Unlike some other types of syrup, corn syrup can't actually be produced by pressing corn kernels. It is actually made from cornstarch, which is the middle layer of the kernel and has to be separated from the exterior husk and the germ core. Enzymes are then mixed with cornstarch in vats and produce glucose by breaking down its structure. Heating these sugar compounds will then result in corn syrup.
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All sugars must be consumed with moderation and corn syrup is no exception. It is very rich in fructose and can be added to many beverages and foods, providing an improved texture. It can also be combined with some fruits that are very healthy, with a high fiber content, but difficult to eat due to their tart taste. Adding a bit of corn syrup makes them easy to consume, especially when these fruits are eaten by kids.
Although it is commonly believed that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is very unhealthy, it causes the same weight gain as normal sugar. No serious study has ever proven otherwise. The reduced use of HFCS hasn't caused the number of obesity cases to drop, quite the opposite, and weight gain remains a major health problem.
Corp syrup can replace white sugar in most recipes, since it has almost the same level of sweetness. It is produced in several colors, depending on its use. Light syrup is useful for candies, while darker ones are better as an ingredient in bakery products. Naturally dark syrup has its own natural flavour but vanilla is sometimes added to improve the taste of the lighter types.
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The reason why corn syrup is preferred to sugar in many industrial foods is that it doesn't turn into crystals. For example, if you use normal sugar to prepare a candy, it will eventually become crystal again and make it too hard to consume. However, one made with corn syrup will maintain its texture, an effect that is also extremely useful in fudges or cakes.
Regardless of the color of syrup, they all have a stable chemical structure and consist of a mix of glucose, fructose, dextrose and malt. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is considered the most controversial and is rarely available in pure form in stores but most types of processed foods include it as an ingredient. Corn syrups are chemically stable but tend to have a shorter shelf life than normal sugar.
The controversial HFCS is prepared in a different way than the regular syrups. The corn starch is transformed into glucose and then into fructose using three enzymes, named alpha-amylase, glucoamylase, and glucose-isomerase. In order to achieve the final ratio between fructose and glucose needed for HFCS, pure glucose is simply added at the end of the process. Depending on the type, HFCS can have a ratio between fructose and glucose of 90-10, 42-43 or 55-45. HFCS is today the most common sweetener in the USA, mainly for economic reasons. It can be found in most processed foods because corn production is subsidized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), while sugar has to be imported and is subjected to taxes.
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For this reason, corn syrup has replaced normal sucrose sugar in many products, especially soft drinks. Manufacturers claim it is equally healthy, while reducing the final price, due to the lack of taxes. However, some studies on lab rats fed with corn syrup have concluded that it causes severe diseases. This is because fructose can only be processed by the liver, while other types of sugar can be broken by almost every cell in the body. In time, this burden on the liver can become too great, leading to serious health problems.
Opponents of HFCS don't agree on why this product has become so popular. According to some people, this happens for purely economic reasons, since this sweetener is cheaper. Others blame the US corn industry and its very powerful lobby. In most other countries, including US neighbours like Mexico, normal sucrose sugar remains the ingredient of choice in processed foods. If you are concerned about consuming HFCS, read the product labels and check if it is an ingredient or not.
Sugar is considered the main root cause of diabetes. It is easy to consume an excessive amount of it, since sugar is found in many foods in our daily diet. The alternative is to eat products that replace sugar with other sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup. It can be a good substitute for sugar in cookies, baked goods, cakes, breakfast cereal, mixes, sauces and other commercial products.
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There is a popular belief that corn syrup is healthier than normal sugar and prevents the diseases caused by it. Since normal sugar and corn syrup are pretty much the same, this belief is wrong. Both of these products have a low nutritive value and have the same bad effects on health when consumed in excessive amounts.
Normal white sugar consists only of sucrose, which is a mixture of glucose and fructose, with a fragile bind. Corn syrup is actually sweeter than regular sugar and has a much higher content of glucose. An alternative term for corn syrup is glucose syrup, which is another product made from the same raw material, cornstarch.
Glucose syrup was for some time the most important corn sweetener used in the USA. Later, it was replaced by high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Fructose, also known as fruit sugar, is the type of sugar found in fruits. It is present in both corn syrup and regular sugar and can cause serious health problems if consumed in large amounts.
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In pure form, fructose is very hard to break down by the human digestive system. It is absorbed much faster when mixed with glucose but the negative health effects also increase a lot in this combination. Every cell in our body needs glucose and uses it to produce energy. High fructose corn syrup usually has an equal proportion of glucose and fructose and is produced from corn kernels.
Fructose can also be converted into energy, in the human liver. However, the process is different and can have very dangerous side effects. The problem is that too much fructose is turned by the liver into fats and triglycerides. These in turn lead to insulin resistance, the root cause of type II diabetes, a serious disease.
Corn syrup has replaced sugar in most commercial products mainly because of the lower cost. The cost difference is caused by taxation in the USA, while sugar is imported and taxed, corn syrup is produced in the country and no import taxes are applied.
Besides being a lot cheaper, corn syrup is the ingredient of choice in most processed products because it is easily mixed with most other food types. However, many people oppose HFCS and claim that it is more dangerous than normal sugar. As a result, other alternatives are being considered, as people look for sweeteners that are healthier and more nutritious.
The best natural option if you like sweets is simply to consume raw fruits. These are delicious and also have a high nutritional content. Doctors especially recommend fruits that are rich in fibers.
The biochemistry department of Virginia Tech has published a study that found many benefits of consuming natural sweeteners. According to its results, eating more of them has the same antioxidant action as a portion of berries. Honey, fruit syrup, maple syrup or agave nectar are some of the natural alternatives to corn syrup. However, corn syrup will continue to be used because of the lower cost.
Maple syrup is considered one of the best natural replacements for corn syrup. It is produced from the sap of a maple tree and several varieties exist, with various levels of quality. In terms of taste, these can have a light flavour or a strong one. A big health advantage of maple syrup is that it is much more nutritive than the corn one, with a content of minerals like calcium or potassium. It can replace corn syrup in most recipes, in equal amounts.
Honey is another natural choice that can replace corn syrup in the same amounts. It is considered to be a healthy food as well as a great nutritional choice, especially if consumed in larger doses, in servings of at least 50 g. Such a serving is equal to around 3 and a half tablespoons. Honey has a content of vitamins, minerals, proteins, as well as enzymes.
If you want to replace corn syrup in a recipe with a more natural option, it is easy to prepare syrup at home. The ingredients are one cup of regular sugar and 1/4 cup of water, mixed into a sauce pan and simmered until the sugar melts and becomes liquid. The resulting syrup can replace corn syrup in any kind of recipe that requires it.
Agave nectar is less natural than honey or maple syrup because some processing is involved. However, it is less processed that corn syrup and considered to be healthier due to a lower glycemic index and a sweeter taste. It can replace corn syrup in recipes but only use about ¾ of the specified amount.