8 Things to Know About Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is used abundantly in our food industry. You’ve probably seen it as an ingredient on many products at the grocery store. You can actually buy corn syrup as a product for your recipes. But what exactly is it?

1. Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener derived from corn starch (or maize).

2. Corn starch is used extensively in processed foods and drinks because it is less expensive than sugar, doesn’t crystallize as easily, adds flavor and softens the texture of food.

3. Light corn syrup has been processed to remove all color and doesn’t contain much flavor, while dark corn syrup has had caramel color and molasses added to it.

4. Corn syrup is NOT THE SAME AS from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The vilified HFCS is is derived from corn syrup that is processed with enzymes to create a sweeter syrup with a higher percentage of fructose.

5. Corn syrup is made of sugar and oligosaccharides. Both are carbohydrates. Another carbohydrate, by the way, is starch.When we refer to “sugar”, we mean one of the most simple forms of a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates can be “complex”, such as starch, or “simple”, such as table sugar (sucrose).

6. Oligosaccharides, which make up about 50% of corn syrup, are a form of carbohydrate that is almost as simple as sugar, but  have a few more molecules attached to them. So they are a little more complex, but not enough to be called a starch.

7. The more simple a carbohydrate, the quicker your body absorbs it, causing your “blood sugars” to rise up very quickly, but then drop just as fast. This will make you feel hungry pretty quickly after you’ve eaten something with a high sugar content. Ideally, we want to consume more of the complex carbohydrates, giving us blood sugar levels that don’t fluctuate as much throughout the day.

8. While corn syrup doesn’t have the bad rap of HFCS, it is still loaded with sugar! If corn syrup is listed as one of the top ingredients in a food product, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of it..

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  • http://groundcherry.wordpress.com Stephanie

    Nice summary.  I think the final line is the key– corn syrup is a sign of a processed food aka a food that should be eaten only occasionally!

  • Julia9874

    First, Maize is corn, not corn starch..
    second, starch is not a complex carb.  Simply because it is more complex then sugar does not mean it is a complex carb.

  • http://profiles.google.com/hays.mhays Michele Hays

    FYI – Corn syrup SOMETIMES contains HFCS: http://www.peapod.com/itemDetailView.jhtml?productId=6728&NUM=1311884760711

    Interestingly, though it’s shown here as an ingredient, the Karo website lists the same product as containing “0g High Fructose Corn Syrup.”  I wonder if that means there’s less than a gram?  Deceptive practice, at any rate.

    Personally, I am not certain that HFCS is any worse for you than any other sugar, but if people want to avoid it when buying corn syrup, they should read the labels carefully.

  • WF

    I’d like to suggest a correction …. “Corn starch is used extensively in processed foods and drinks because it is less expensive than sugar”

    No, not necessarily.  Corn prices are rising because of increased demand (food, feed, fuel).  Corn and corn-derived sweeteners are not less expensive than sugar.  In fact, depending on the market, they are nearly equal right now. 

    • FrugalArugula

      HFCS is a multi-tasker. Though I’m not sure straight corn syrup is, but HFCS is sweeter than sugar, so less is needed (which may make it cheaper). HFCS is also a preservative and enhances mouth-feel. 

  • carol

    It’s actually not that “simple.” Fructose (the sugar that makes up about half of HFCS and “table sugar,” both of which are disaccharides) actually takes longer for the body to process than glucose (which is what starches are made from, and which makes up the other half of “table sugar” and most other sugars). This is because it is processed in the liver, involves many reactions and does not cause secretion of insulin (unlike glucose and starches). So if anything, fructose “spikes” blood sugar much less. The issue is when a lot of it is consumed — it can lead to liver damage, hypertriglyceridemia, etc.

  • http://kibblesbits.wordpress.com/ Ann

    Corn starch is not a replacement for sugar. Corn starch is used for many reasons, not that. Corn syrup is used for the consistency. For example, it gives a better texture to commerical ice cream (and honestly, home made, according to Cooks Illustrated) than sugar does.

  • LLEVRIO

    NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY IT’S NOT GOOD FOR YOU. HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP IS PROCESSED WITH THE SAME CHEMICAL USED IN ANTI-FREEZE. WE ALL KNOW WHAT ANTI-FREEZE DOES TO YOU. THIS IS JUST A SMALLER AMOUNT SO IT WILL TAKE LONGER TO MAKE YOU SICK. AND FAT. AND DIABETIC. AND HEART PROBLEMS. AND CANCER. AND DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS. AND SO ON. THE ONLY REAL FOOD IS IF YOU MAKE IT AT HOME!!!

  • Sonylisa73

    Wow. I had no idea.

  • Lead

    Me like pickle more

  • lolha

    most corn is now gmo’d