in capital letters reading, HYDRATION THAT WORKS FOR YOU.  Above the images of the energy drinks, there were fit and athletic looking people engaging in rigorous physical activity.  In addition to the slogan, words like infuse, hydrate, replenish, and support were also used to describe the drinks.

I think that it’s really important that we, as consumers, form our own opinions about the nutritional value of the foods and beverages we purchase.  A manufacturer will always try to get the consumer to believe that their product is healthy and beneficial.  It’s up to us to either buy into or disregard the information that bombards us from advertisements in the grocery stores, radio, TV, and magazines.

Going back to the display I saw at the grocery store, I think that what the manufacturer of these products was trying to convey was semi-accurate.  Although these energy drinks can be beneficial following a workout, they aren’t necessarily filled with only healthy ingredients.  Therefore, it is up to us as consumers to read the labels and empower ourselves to make healthy choices.

Until Next Week….Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

🙂 Katie

HELLO WORLD!

Welcome to my first ever blog, “Let’s Eat Lunch!”  This blog is part of a very large endeavor that I created called, “Project Lunchbox:  Let’s Eat!  I am a girl scout working on my Gold Award and decided that I want to talk to kids about the vast array of lunchbox choices available to families.  What we discover together will allow us to see the correlation between healthy eating and positive school performance.  Each blog, I will  focus on one or more of the following:  nutrition, wellness, food/ingredient labels, marketing strategies used by manufacturers, and (as previously mentioned) the link between healthy food choices and positive school performance.

Until next time,

Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

🙂 Katie