Before you think I’m giving you the thumbs-up on eating sugar-laden food like donuts and cookies, and drinks like milk shakes and southern sweet tea, let me explain the different kinds of sugars. The sugar glucose (good sugar) is used or stored as glycogen, to be reserved for energy when needed; while fructose is converted by the liver and stored mostly as fat. Our brain as well as our muscles receive energy from glucose sugar. 

The dangers of High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). This sugar is a very deceptively labeled food that some manufacturers are changing to read as barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup, to name a few, making you think there is NO HFCS in the ingredients. The Corn Refiners Association, which represents firms that make the syrup, have been trying to improve the image of the much-defamed sweetener with ad campaigns promoting HFCS as a natural ingredient made from corn. This group has petitioned the United States Food and Drug Administration to start calling the ingredient “corn sugar,” arguing that “a name change is the only way to clear up consumer confusion about the product.” That is fake advertising! And what is most upsetting is that HFCS is found in every dish on the fast-food restaurant menu, including meat sauces and marinades. Many food manufacturers promoting health will in plain sight add HFCS! Some of theses foods are well-known store brands that include: cereal ~ bread ~ frozen food ~ salad dressing ~ BBQ sauce ~ ketchup ~ jarred pasta sauce ~ canned soup ~ baby and pet food ~ pancake syrup ~ jam ~ fruit-flavored beverage ~ fruit-filled yogurt ~ popsicles ~ frozen yogurt/ice cream.

The difference between Corn Syrup and High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Both are made from corn starch, but regular corn syrup is 100 percent glucose, while High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has had some of its glucose converted enzymatically to fructose by means of a very dangerous chemical process. Food manufacturers favor HFCS because it’s cheaper to make and one-and-a-half times sweeter than white sugar (sucrose)! HFCS and sugar have been shown to drive inflammation, which is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Studies show that consuming HFCS affects the ability to focus and actually slows down learning. Along with sugar, HFCS resulted in neurological dysfunctions and reduced memory recall. To add insult to injury, HFCS is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and sugar is recognized as a food!

Natural highfructose foods: fruit juices, honey, apples, grapes, pears, watermelon, asparagus, peas and zucchini. These foods are superior in their nutritional value and fiber (except for the fruit juice), but they should be limited by someone who is intolerant to fructose. Some lower fructose foods are bananas, blueberries, strawberries, carrots, green beans and lettuce. All fruits and veggies have some level of fructose, but the fiber and chewing time slows down the absorption of sugar. If you experience any stomach/colon discomfort or headache/joint pain, irritability/depression or lethargy two minutes to two hours after eating any of these foods mentioned, it could be that you have a fructose intolerance. 

The glucose (good sugar) that our body needs: whole grain bread ~ oatmeal ~ pasta ~ rice ~ sweet/new potatoes ~ veggies ~ fruit ~ yogurt ~ whole milk. Of course all of these foods are carbohydrates, a source of sugar, and all sugars start to metabolize in the mouth (unlike proteins and fats). In 1981, Dr. David Jenkins and his colleagues from the University of Toronto invented the Glycemic Index (GI), a scale in which we can rate the absorption of glucose from the carbohydrate content of food. Glucose is used for energy by your body; only 20% is metabolized by the liver to decide to store it or turn it into triglycerides. With fructose sugars, 100% is metabolized by the liver into triglycerides or stored as fat. 

Keep in mind that high GI foods combined with a food low in a GI number can balance out the high absorption of fructose sugars, keeping you more satisfied and less likely to crave sweets. With the exception of watermelon that should be eaten only with other melons, try combining strawberries with oatmeal, veggies with olive or coconut oil, or potatoes with sour cream/butter, to make a difference in total GI numbers. Of course, fruit is a healthier way to quench a sweet tooth and add nutrients to the diet rather than eating processed sugary foods. Eat combining foods like: an apple with cheese or nut butter, an orange with yogurt, and apple pie with whole cream (instead of ice cream) to help slow down the absorption of sugar. Dried fruits have the highest amount of fructose compared to their fresh counterparts. Eat dried fruit like raisins/figs/apricots with walnuts/pecans. 

Limit processed foods. Choose fresh whole fruits instead of juice; whole grains like oatmeal, adding your own sweeteners like raisins or bananas instead of brown sugar or ½ serving whey protein powder; quinoa and pearled barley in place of processed bread; home-baked sweets instead of over-sugared store bought. I challenge my clients on The nofad Weight Loss program to cut ½ the amount of sugar that recipes call for. They tell me that their families like the recipes better! And FYI: 90% of the sugar grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, so buy organic. 

The problem with excess calorie intake. The excessive consumption of any food category (carbs, proteins and fats) will cause a rapid rise in blood glucose, which stimulates the release of insulin, and insulin promotes fat storage. Eating an excess amount over your recommended dietary allowance will also increase another hormone called ghrelin, which increases the desire for sweets. A vicious circle! You might not feel the results of pigging-out one time, but the continuous over-consumption of foods in any category will no longer be stored for later usage but transformed instead into triglycerides. Because the body cannot burn triglycerides, they accumulate! Other causes of high triglycerides include hypothyroidism, kidney disease, lipid storage disease, some medications and menopause.

This is the thing… HFCS metabolizes in the liver with the same results as the over consumption of food, leading to high triglycerides! Fructose does not go through the same metabolic system as glucose (good sugar) and instead bypasses the process, being quickly converted into body fat! As a result, HFCS does not spike insulin. This causes a short-circuit in the brain that doesn’t register satiety (a feeling of fullness), as it does when simple glucose is consumed, and this leads to overeating! Want to avoid these health problems? Read ingredient lists in order to avoid HFCS.