Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Battle Over HFCS

HFCS is the abbreviation for High-Fructose Corn Syrup. And maaaan, is that stuff everywhere. It's in soda, candy, cakes, juice, coffee drinks; you get the idea.

I avoid it because I prefer sugar. I'm an arrogant, snooty gourmet and as such demand only the very best ingredients in my swill. And much like hydrogenated oils, I have seen increasing evidence to support my position vis-a-vis health.

This most recent study comes out of Princeton, where they have smart people (or so I've heard). Seems simple enough. They fed one group of rats HFCS and another sugar. The group fed HFCS got really fat, the sugar group didn't.

They pointed out that even rats fed a high-fat diet didn't gain weight to this degree. No other experimental diet except for HFCS has shown these results. That's pretty stark.

Remember, though, that what they're testing is High Fructose corn syrup, not plain ol' corn syrup. HFCS has been chemically altered to bump up the fructose levels and, possibly importantly, free the fructose from any chemical bonds. You can still safely use corn syrup in your baking.

But HFCS is appearing to be different. I would say that either reducing your HFCS intake or eliminating it completely would be a good course to take. Sadly, this would mean avoiding most sodas. If you still want a soda now and then, I seriously doubt that it will hurt you, but it should prompt you to treat a can of soda as much more of a treat than most people have been up to this point.

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain (

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Any kind of coconut water, actually. I prefer Vita Coco since it's the most widely available, but I'd imagine they'll all taste similar.

Be prepared. It's definitely an acquired taste. My girlfriend developed a urinary tract infection and this is even better for you than cranberry juice. So for awhile, we had lots of it in the house. The first time I tried it I was turned off by the weak flavor, the strange oily-yet-watery texture to the liquid, and generally the whole experience.

But we had it, it cost a lot (Whole Foods, of course), and I sure as hell wasn't going to let it go to waste. So after kinda' choking it down for a few days, I found myself really growing to like it. It was super-refreshing. That oily-yet-watery texture quenched a dry throat like nothing else. The mild flavor made it easy to drink. The nutrition is tops. And the low-calorie count (5-7 calories per ounce) means you can drink lots of it and not turn into a dirigible like you would with soda. That of course assumes you can afford lots of it.

That's the other issue with it. It's pricey. It's impossible to find it for less than $1.25 per box, but Red Bull costs that much and people drink that like it's about to made illegal. Or that it's already illegal. You can buy big boxes of it, like I have in my photo, on Amazon that works out to about $1.75 per box. That's pretty much as cheap as you're going to get barring a sale.

Still, if you can swing it, it's so worth it. The health benefits are numerous, the calorie count is lower than any juice (14 per ounce for OJ), and the boxes are convenient. Unfortunately, as of this writing, the large 34-oz cartons aren't widely available, so you're stuck with the small ones whether you like it or not.

I mentioned Vita Coco, but the other big brand on Amazon is Zico. Their price ends up being pretty much the same at first, but it isn't offered under Amazon Prime, which I have, which means no free shipping, which adds a lot to the cost. Both Vita Coco and Zico can be bought in large cartons, which makes VC about $0.16 per ounce and Zico $0.10 per ounce, but none of that comes with Prime. And at $15+ for shipping, it's not viable. For example, Vita Coco becomes $0.24 per ounce.

So, in the end, it's difficult to get, expensive, and the taste can vary from box to box. Still, I heartily recommend trying coconut water. Give it a chance. Force yourself to drink a few cartons over the course of a week. I think you'll grow to like it.