Is Corn Syrup Bad for You?
We asked a registered dietitian to weigh in.
If you're still wondering about whether or not corn syrup in beer — or any food product, really — is a problem, we've got answers. Keep reading to find out the truth about corn syrup and your health.
What Is Corn Syrup?
Corn syrup is made from (yes, you guessed it) corn. The glucose in corn is extracted and refined, leaving a thick and gooey light golden syrup that is purely glucose. While the names are very similar, corn syrup (which you can buy in the grocery store) is actually very different than high fructose corn syrup used by food manufacturers, which is made from a combination of glucose and fructose.
Corn syrup dissolves well in liquids and doesn’t crystalize like many other sweeteners, so it can come in handy for candy making and shiny sweet sauces. Corn syrup is often used in combination with sugar to give a creamier texture to frozen desserts like ice cream and sorbet. Some bakers use small amounts (teaspoons) in a batch of cookies or brownies to help with the consistency of the final product.
High Fructose Corn Syrup vs Corn Syrup
You can buy corn syrup in any grocery store in the baking aisle. High fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, is an ingredient that you might see on the label of processed food - and you cannot buy it in the supermarket.
Both syrups come from corn, but corn syrup is made up entirely of glucose, while high-fructose corn syrup is made up of glucose and fructose. High fructose corn syrup is not necessarily worse than other sweeteners. The real problem is that foods containing high fructose corn syrup typically pack it in, and Americans eat too many sweeteners to start.
What Foods Contain Corn Syrup?
Aside from home cooking the aforementioned treats, corn syrup is also commonly found in commercial foods like marshmallows, snack foods and syrups. Check ingredient lists to see if it’s found in foods you typically buy. Oh, and that corn syrup in beer you're worried about? It's used to activate the yeast, and is eliminated during the fermentation process, which means it does not make its way into your brewsky!
So Is Corn Syrup Bad for You?
Refined sweeteners are sources of empty calories whether they come from corn syrup or granulated sugar. Eating too many of them can wreak havoc on your insulin levels and contribute to weight gain. Since these sweeteners are added to so many high calorie junk foods, eating them in excess is not a health choice, but there is no need to avoid them completely. Consuming these sweeteners in moderation is key. Be vigilant about checking labels to determine how much added sugar is lurking in your foods. Try and cap sugar intake to the American Heart Association recommendation of 6 to 9 teaspoons per day (25 to 36 grams) and possibly cut back even more if you're trying to lose weight.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.