We aren’t crusaders in any real sense. We don’t champion causes for or against much. We’re very lucky in that we have no food allergies severe enough to notice or deter us from foods we like. We eat vegetarian most of the time out of practicality rather than ideology.
However, if we were the crusader type, I know exactly what we’d go after: high fructose corn syrup.
Although there seems to be plenty of evidence that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may be detrimental to health, our main beef with it is that it’s completely unnecessary. As I understand it, food manufacturers began using it as a way to support corn growers, adding it to anything that needed sweetening, and a lot of things that don’t. As a result, Americans have been trained to expect, even crave, super-sweetening in our food!
Not only in our food—a quick check of product ingredient labels finds HFCS in almost everything we put in our mouths, from condiments to toothpastes.
At this point, anything not super sweetened tastes wrong to the American palate.
What’s the harm in that? Just look around at the waistlines in this country.
We, like most Americans, are a family of dedicated sweet tooths (sweet teeth?). Even so, we are slowly, continually weaning ourselves off of HFCS.
It started with toothpastes. I grew up in a family dedicated to one particular brand of popular toothpaste. At some point, Michelle talked me into trying a new, low sugar toothpaste, hoping to get us off the commercial stuff. The new toothpaste actually included directions for use, which specified that one new to the brand try it for about a week. The manufacturer stated pretty plainly that we would hate the taste of the toothpaste, but would soon become used to it.
This was true. Before long, the new toothpaste tasted and felt right, even though it was downright bitter compared to “normal” toothpaste.
I’ve used my old family brand a time or two since then, out of sheer desperation. It feels like I’m brushing my teeth with cake frosting!
I had an example of just how far we’d come earlier this week. This season’s birch tapping has finally yielded results. I have enough sap beyond our wine making needs that I reconstituted frozen juice in birch sap instead of water. The first time I did this, I followed the directions, and got a juice that we found cloyingly sweet. The next time, I “diluted” it with a fair amount more sap than the water called for. As a result, we had a drink that tasted like good fruit juice to us. I don’t know for sure, but I assume the reconstitution directions on the can were tailored to the American craving for super sweets.
We don’t routinely examine food content labels to avoid HFCS, but when we find products that use less or none, we buy them, and stick to them faithfully when possible. We can’t change other peoples’ minds, but we can modify our own behavior when possible, or at least convenient.
I used to hope that the growing interest in biofuels might end the use of HFCS. Imagine if we had the sense to funnel that excess corn into fuel rather than over sweetening everything we eat! That, sadly, does not appear likely. Common sense rarely wins out over greed and complacency.
So, while we may not man the barricades against HFCS, we find that more natural levels of sweetness in our foods and consumable products make life sweet enough, without being too sweet.