Thursday, June 10, 2010

What Puts the Sweet in BBQ Sauce?

It's become common place to find high fructose corn syrup in most barbecue sauces these days.  In a recent trip to my local grocery store, I searched each and every bottle of barbecue sauce on the shelf for those that did not contain high fructose corn syrup on the label.  Care to take a guess how many I found out of the 35+ bottles for sale?  Four - and I purchased a bottle of each.  All of the bottles I purchased contained corn syrup on the label as one the first one or two ingredients.  Two of them were made by the same company.

I'm not sure I know what it takes to qualify as corn syrup and I definitely don't know how it becomes "high fructose" so I decided to do a little research.

What is high fructose corn syrup?

According to
High-fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener and preservative. High-fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose — another form of sugar. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose. Because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, high-fructose corn syrup has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods. Click here to read more.
And according to
...sucrose is composed of equal amounts of the two simple sugars -- it is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose -- but the typical high-fructose corn syrup...features a slightly imbalanced ratio, containing 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose....Second, as a result of the manufacturing process for high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized. Click here to read more.
So to summarize my understanding of those two articles, cane sugar appears to be a complex ingredient and slightly costlier and high-fructose corn syrup appears in processed foods as a preservative and is added to food readily accessible to the bloodstream.

So what is the difference between corn syrup and the "high fructose" corn syrup?

...corn syrup solids are in a powder form, HFCS is a liquid. Corn syrup solids are not as sweet as HFCS, however it’s all sugar in the end. Corn syrup solids are dextrose sugar, and high fructose corn syrup is fructose sugar." Click here to read more.
Perhaps most interesting to me is that corn syrup is derived from a powder (corn starch) and can be refined as a powder or liquid.  The corn syrup is processed and most of the water is removed to leave the powder.  High fructose corn syrup is derived from an enzyme reaction and also can be either a powder or a liquid, depending the desired usage.  Click here to read about the processing in more detail.

Wow.  I feel smarter now. How about you?

1 comment:

Chris said...

Those wild swinging fructose molecules, running around unbound;)