Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Organic Corn Syrup

I was in the sweetener aisle of Whole Foods the other day looking for maple syrup and I stumbled on something funny: organic corn syrup. It claimed to not be made with GMOs.

I kind of wanted to throw up my hands and stop trying to eat healthy altogether. In a world with ambiguities like this, how can anybody win? Organic corn syrup? I'm pretty sure I've used that exact phrase to explain to someone what an oxymoron is. What are you trying to pull, Whole Foods? It's not April Fool's Day!

And then I thought about it. You can break down pretty much any type of plant into a sugar in a more or less "natural" or "organic" way. That's the argument against the health benefits of fruit juices, and it's also the argument the Corn Refiners Association has been trying to shove down our throats for years.

So what's the difference between the innocent sounding "organic corn syrup" and the Orwellian acronym "HFCS?" As far as I can figure out, (and that's a big caveat, so, ya know, take it with a grain of non-iodized sea salt.) high fructose corn syrup, on top of being grown irresponsibly, fed to animals who can't digest it, and put in way too many food products than could ever make sense, is also messed with in a lab to give it more fructose that it naturally has, which makes it sweeter and less viscous, which makes it easier to put in Twinkies and graham crackers and Special K. Oh and did I mention it makes it even sweeter?

But even without all that, corn syrup is a simple sugar. It's not what you call a whole food. (Not in lower-case letters anyway.) And like those stupid TV spots used to say, "it's fine in moderation." The question becomes, what's moderation?

Health food is starting to go mainstream, and Whole Foods is right there to provide the demand for the supply, with its organic corn syrup and its Annie's mac'n'cheese and its vegan frozen pizzas. Is this kind of "health food" the new Diet Coke? Tricking us into thinking it's OK when it's really just more of the same? Would none of this be an issue if we were capable of pacing ourselves and truly moderating how much sugar we ingest?  Or does Michael Pollan's food rule "don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize" come a few generations too late? Should we not be eating processed foods at all? There is that so-called Paleo movement where people try to live like cavemen, running around barefoot and eating raw meat and stuff. How extreme should we get with this?

But back to the organic corn syrup. 'Tis the season to indulge, and if I could find a way to justify baking with this, it would open up a whole new world. I could make my own caramel! I could make those little chocolate turtle things!

How about you? Do you bake with corn syrup? If not, what's your sweetener of choice? More importantly, how do you define "moderation," and how do you reign in your sweet tooth during the overly commercialized overly indulgent stress-packed joyful weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's?

10 comments:

  1. Rolling eyes at organic corn syrup and other organic-washed faux health foods.

    Moderation to me means not eating sweets every day, making them less sweet than normal, and using whole food sweeteners such as dates and dried fruit, which still contain the foods' natural fiber, nutrients, etc.

    With a little experimentation you can still make caramel treats with coconut sugar or nectar, which has a delicious caramel flavor and is supposed to be lower glycemic than other concentrated sweeteners. Still, it IS sweet and should still be just an occasional indulgence and not an everyday staple.

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  2. Thanks for the tip about coconut! I'll try it out!

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    1. im alittle late to this, but since i can, i will reply.. i like to make marshmallows. i also like to make ice cream (using coconut mylk that i make myself). i try to be dairy and gluten free, as well as food combine, and ingest as few grains as possible. i read every label. hard to be me. anyhoo, i digress.. back to marshies: the recipe i like calls for 1 cup of corn syrup. there was a time in the recent past when i consumed 0 corn, in any form. but i confess, over the last 2 years ive weakened and started adding (organic) cornchips and one corn on the cob event in summer to my diet. also, in the winter months, marshmallows. i use only organic sugar, and the whole pay chec- oops, ahem, whole foods organic corn syrup. when it comes to marshmallows im a purist- no substitutions will do. so, yes, i do use that organic corn syrup for this recipe, and i eat 1-2 peppermint marshmallows (dipped in dark 72% chocolate) a night. im not sure if this is moderate consumption, but i dont feel too bad about it. and, soon i will be turning back to ice cream making ('island coconut vanilla bean') and corn syrup will be out. by the way, coconut sugar is great, also coconut vinegar. thanks for the opportunity to contribute to this discussion.

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  3. Thanks for joining in. Those peppermint marshmallows dipped in chocolate sound yummy!

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  4. I use the organic corn syrup for my marshmallows and caramels. I don't eat that many and have no health issues from it. I have used brown rice syrup as a substitute with descent results but the corn works the best. I want to add that HFCS is much different than the light corn syrup's and the light is nowhere near as harmful but unless organic most likely it has GMO's.

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  5. So I had the exact oposite response to you when I saw this. I thought, O thank GOD! I have IBS and I can't digest the bacteria bred into the GMO corn or any overly processed food. So, this product allows me to use corn syrup in my candy making without getting sick. I love making candies and when I was diagnosed I was sad to have to stop making them. This product makes a huge difference in my digestive health and I am now able to eat delicious homemade treats in moderation (which for me means two pieces and the rest gets brought to the office).

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  6. I want the corn syrup. I am not trying to get away from limited amounts of sugar. What I don't want is vaccines and animal genes and roundup all mixed in with my food. I wish processed sugars were the most important food issue facing us. My Grandparents and Great Grandparents didn't stay away from sugar... and I have a Grandmother that is 97 years old right now. She always says that things are okay in *moderation*. If a person is going to drink a case of Soda Pop a day and not ever drink water or anything else... problem. If a person has a Soda a month (which I do) it's probably going to be okay. Reading labels, deciding what's important, doing research, monitoring our own health, using common sense, not eating out at fast food restaurants (or any restaurant for that matter) 7 times a week, etc. These are the things that will affect health in America. I eat sugar. I eat salt. I eat wheat. I eat peanuts. Etc etc etc. But I stay far away from *any* product that contains any kind of garbage that was created in a lab genetically. Yes... Organic Corn Syrup is a great thing. I can use it making Organic Candies that I will happily eat... in moderation and at least have the peace of mind that I am not getting a surprise goat or sheep gene with my corn syrup.

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    1. Thanks for the laugh and the insight! You helped me take a breath and not take myself too seriously. I think you are absolutely right! All the best!

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  7. Thanks for your input, Rob! I totally agree that sweets are fine in moderation, especially if they are made form real ingredients and not in a lab. If we as consumers know what our priorities are and how to stick by them, products like this and their labels will help us. I believe, though, that slapping an organic label on something has a tendency to make it look misleadingly healthy. Just because corn syrup is organic still doesn't make it ok to overconsume.

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