High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener made from
It has a similar chemical composition and effect on the body as
HFCS is commonly used because it’s very cheap, particularly in
While many people say HFCS is worse than sugar, there is
currently no evidence to suggest that one is worse than the
other. They are both unhealthy.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to avoid. It’s commonly
added to foods, even some you may think are healthy.
Here is a list of 20 popular foods that often contain
high-fructose corn syrup.
One 12-ounce can of soda can contain close to 50 grams of added
sugar. That’s 13 teaspoons, which exceeds the daily limit of
nine teaspoons of sugar for men and six for women (8).
A great substitute for sugary soda is sparkling
water. Many brands are naturally flavored with fruit and do
not have any calories or added sugar.
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Candy and candy bars are mostly made of sugar.
Several brands add it in the form of HFCS, and it’s often
listed as the first ingredient.
3. Sweetened Yogurt
often advertised as a healthy snack.
Companies claim that it’s low-calorie, nutrient-dense and high
While it certainly can be healthy, several brands of yogurt,
especially low-fat and fat-free yogurts, are nothing but sugar
For example, a single serving of some flavored, low-fat yogurts
contains over 40 grams of sugar, which surpasses the daily
Furthermore, HFCS is often the sweetener of choice for these
types of yogurts.
Instead of buying yogurt with added HFCS, opt for plain yogurt
and add your own flavorings. Vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa
powder and berries
are great options.
4. Salad Dressing
It is important to always be skeptical of store-bought salad
dressings, especially those advertised as low-calorie or
To make up for the flavor that gets removed along with the fat,
companies add sugar or HFCS to please your taste buds.
Just one tablespoon of fat-free French dressing contains three
grams of sugar. Most people add much more than a tablespoon of
dressing and could easily consume more than half of the daily
limit of sugar in a single salad (10).
Your best bet is to make your own salad dressing with simple,
healthy ingredients, such as olive
oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.
5. Frozen Junk Foods
Many healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can be
However, frozen convenience foods, such as TV dinners and
pizzas, have taken over grocery store aisles.
You wouldn’t expect these foods to contain
added sugar, but many of them do in the form of HFCS.
When shopping the frozen aisles, always check ingredient lists
and choose foods without HFCS and other unhealthy ingredients.
It is always important to double check ingredient lists on
Many brands have added high-fructose corn syrup, which can be
surprising because bread isn’t usually thought of as a sweet
7. Canned Fruit
fruit is peeled and preserved, a process that strips the fruit
of its healthy fiber.
Although fruit already contains plenty of natural sugar, HFCS
is commonly added to canned versions, especially when they’re
canned in syrup.
To avoid HFCS, always choose fruit that is canned in its
natural juice. Better yet, choose whole fruit so you don’t have
to worry about any added ingredients.
While juice provides some nutrients and antioxidants, it’s a
very concentrated source of sugar with little fiber.
Although juice is naturally high in sugar, some companies
sweeten it even more with HFCS.
It’s best to choose whole fruit to limit your intake of sugar.
9. Boxed Dinners
Boxed dinners, such as macaroni and cheese, often become a
dietary staple due to their convenience.
These types of meals come in a box along with packages of
powdered sauce and seasonings. You just need to add a couple of
ingredients, such as water or milk, and cook it for a short
period of time.
HFCS is often added to these products, along with many other
artificial ingredients. You are much better off cooking a quick
meal for yourself with real food ingredients.
10. Granola Bars
Granola consists of rolled oats combined with various other
ingredients, such as dried fruit and nuts.
This combination of ingredients can be baked and formed into a
popular snack item known as granola bars.
Granola bars tend to be very sweet, as many companies choose to
sweeten them with sugar or HFCS.
The amounts of added sugar in many granola bars are similar to
the amounts found in some candy bars.
The good news is that there are plenty of brands that sweeten
their bars naturally. Always check the ingredients lists.
11. Breakfast Cereal
Cereal is a popular and convenient breakfast food.
Many cereals are advertised as healthy, but they are often
heavily sweetened with sugar or HFCS.
In fact, there are several cereals that contain more added
sweeteners than many types of dessert.
Some brands contain over 10 grams of sugar in only one serving.
It’s easy for some people to eat more than the listed serving
size, which can put them over their daily sugar limit right at
their first meal of the day (19, 20, 21).
Find a cereal without any added sugar or HFCS, or replace it
with an even healthier option, such as oatmeal.
12. Store-Bought Baked Goods
Many grocery stores have their own bakery sections with endless
donuts, cookies and cakes.
Unfortunately, HFCS is the sweetener of choice for many
store-bought baked goods.
13. Sauces and Condiments
Sauces and condiments can seem like an innocent way to add
flavor and texture to your meal.
However, this isn’t always the case. Many of these products
have HFCS listed as the first ingredient.
Two items to be particularly cautious of are ketchup and
Always check ingredient lists for HFCS, and choose the brand
with the least amount of sugar. Also, be sure to watch your
portion sizes with condiments.
14. Snack Foods
Processed foods, such as chips, cookies and crackers,
contain HFCS more often than not.
However, there are healthier brands available — you just have
to look for those without added sweeteners.
Whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, also
make nutrient-dense alternatives to typical snack foods.
15. Cereal Bars
Cereal bars are a popular, quick and easy snack food. They may
seem like a healthy choice for an on-the-go breakfast.
However, like other types of “bars,” cereal bars tend to be
high in added sugar, often in the form of HFCS.
Always check ingredient lists and choose a brand without added
sugar. Or, rethink your breakfast and eat something healthier
in the morning.
16. Nutrition Bars
Nutrition bars, also known as “energy bars” or “health bars,”
consist of high-energy ingredients and are meant to be
They are marketed as meal replacements for individuals who do
not have time for a meal but need energy quickly, such as
Unfortunately, HFCS is added to these quite often, which once
again stresses the importance of always checking ingredient
The good news is that there are some brands that use only
whole-food ingredients, and you can also make your own.
17. Coffee Creamer
Coffee creamer seems harmless until you see the ingredients
that get added to it.
It’s typically made mostly of sugar in the form of HFCS, in
addition to several other unhealthy ingredients.
18. Energy Drinks and Sports Drinks
These types of beverages often seem like a hydrating quick fix
to recover from a workout or energy slump.
But don’t be fooled, as they are typically rich in HFCS and
other ingredients that will do your body more harm than good.
Water is a much healthier beverage choice, as it will increase
your energy levels and quench your thirst without making you
19. Jam and Jelly
Jam and jelly are always rich in sugar, but store-bought
versions are more likely to contain HFCS.
If you want to enjoy these condiments, look for a version with
You can often find locally made jams without HFCS at farmers
markets and co-ops, or learn to make it on your own.
20. Ice Cream
Ice cream is supposed to be sweet, so it is always high in
sugar and meant to be consumed in moderation. Many brands
choose to sweeten their ice cream with HFCS.
Take Home Message
High-fructose corn syrup is an unhealthy ingredient that is
added to all sorts of foods and beverages.
Unfortunately, many of these foods are often mistakenly assumed
to be healthy. Nothing could be further from the truth.