A sweetener with a bad reputation
EC: What Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup and Why Is It in My Cereal?
Credit: Photo by Tinatin1 via Getty Images

If you’re a fan of quick and easy breakfasts, you're probably all about cereal. Yet, with a single look at the list of ingredients on the back of the box, one can’t help but wonder, “What is high-fructose corn syrup and why is high-fructose corn syrup in cereal?” After all, a single bowl seems to be made of the simplest components. It even requires zero special kitchen skills. However, what you can’t see is the mysterious ingredients disguised by fancy scientific terms. The same ingredients often show up more than once, boasting alter egos and different titles. It is basically identify theft and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the biggest victim.

Simply put, HFCS is a type of sugar derived from corn, one of the most abundant crops out there. It mixes well with other ingredients and is super inexpensive. HFCS is also a preservative, prolonging the shelf life of mass-produced goods. Needless to say, the food industry loves this stuff; it makes up 40 percent of the caloric sweeteners in the country. You can find it in soda, baked goods, candy… and your cereal. Manufacturers add HFCS to foods to try and make everyone happy. It treats their wallets and your taste buds.

EC: assets%2Fmessage-editor%2F1476807245029-gettyimages-158627807
Credit: photo by aj brustein via getty images

So what’s the big deal? HFCS is linked to a myriad of health concerns. Since its introduction to the food system in the 1970s, obesity rates have tripled. And while there is insufficient evidence to draw a direct correlation, conscious consumers have been wary of this processed sweetener. Frequent HFCS consumption has been associated with chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, unhealthy weight gain, and heart disease.

This doesn’t mean you should ditch your daily, morning bowl of goodness, though. It also doesn’t mean that HFCS is poison; it’s the level consumed that can be poisonous. And considering how often the food industry uses sugar, it wouldn’t hurt to cut back on all types of sweeteners.

Our advice: Start by choosing cereals that have as few ingredients as possible. This typically means that less sugars and additives dyes were used. Instead, sweeten things up with creative cereal toppings like fresh fruit or dark chocolate. The best part? It gives you the chance to experiment with different flavors and combinations on the daily. I’ll take seconds, please.