Regular vs. High-Fructose Corn Syrup: The Difference

Regular vs. High-Fructose Corn Syrup: The Difference

You're probably starting to hear more and more about how unhealthy high fructose corn syrup can be for you. But, sometimes food labels can be confusing, claiming foods contain "corn syrup" without the "high fructose" part. But, what is the difference between the two sweeteners? Is one more healthy than the other?

They Come from the Same Source

Both forms of corn syrup start out as corn. Although that seems like a healthy beginning, the process of making syrup removes most of the corns nutritional value. Between the outer husk of a corn kernel and the inner germ layer, lies the cornstarch. This is what the syrup is made out of. It is removed and placed into vats in large quantities. Then enzymes are added, one main one to produce regular corn syrup, and a few more for high fructose. The goal in both cases is to modify the sugar that is in the cornstarch. For corn syrup, it is glucose. For high fructose corn syrup, that glucose is changed into fructose.

What Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Used For?

Addition enzymes are added to the vats of regular corn syrup to make high fructose corn syrup. HFCS is a liquid sweetener used in large quantities in the United States. Unlike corn syrup, it isn't something you can buy in its pure form at the store. But, you will find it in many products, and not just sweets. From tomato sauce to soups to breads, it can be found in a massive amount of shelf foods. 

This began in the 1970's. As cane sugar got more and more expensive to use, many large-scale food manufacturers switched to HFCS. Like regular corn syrup, it is cheaper to produce than sugar and easy to transport. But, it also increases shelf life and packs a greater wallop. Many health professionals claim it isn't as healthy as real sugar, and can lead to increased obesity.

What Is Regular Corn Syrup Used For?

Regular corn syrup is slightly less sweet than the high fructose variety, matching granular sugar's sweetness level. It also doesn't dissolve into food as easily as the high fructose variety. These are some of the reasons HFCS is more popular in food preparation and preserving than regular corn syrup. Corn Syrup is also used in large scale food preparation, though not as widely. While opponents of HFCS may argue there are very few healthy uses for the product that couldn't be met with real sugar, the same is not true for regular corn syrup.

Hard candies are almost always made from corn syrup, as they are last longer with a more pleasing smooth texture. Corn syrup hasn't received all the flak that HFCS currently struggles under, but that is mainly because it is more rarely used, not because it is more healthy.

Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrups are both concentrated corn-based sweeteners widely used in food preparation. Regular corn syrup is mainly a glucose, and is mostly used in candy making and baking. It is not as widely used as its cousin, HFCS. HFCS has been modified from a glucose into a fructose, and is an extremely common food additive. It has been linked with increased obesity. Neither sweetener could be called a healthy food. But, both seem safe to use in extreme moderation.

  • Harold Zoellick

    HCFS seems to have received the most bad press. Usually i see both HCFS and CS are in the same product (syrup, jam)in some percentage mix not specified. So are the percentages of each important?
    Is one or the other healthier or less healthy? Sugar is not that good for us either ,is it?
    And what about ethyl alcohol? Not much difference at the molecular level as i recall.
    HWZ