What is High Fructose Corn Syrup? + Mustard BBQ Recipe!

You may have heard of this chemical sweetener called High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), but not realized it’s actually in most processed foods! It even lurks in places you’d never guess.

Before I tell you WHERE it is, I want to tell you WHAT it is and WHY it’s so important to stay away from it.

Wikipedia defines HFCS as “any of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce a desired sweetness.”

In normal terms?  It’s a sweetener made from cheap varieties of corn.  It’s made in a lab, and manipulated to form a liquid sweetener.  Since it’s not made from organic corn, you get a shot of GMOs each time you consume it.

Why do we use it?

Well, that’s an interesting question.  It’s a long answer, but here is the short version:

  • It’s a cheap sweetener.  By now, you should assume that most large food companies out there do not exist so that we get the nutrients we need to live long, full, healthy lives.  It’s all about the money, baby.  HFCS is cheap.  Bottom line. It’s cheap because the government pays to keep the cost of corn down (called subsidizing) giving the allusion that corn is cheap.  In reality, without the government’s help, HFCS wouldn’t be cheap, nor would any product with corn in it (about 90% of all processed foods contain corn or soy).  Get the picture?
  • There’s an overabundance of corn.  So what do you do with a surplus?  Find new ways to use it! Thus, this chemical sweetener.
  • It’s easier to blend and transport.  I hate that this takes precedence over my health.

The problem is (the same with most chemicals in food) that we really don’t know the long term effects of these chemicals.  The FDA says that HFCS is “generally recognized as safe.”

Generally?  That doesn’t mean definitely.  I will not be a walking science experiment.  I did that for 27 years and had a myriad of health issues myself and produced two children with a disease related to food.  In fact, one of them can’t eat food at all and one can only eat 5 foods.

Nope. No longer.

Some known side effects of HFCS are: obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic liver disease, dementia, tooth decay, cancer, and appetite dysfunction.

So I would say this leaves room for us to wonder what role this chemical plays in our lives, especially when combined with others we probably consume on a daily basis.

It’s important to be careful what we read.  This is a general rule for life, but especially in cases related to our health.  There are several websites created to help people understand what HFCS is, calling it corn sugar.  That’s just a pretty name for it, a name that sounds much “better” and “natural.”  The reality is that these websites are funded by the Corn Industry. They twist words, misuse words, and craft words to make people believe it’s actually good for you.

This is what they say: (from www.sweetsurprise.com)

  • Cost: When creating products, using HFCS has significant economic advantages over sugar
  • Taste: HFCS works to make food taste better, such as bread, spaghetti sauce and yogurt
  • Composition: HFCS works to make foods, such as chewy breakfast bars, stay fresh and allows for a soft texture

1. They admit it’s cheaper.  But they use the word “economic.” So crafty.

2. Better?  You know what makes stuff taste better? REAL FOODS like honey, maple syrup, sea salt, fresh spices.  I’ve eliminated HFCS out of my diet for almost 2 years now, and food has NEVER tasted better to me.

3. Stay fresh?  That’s a nice way to say that the food can stay on the shelf for years without going rancid.  No thank you.  If it has no expiration date and is made in a lab, it takes a lab to digest.  I have a human body, so that doesn’t work for me!

In an interesting article entitled “5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You,” the author states:

Research done by his group at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute found that free fructose from HFCS requires more energy to be absorbed by the gut and soaks up two phosphorous molecules from ATP (our body’s energy source).

This depletes the energy fuel source, or ATP, in our gut required to maintain the integrity of our intestinal lining. Little “tight junctions” cement each intestinal cell together preventing food and bacteria from “leaking” across the intestinal membrane and triggering an immune reaction and body wide inflammation.

High doses of free fructose have been proven to literally punch holes in the intestinal lining allowing nasty byproducts of toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins to enter your blood stream and trigger the inflammation that we know is at the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and accelerated aging. Naturally occurring fructose in fruit is part of a complex of nutrients and fiber that doesn’t exhibit the same biological effects as the free high fructose doses found in “corn sugar”.

In order to stay away from this chemical sweetener, you have to know what it’s in.  To be honest, you’ll be appalled.  Plus, I’ll never be able to list them all.  I’ll list a few that I know used to not only be in my pantry, but also the “foods” that used to make up most of my daily intake of calories!

If I listed everything HFCS is in, you’d be shocked.  In fact, go check your pantry and put everything in it that contains HFCS on your kitchen table and take a look.

Here are some ones that I used to have in my pantry:

  • Sarah Lee Bread
  • Aunt Jemima’s Syrup
  • Kraft Products: BBQ sauces, Oscar Meyer Lunchables, Salad Dressings, Kool-aid, Capri Sun, A1 Steak Sauce, and more
  • Coke products
  • Heinz Ketchup
  • Nabisco Saltines
  • Smuckers Jelly
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Campbell’s soups
  • Mott’s applesauce

Honestly, the list could go on and on.

So, you know what it is, and maybe you’re horrified at how much you actually consume. So what do you do now?

Well, if this article touched you, I would make a pact to avoid this chemical sweetener.

Here are some practical things you can do:

  • Read every label before you buy.  You might be discouraged because everything you normally buy has this chemical in it.  But it’s THAT important.  Put it back, even if it’s your favorite processed food.
  • Make a better choice.  Try looking at the Organic section for a better option.  If it’s an organic product, it won’t have HFCS in it because it’s most likely made from GMO corn.  Better yet, find a way to make what you want from scratch.  For example, instead of buying the canned Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup, try making this amazing Tomato Bisque from 100 Days of Real Food. I also love her chart about HFCS because it gives specific alternatives to many of the products!
  • Don’t be fooled.  Many products will use marketing to their advantage and put “No High Fructose Corn Syrup” on the front of the label, only to switch it out for plain corn syrup.  Still–not much better.  Find a product with integrity.  Need help? Ask!

The big problem with HFCS, besides its health effects, is that it’s hidden.  We are eating “trusted” brands and rarely question their products because of our loyalty.  The more I learn about each ingredient, the more I see the true motivation behind these companies, and I’m not longer loyal.

If a product contains HFCS, you can bet it’s a food with low nutritional value depleted of nutrients that’s full of empty calories and artificial ingredients.  Our bodies were not designed (I’m pretty sure, :)) to run effectively off foods made in a lab.  In fact, that’s why mine didn’t run so great for most of my life.  Now, I’m treating it well, like the temple God tells me it is, and it’s doing what it’s supposed to.  That way, I’m freed up to live for God!

As promised, here’s an alternative to a chemical-laden BBQ sauce that’s divine.  For the spices, it might drive some of you crazy that I say a “pinch,” but I’m serious when I say that.  Big, little, whatever.  Experiment.  Have fun. Taste it. Adjust it.  Make it yours!  I love this as a base recipe, but if I didn’t have a baby eating this, I’d bring up the heat a little bit with more cayenne pepper.

This sauce is great for basting while grilling, for roasting, for Jackfruit BBQ Sandwiches, or for topping steamed or roasted veggies and rice!

Mustard BBQ Recipe
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • ½ cup yellow mustard
  • ¼ cup Blackstrap Molasses
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 2 pinches smoked paprika
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch oregano
  • 1 pinch sea salt (we used smoked sea salt we got from our trip to Asheville, NC to add to the smokey flavor)
  1. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.



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