When picking sweeteners, there are many options, including white sugar, maple syrup, and agave nectar. Another common sweetener is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It is a highly-processed food that’s well-known to be unhealthy. It’s less healthy than natural sweeteners like raw honey, stevia leaf, and monk fruit. The big question is, is corn syrup bad for you?
One tablespoon of corn syrup has about 14.5g of carbs, which is already about 2g higher versus white sugar. When picking a sweetener, there are certainly other factors to weigh besides carbs. They include sugars, vitamins/minerals, and processing methods. These are all key factors that can help to compare different sweeteners like HCFU and sugar. There’s no question corn syrup isn’t the world’s healthiest food. However, the big question is whether or not you should pick it over sugar when shopping at your local grocery store.
What Is Corn Syrup?
This sweetener is made from the starch of corn. Corn syrup bought in grocery stores is different from the high-fructose variety that’s often used to make lots of unhealthy store-bought food items. The store-bought syrup is pure glucose. No question makes it somewhat unhealthy from the get-go. It differs from options like raw honey that involve minimum food processing.
Meanwhile, HFCS is first converted into fructose using a special process. The process is cheap and makes High fructose corn syrup is sweeter than standard corn syrup or white sugar. High fructose corn syrup is added to many kinds of products, including white bread and sodas.
You can add corn syrup to various foods like ice cream, In general, it’s not recommended to add multiple sweeteners to foods. However, in the case of corn syrup, adding a little can help to make Dessert 2.0. One of the main benefits is the smooth texture that can help balance out white grains from sugar.
One caveat to keep in mind is while you cannot buy HFCS itself in supermarkets, some corn syrups contain it. In general, you should avoid these products. The reason is you’d be getting a processed corn product and super-processed corn product.
You should still use corn syrup in moderation since it is high in carbs and being pure sugar. There are also low-carb options like stevia leaf and monk fruit extracts.
Is Corn Syrup Bad for You?
Here’s what you get from one serving (2 tbsp/1 oz) of corn syrup:
- Calories: 80
- Carbs: 20g
Here are the nutrition facts for one serving (2 tbsp/1 oz) of white sugar:
- Calories: 98
- Carbs: 26g
The same amount of white sugar is somewhat higher in calories and carbs versus corn syrup. Neither sweetener qualifies as low carb. You can consume them on low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets like Keto Ultra and Atkins. The calories aren’t sky-high but consider that it’s just a sweetener that provides no nutritional value.
You’re getting the same stuff from corn syrup and white sugar since they’re both pure sugar. Since they’re sugars, they can cause the same health effects as blood sugar spikes, weight gain, and tooth decay.
One of the main differences between the two products is their source. Corn syrup is made from the whole grain, while white sugar is made from sugarcane. However, in both cases, you still get sugar. Corn is a starchy vegetable, so you’re getting high sugars even though they’re natural sugars.
Another difference is the consistency. When cooking or baking with white sugar, its grainy texture may be an issue if you’re trying to get a creamy texture from foods like pudding.
Best Alternatives to Corn Syrup
This sweetener is made from the sap of coconut flowers instead of coconut meat. After the water is evaporated from the sap, it turns into a product that looks like brown sugar. However, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index (GI), so it takes longer to increase blood sugar. You also get nutrients like iron, zinc, and Vitamin Bs.
The extract from this Chinese fruit is low-calorie/carb. The extra has 0 calories and is up to 250x sweeter versus sugar. It’s also believed to have antioxidant properties. The natural sweetener’s name is based on its use by monks and has been part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM0 for centuries.
You get lots of natural sugars from monk fruit. An interesting fact about monk fruit is the sweetness is from antioxidants instead of natural sugars.
This is the real deal instead of the highly-processed varieties sold in supermarkets. This product is from the maple tree’s sap. It’s then boiled to remove the water. You get antioxidants that can help to protect body cells, including zinc and manganese.
The keyword is raw. This is less processed than refined honey. Like other foods, including apple cider vinegar (ACV), the darker color means it’s less processed versus other forms. Honey is a superfood, and the oldest bunch was found in a Georgia (country) honey pot. Honey is high in natural sugars but also contains lots of nutrients, including antioxidants.
The caveat when picking stevia products is the amount of processing that’s been made. Some highly-processed stevia products aren’t much healthier than white sugar. One of the possible drawbacks of stevia is it’s quite sweet. So you’ll just need a little to sweeten your drinks, baked goods, and so on.
The bottom line is that neither of these sweeteners is healthy. Corn syrup is also considered pure sugar, but just in a liquid form. If you’re making foods that require a smooth texture, then corn syrup is probably a better option vs. table sugar.