December 9, 2015

Corn Sweeteners are "Natural" Sugars


There’s no doubt that corn is one of the world’s most a-maize-ing crops!  It has so many uses that benefit people all around the world.  Over the next few weeks, we will feature a new blog series called, “For the Love of Corn”, where we will look at the six different high-value corn product categories and how they are used.

The first high-value corn product category we will look at is Corn Sweeteners! Corn Sweeteners are one of the most important refined corn products.  Last year, corn sweeteners supplied nearly 50 percent of the U.S. nutritive sweetener market. Corn sweeteners, like sugar and honey, are natural and meet the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) policy for use of the term “natural,” meaning that “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.”

Although the FDA has not established a formal definition of the term "natural" for food ingredients, it is accepted that products derived from natural materials are considered natural. The FDA has concluded that "natural" flavors include those products derived from processes such as those used in corn refining. Therefore, corn sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is made from corn—a natural grain product—is consistent with the definition of natural.

High fructose corn syrup, like table sugar, is composed of fructose and glucose. HFCS comes in two compositions—HFCS-42 and HFCS-55. A simple comparison of the percentage of glucose and fructose reveals its striking similarities to table sugar. 
  • HFCS-42 = 42% fructose + 58% glucose
  • HFCS-55 = 55% fructose + 45% glucose
  • Table sugar = 50% fructose and 50% glucose
In fact, due to their similar structures, many health professionals agree that whether it’s sugar from corn or sugar from cane, your body can’t tell the difference—your body metabolizes both the same way.

High fructose corn syrup is one corn sweetener that gets a lot of buzz. It’s that sweet addition that makes your soda taste delicious and can be found in many other products in the grocery store. One of the greatest attributes of HFCS, is its ability to improve food quality—and U.S. food manufacturers have recognized this. HFCS has the ability to preserve and increase product quality while adding taste, texture and freshness. Here is a quick overview of some of the benefits it adds to our food:
  • Texture - Chewy cookies, snack bars and other baked goods derive their soft and moist texture from HFCS since it retains moisture and resists crystallization after baking.
  • Browning - HFCS is a reducing sugar that gives superior browning and flavor to baked goods such as breads, dinner rolls, cakes, cookies and breakfast cereals.
  • Stability - HFCS maintains the long-term quality of beverages and condiments by protecting them from variations due to storage temperature fluctuations or low product acidity.
  • Consistency - High fructose corn syrup has a lower freezing point, so frozen beverage concentrates can be poured straight from the freezer and are easier for consumers to thaw and mix with water.
  • Baking - The sugars in HFCS are quickly and easily fermented resulting in sweeter bread that is more economical to make than with table sugar.
Given all of that, it's not surprising that you see HFCS in a lot of the products you see on the supermarket shelves. And now the next time you see HFCS listed on the ingredient list of your favorite product, you’ll know why. Learn more about how much HFCS is in foods by clicking here.

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