Corn Syrup vs. High-Fructose Corn Syrup: There Is a Difference

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The holidays are coming, which means it's time for pecan pie, homemade marshmallows and caramel candies — all recipes that traditionally use corn syrup as an ingredient. More and more, I've been hearing people say they are reluctant to use corn syrup in their baking because of the negative health effects associated with high-fructose corn syrup. But the truth is that corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are two different products.

Both products are made from corn starch, but regular corn syrup is 100 percent glucose, while high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has had some of its glucose converted to fructose enzymatically. Scientists are examining the potentially negative effects of consuming large amounts of fructose in the form of HFCS, but regular corn syrup is not part of that consideration, as it does not contain fructose.

That doesn't necessarily mean the corn syrup you buy in the store is HFCS-free, unfortunately. Manufacturers sometimes add HFCS to regular corn syrup, but it will be listed as an ingredient if that is the case. So read labels carefully or stick with Karo, which does not add HFCS to their products. (When Emma wrote about this issue in 2008, Karo did add HFCS to their corn syrup, but that has changed.)

Of course, like all refined sweeteners, corn syrup should be consumed in moderation. A few times a year around the holidays — in your grandmother's famous pecan pie recipe or the caramel candies everyone loves — sounds just about right.

(Image credits: Anjali Prasertong)

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