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High-Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar

You've probably seen those commercials boasting that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) isn't as bad for you as you think, since it's made from all-natural corn. It's misleading though because just like refined white sugar, HFCS is a highly processed sweetener. Both sugar and HFCS provide zero nutrition and loads of empty calories.

Check out the chart below to see how the two compare.

Calories Carbs (g) Sugars (g)
1 tbsp. white sugar 46 12 12
1 tbsp. high-fructose corn syrup 53 14.4 5

To find out if one is healthier than the other


HFCS is more processed and it's cheaper than sugar so it's added to more foods. The campaign that's in favor of HFCS says it's OK to eat in moderation, but since it's found in so many foods, it's tough to avoid. HFCS also affects the hunger hormone in your body known as leptin, which creates an increase in your appetite and causes people who eat foods with HFCS to overeat. So the concept of self-control is thrown out the window.

The bottom line is that your body processes both sugar and HFCS in the same way, and eating either can lead to obesity and diabetes. That means neither is healthier than the other. That's not to say you should ban all foods from your diet that contain sugar or HFCS, but try to eat less than 40 to 45 grams of added sugar a day. Read labels and look for the names sugar, HFCS, as well as this list of sugars.


sybel sybel 5 years
I enjoyed working 21 years for the largest food manufacturing company. They are mostly about sugar related ingredients. That caused me to gravitate to vegetables, legumes, nuts, oats, grape nuts, hominy grits, eggs, cheeze, skim milk, wild salmon, and 10 lbs now whey protein isolate. It's high protein and high fiber baby. On occasion I'll purchase other products but first check that sugar and saturated fat is less than a few grams. Few folks actually have the brain power to hang with that, which is both funny and sad.
pantry-police pantry-police 5 years
You need to do a bit more homework on how these two sweeteners are processed in the body. HFCS is processed by the liver and has a proven existence of mercury in 9 of 20 samples. Sugar is processed by the insulin ports and contains no known mercury
xtinabeena xtinabeena 8 years
is there a difference between HFCS and 'corn syrup'?!
luvthej luvthej 8 years
I think HFCS as well as those awful chemical sweeteners like aspartame are on their way out anyway. HFCS is not going to be able to overcome all the negative PR from all these health studies coming out. I know when I first saw those commercials about it, I laughed. What propaganda! I know that when I eat something with HFCS, it just feels less filling, less satisfying than something with another type of sugar. Also, both Coke and Pepsi have poured millions into their own Stevia based products, and it will be showing up in sodas and foods of all kinds very soon. It will probably kill off aspartame and decrease sucralose's market share as well, thankfully. I've been using Stevia for years, it's great in drinks especially, I'm glad to see it coming back after it was outlawed very suspiciously, just before aspartame's introduction.
Cynth Cynth 8 years
I usually use stevia, agave syrup, or maple syrup as sweeteners. Those are still processed somewhat, but not as much as conventional sweeteners. Stevia is naturally green, so the white stevia you see in the store is more processed. For baking, apple sauce (make your own- no sugar added), extra-ripe bananas, and dates are great sugar substitutes.
Allytta Allytta 8 years
you forgot to mention the healthy option. which sugar should i buy then? cause the brown one is processed too :(
Chef-Green-RD Chef-Green-RD 8 years
As I chef and registered dietitian I agree with the statement “your body processes both sugar and HFCS in the same way.” Your body breaks that food into the same molecular components during digestion and your body does not recognize any difference between the two. Therefore, HFCS does not affect leptin levels. HFCS has been the subject of much attention and misinformation in the last few years and recent studies now show that high fructose corn syrup is no different from other sweeteners. Even leading former critics of high fructose corn syrup reached a consensus that this sweetener is indistinguishable from table sugar in its metabolic effects and that it can not be linked to obesity any more or less than other caloric sweeteners (December 2008 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). This consensus echoes the most respected medical body in the world, the American Medical Association, which stated last summer that “high fructose corn syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.” Also keep in mind that when we are comparing a tablespoon of granulated sugar and a tablespoon of HFCS as in the chart in the article --they don’t weigh the same. Liquids and solids rarely weigh the same and there are only a few exceptions in the culinary world. For example one tablespoon of sugar weighs 12.5 grams and has 48.38 calories. A tablespoon of HFCS weighs 19.38 grams and has 54.55 calories but if we make them exactly the same gram amount of 12.5 grams the HFCS calories would equal 35.12 calories. It’s the New Year and everyone tends to look at their weight and what they are eating which is a good thing. We should be more aware of what we consume on a regular basis. Ideally, we should be consuming a variety of foods every day which requires planning and eating what is in season. So as you are planning your meals this year keep in mind that many factors contribute to the development of obesity and its cause cannot be simply attributed to any one component of the food supply such as sweeteners.
FitZucchero FitZucchero 8 years
Actually, I think that looking at HFCS versus sugar on purely a caloric/carb basis, is to simplistic and perhaps taking it too easy on HFCS. As many have cited above, reading books like the Omnivore's Dilemma really give perspective as to how disruptive this "corn" (quotation marks because this strand of corn is nothing like the sweet corn bought in your grocery store--it's an entirely different strain) is to the natural food chain and to our digestive systems, I think the choice is quite simple. I think the conversation needs to be elevated even further than just HFCS, but also people neeed to be made aware of the types of meats they eat as well. For the beef eaters still left out there, make the intelligent (albeit sometimes more expensive) choice and choose grass-fed beef. I now live in Europe which makes thing INFINTELY easier. I barely have to worry about HFCS appearing in my diet.
myystque myystque 8 years
I thought the point of the HFCS commercial was simply to point out that it wasn't worse for you than sugar and isn't that what Fitsugar is also saying? Anyway, I don't go out of my way to avoid corn syrup or sugar. I already have a limited diet and I don't want to curb my choices even more. Then eating is no fun.
misskacie misskacie 8 years
Oh, this stuff is naaasty. I try to stay away from HFCS altogether, but I'd like to ban it from my body completely. I'll have to be more vigilant.
BellaStar BellaStar 8 years
I am so glad this was posted. I recently read that The Corn Industry (and reportedly, several large companies that use high-fructose corn syrup in their products) came together and hired a crisis PR firm to try and change the negative image attached to HFCS. Those cheesey commercials are a result of that and they are so annoying! After watching a few documentaries a few years ago (I recommend The Future of Food) I cut it out of my diet. It wasn't that hard once you get going as there are plenty of products that don't use it. I promise, without changing anything else, I noticed a difference in my body (including small weight loss and more energy) and in my overall health. It could be a coincidence, but I don't think it is. There is a great article here on the health risks: And I second the recommendation for The Omnivore's Dilemma.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Spectra I'm with you. I try to stay away but if I come across something that has it I don't freak out, since I eat it so rarely.
almostloli almostloli 8 years
those smart marketers... they emphasize on.. CORN although it's not necessarily healthy if you're using natural ingredients..
cotedazur cotedazur 8 years
LaurenG - Coke and Pepsi only use HFCS in the sodas they market in the US, due to the government subsidies that make HFCS cheaper than sugar. Everywhere else in the world they use sugar as a sweetener.
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 8 years
I don't actually see this high fructose corn syrup on the labels of most of what I eat.. I don't avoid it on purpose, it's just not there (maybe I buy the right things by accident lol). I think pinpointing it as the sole cause of obesity is miscalculated, but that video FitnFab posted is interesting! I hadn't heard of its affect on Leptin before.. I'm going to look that up.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 8 years
I already starting avoiding more things with HFCS especially because of those dumb commercials. I should probably avoid refined sugar more too actually, even though I already kind of do with some things I eat.
moonischasingme1 moonischasingme1 8 years
Everyone needs to be informed and not buy into this propaganda being spewed about by the corn refiners!! Everyone needs to read the Omnivore's Dilemma or watch the documentary KING CORN!! please.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I avoid HFCS for the most part, but I don't freak if I eat something with HFCS in it...sugar is sugar. But the problem arises from the fact that food manufacturers add it to EVERYTHING and that increases the number of calories in the food. Just try to avoid most processed foods and regular sodas and you avoid a lot of HFCS.
superfoxml superfoxml 8 years
katie225, look for Rachel's yogurts,they're naturally sweetened.
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