Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Sugar vs. high fructose corn syrup: Which evil is lesser?

  • Neither is really good for you.

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  • This week, a Los Angeles court will take a look at the case of sugar producers suing the high fructose corn syrup industry. The heart of the lawsuit is that Big Sugar accuses the Corn Refiners Association of making false statements to the public in its advertisements. For one, HFCS is man-made, says BS, not a natural product as the ads claim it to be. The ads also assert that HFCS is “nutritionally the same as table sugar and your body can’t tell the difference,” which BS argues is a blatant lie.
    What's more, HFCS producers have applied to the FDA to change its name to "corn sugar," presumably to improve the sweetener's image that's taken a severe beating over the last decade or so. This move has only raised the ire of the sugar interests even more.
    Reading about this got me to thinking about all things sweet and yes, made my mouth water a little. Of course, it doesn't take much to turn my sweet tooth into a raging fire.
    Neither of these things is good for you, and anyone who argues otherwise is in total denial so as to not feel guilty when satisfying his/her sweet cravings several times a day and to justify the huge weight gain and health problems as a result of this. Lots of things are bad for you, though – tobacco, saturated fats and too much liquor, to name a few – so what's the big deal? Why are sweets always targeted as the evilest of carbs when other foods, like starchy pasta and chips, are just as high in carbs and probably equally unhealthy?
    It's a matter of moderation, something we Americans do not know how to practice well at all. Consider these numbers from the USDA: In 2010, Americans consumed 47 pounds of sugar and 35 pounds of HFCS per person, which is at least three times more than the per-capita intake anywhere else in the world and almost four times more than the recommended daily allowance. This averages out to 888 calories per day from sweeteners alone. Hmm, just how does that fit into a 1,500 calorie diet?
    It doesn't take a 20-year study to analyze why we overindulge in sweet foods; they're yummy, addictively so. They're also highly abundant, available at our fingertips to satisfy those sweet cravings for a relatively small cost.
    OK, I accept the fact that toffee, French mints, Better-Than-You-Know-What-Cake (this is a family newspaper) and the like are inherently evil, but sweets do good things, too.
    Case in point: Sugar and HFCS have made it possible for millions of kids around the country to fulfill their dreams of taking once-in-a-lifetime trips, participate in fun activities and earn cool prizes. What would the world be without Girl Scout Cookies, other than a little skinnier? The Boy/Cub Scout candy covered popcorn is also to die for. Everyone has surely had a good taste of World's Finest Chocolate at one time or another, as it's a popular fundraiser for non-profits due to the low cost of the candy bars and boxes of candy. Even other kids can afford to buy a couple.
    Page 2 of 2 - Sure, some groups, like FFA, sell healthier things like fruit for their fundraisers, but guess what? They also offer empty calorie fare like fruit gummies at the same time. Those frozen food sales with overpriced seafood, chicken and potatoes have plenty of pies, butter braids and cookies on the order sheets to make up for the good-for-you things.
    Then there's the bake sales, where most everything offered up for sale has absolutely no redeeming food value, and leave adults who eat the stuff sluggish and kids flying through the roof and beyond. But everybody loves those homemade donuts, krum kake, rosettes, kringle and assorted cookies you can only find at bake sales held at churches, schools and malls to raise money for organizations. Many hands put in many hours, and their own dollars, to create these carb-filled delicacies, so it's only right that those who don't have the time to do this themselves purchase these things from them.
    So why don't the powers that be just ban bake sales and empty calorie fare from other fundraisers? The answer is simple: They wouldn't raise enough funds. Sugar (and HFCS) sells. People don't go to bake sales to load up on tofu and sprouts, nor do they expect to buy whole-grain pasta or organic, fiber-rich cereal from Scouts. Organizations bring in a lot more bucks with sweets.
    A lot of folks who don't often buy banana bread, candy or cookies at a store are more than happy to get these things from others to contribute to a good cause. And as long as they have it around, might as well not let it go to waste.
    Lest you think I'm acting all high and mighty about sweets, I freely admit that I'm as guilty as anyone else of overindulging, and it shows. It hasn't helped that Hubby and I are our daughters' best customers when they're selling Girl Scout Cookies and frozen foods that include scrumptious cheesecakes, apple pie minis and Butterfinger pie. It's extremely hard to practice moderation when everything tastes so darn good.
    So here's my solution to the whole sugar vs. HFCS thing: make them both taste so bad that no one will touch them. Yeah, like that's going to happen.

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