The no-corn-syrup diet

If you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma or anything else by Michael Pollen, then you are aware of just how ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is. Every can of Coke, dollop of Heinz Ketchup and Fig Newton is full of the stuff. It’s hard to avoid, but it’s also pretty easy to identify on a long list of ingredients. It’s usually towards the beginning.

Pollen’s piece “Unhappy Meals” in the New York Times Magazine identifies how very different America is for eating processed foods, and how it is affecting our health. In this essay refers to “food” as anything that is whole and unprocessed and claims that we should “eat food, not too much, and mostly vegetables.” I think this statement can be easily visualized in the following Venn diagram:

Venn Diagram
Edible products

So all of you detox, Atkins and South Beach dieters, I have a new one for you: the No-Corn-Syrup Dietâ„¢. It’s extremely simple and will have a dramatic impact on your ability to consume things that are processed and bad for you. Here’s how it works:

  1. Read the ingredients of everything you plan to eat. If it contains high-fructose corn syrup, don’t eat it

If these things don’t have a list of ingredients, then you’re either eating “food” or you’re in a foreign country. In either case, you’re probably ok. If you’re unsure about whether the restaurant you’re eating at uses HFCS, ask. Tell them you have an allergy and you’ll either need to find a new restaurant or be pleasantly surprised that some places still cook with “food.”

And the best part about this diet? I won’t charge you a cent for it. It’s yours absolutely free. You can take the money you would have spent on a diet book and invest it into the “food” you’re going to eat, because unfortunately it’s going to cost you more than the processed stuff. But you’ll be happier, and healthier. Sometimes it’s good to invest in your body.

58 thoughts on “The no-corn-syrup diet

  1. I just started reading the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” yesterday and was struck by the idea that, with so many corn products in processed food, we are “corn chips with legs.” Perhaps you want to name this the FritoFree Diet?

  2. I dunno, I have avoided corn syrup almost completely for about five years now, and it had a negligible, minor at best impact on my health. I think it’s bad, but it’s only one part of the problem.

  3. Hmm… as someone who avoids most sugars, this is only part of the problem, there’s so much processed food, but even then… really the only solution is to




    So… how about the no-corn anything diet… that goes for you and your vehicle. No corn syrup, no ethanol… and since most gas has ethanol… I guess that means more walking/biking 😉

  4. I’ve been trying to avoid HFCS for a while now, but it’s tough since my diet mostly consists of desserts. I have found that Coke that is “hecho en Mexico” is not made with HFCS and is now sold in bulk at Costco. I’m with JZ, your Venn diagram is nice.

  5. There is an UNHOLY alliance btwn the corn industry, the beef industry, the pharma industry and the oil industry. And these industries also share a couple RED STATES in common: Texas (Bush), Kansas (Dole), Iowa (Grassly), Florida (Bush)


    Petroleum-based Fertilizers
    Corn products – Sugars – fuel
    Beef products, animal products
    Oil Industry

    The all work together. Big Oil gets the fertilizers to over produce yield on sugar products like corn. Big AgraBusiness provides the science research on optimizing genetics for sugar yield. They also patented and released the GMO strains into the environment, squeezing out the healthier, less sugary version. Sugars are then used for processing yielding both fuels for Big Oil and AgraBiz for packaged goods making highly sweet- products and transfat-laced bricks that can sit on shelves for years. The Chemical/BigPharma industries provide the science and the additives and colors and preservatives to make those products cheap and stable. The impacts of these chemicals on humans are secondary if not irrelevant.

    Oh did I forget PESTICIDES?

    Turns out that Corn-sweeteners, in addition to being wasteful to produce, are also psycho-active. In other words, they turn off your brains ability to detect sugar intake. This is why you can drink a SUPER BIG GULP of 64 oz of Mountain Dew and consume 1500 calories w/out thinking. BUT were you to try to consumer 1,500 calories of say, fresh oranges, cherries, grapes or apples, you might puke before you got there.

    Cattle are fed the corn products as are hogs and other animals. Cheap calories, boosting fat production and weight gain. The cattle themselves are laden with increased interstitial fat, making their meat even MORE unhealthy.

    Did i mention the inhumane pens and factory farming ghoulishness that makes Abu-Gharib seem like Disneyland?

    What about ANITBIOTICS? Guess who makes those? Big Pharma… all those herds deficating on themselves means lots of sores and lots of infections. Moreover, the cows leech those infections into their milk. Guess what? need more hormones! More antibiotics! Hello BIG PHARMA!!

    So one has to ask oneself – if cattle are penned in, treated miserably, over-fed with cheap corn in order to gain weight then sent off to slaughter… what makes you think that our very own politicians who hail from these great states aren’t planning the same fate for their citizens?

    Suburbs, terrible schools, kids w/out anything to do, prison populations exploding, over crowding, fast food everywhere, obesity, diabetes (insulin anyone? Hello Big Pharma!!) and mesmerized by television into believing that this all is AMERICAN>?! And when the TV tells you to “Go Fight For Your Country!” you fat, lazy, idiots pick up the gun, wave the flag and walk into the slaughter willingly, carrying your Coca-Cola in one hand and Hershey Bar in the other, and a Marlboro hanging off your lips.

    What a scam

    And if you think about the extraordinary waste in this system, it can only be made CHEAPLY if the government SUBSIDIZES the cost of the grain and the wheat and the beef. And that is where the POLITICIANS come in. These states are BOUGHT off. They vote OUR tax dollars to support these processes, that subsidize this unholy alliance – this TRUE AXIS OF EVIL.

    The MOST subversive thing we can do to end the war and increase american’s health, americans’ farms, americans’ longevity – is to break the farm subsidies.

    Kill the Corn industry, Kill off the beef industry and you can knock the Petrochemical industry on its back.

    Boycott corn products, processed wheat of any kind, reduce packaged foods, reduce your refined sugar intake, eliminate all soda or artificial sweetners. DO NOT eat fast food. Do NOT buy soda. Do NOT buy domestic, factory beer – which is a front for the wheat/farm industry.

    The cheap price is actually an expensive one when you consider the taxes you pay to support this illusion. In the end, you can take back your country by reevaluating what you spend and what you eat.

  6. I hadn’t really thought about how many foods contain corn syrup until I read this blog. I have to admit that I’m shocked by the amount of processed foods in my own cupboard. I agree that natural or “real” food is the way to go, but why do these foods cost more?

  7. My wife and I stopped buying products listing corn syrup as an ingredient two months ago. One thing I noticed almost immediately was that I began eating less. I guess the sweetener made me want to eat more when I didn’t need to. I’ve lost 10 pounds so far without increasing the amount of exercise I do.

  8. Nowadays in shops there are many products containing unhealthy compounds. I know from experience that the best food is not-conserved and with the short expiry date. One should also eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, of course from known sources. Motion, of course, is also important for health. Greetings

  9. I am allergic to corn! So, no-corn-syrup in anything I eat. Manufacturers hide corn products under all kinds of names such as maltodextrin, dextrose, and malitol (corn sugars). Hot dogs and almost all other processed meats contain corn fillers or corn based products. Many other products contain corn starch like confectioner’s sugar, shredded cheese, and baking power. Even canned Pinto beans can contain corn syrup! Why do we need sugar in any kind of beans? It’s no wonder we a an obese country! Often labels just say starch, but most of the time in the U.S. this is corn. The FDA needs to force labeling of corn products like they do for peanuts and wheat, so consumers know what they are eating. Even a large number of pharmaceuticals contain corn products. In fact, there are allergy medicines that contain corn products!!!!

    Are you wondering what are the side effects of ingesting corn for a allergic? If the quantities are small and on a consistent basis, fatigue, brain fog, increased respiration rate, and nervous jerks which can lead to sleep deprivation. If in a larger quantity, an asthma like attack. Additionally, constant corn ingestion can cause the onset of asthma. So I agree NO Corn syrup is a good thing. I am sure that the number of people who are allergic to corn will continue to rise due to the over use of this product!

  10. I agree with Robert Leigh wholeheartedly… see my blog.

    I also have given up all corn by-products for Lent, and I have noticed that I have no mid-day cravings. I go from meal to meal without feeling deprived or hungry.

    Weight loss was NOT one of my objectives, but it has become a fringe benefit.

  11. WOW! I eat well, cook my own food, etc. and I am surprised at the scope of this problem. So I am going to do something-TODAY! I challenge everyone who reads this to do something TODAY and tell 10 others.

  12. So everyone talks about how much food, etc have corn syrup in it. What does not? Does anyone have a list or website that lists foods that do not contain HFCS?

  13. Food without corn syrup:

    1) Anything that doesn’t list it in ingredients. Other corn products that might be listed aremaltodextrin, dextrose, starch, and malitol.

    2) Regular fruits and vegetables !! (apples, grapes, oranges, asparagus, lettuce, tomato. . .)

    3) Rice, lentils, DRIED beans (the canned kind often have corn syrup in them)

    4) Note that most dairy, meat, and eggs are produced by animals that eat corn. So if you want to boycott the industry, eat fish instead.

  14. Help!
    May I just give up “HFCS”????
    Will I see a difference avoiding foods with HFCS??

    I quit eating “red meats” and consume only fish and chicken.
    I do not drink soft drinks?
    Is it okay to consume some foods that are made with “corn syrup” and “corn starch”????

    *MEXICAN COKE in thde bottles
    *DR PEPPER 8 OZ BOTTLE-with the natrual imperial sugar symbol on the front
    *Wallgreens brand soda in the bottles
    *BOLYNNS soda sold at JASONS DELI

  16. Does anyone know of some American beers that are completely corn-free? I am finding their websites completely vague, and though I brew my own beer, in between batches I would like to be sure I am purchasing a product in line with my ideals.
    thank you!

  17. I have been exercising and then started back on the Blood Type-“Eat Right for your Type” Diet and I see amazing results. I always do when I avoid “CORN”… I am a blood type “O” and I mainly need protien…etc…
    But I will mention that most people, in my opinion, dont know that they need FIBER in their diet to get the better results…I have Been taking Fiber and cleansing suppliments for about 10 years now and it makes a HUGE difference!!! So, I relate to the Corn, Carb, and Crap Topics…..LOL.

  18. We decided to eliminate HFCS and see what would happen. So we started to check labels. I was shocked at all the syrup in my kids foods…I felt sick.
    I will say that my 3 kids haven’t caught every “bug” that passes by and their energy levels have actually increased!
    They even questioned me about the commercial and they have learned to check labels before asking me for stuff.

  19. Write to companies and complain about HFCS or corn additives. I just wrote to the corn industry because of their ads and “” website.
    Below is my letter:

    As a chemistry, biology, and health teacher, I think that this website ( is deceiving the American public.
    In no place did you mention that the molecular make-up of HFCS is not the same as sugar (you forgot to mention hydrogen atoms)–that the cells have only recently been introduced to this “chemical” as food. And what about the revealing “and more research is needed,” addition to most of the research. Appears much like the tobacco industry claims of years past.
    As I tell my students, the American people should boycott corn (corn in every way–even corn-on-the-cob) because of those TV advertisements. Shame on you!
    By the way, those advertisements are hurting your health attack on the American people. You wouldn’t believe how many people are really enraged over those stupid advertisements.
    Liz at Windale Studios
    But thanks for an excellent teaching tool–I’ve used such advertisements and the use of HFCS in multi-curriculum teaching strategies combining science, government, economics, history, and health. I also draw attention to research statistics and the comparison of “who” is supporting such research–and the resulting conclusions.

  20. I think they knew the outcome of people eating corn syrup products already. Just look at the amount of obesity in the USA not to mention the type 2 diabetes
    and heart disease. Remember the old formula for babies in the 50’s had corn syrup added to fatten them up. Maybe the idea was to make us sick so the medical business flourish. Sells medicine too. I think it was done on purpose. Just under the radar of the public. Gina

  21. I am allergic to corn. To find foods not contain HFCS was nearly impossible at first and expensive. However, over time you learn to read lables and not worry about the price, because of how good you feel.

  22. No offense but you’re a little behind the trend on this one. More and more products are starting to say “No HFCS” the trick is that they just use real sugar.

    Sugar and HFCS are pretty much the same and there’s no demonstrated harm done by HFCS.

    So like the poster who was talking about coke made without HFCS is saying, a bunch of processed, non healthy food products (like coke) are made with “real” sugar and not hfcs.

    I get the idea that it’s supposed to be about not eating processed foods, but if you’re going to be serious about it, just looking for HFCS is not going to be enough to change your life, especially if you just replaces it with sugar.

    The number one rule is: If you want your eating habits to change, and you want to lose weight, you must cut out the bad stuff and NOT replace it with something else.

    Calorie restriction is the fastest path to weight loss, and you know that you’re being healthy about it by talking to a doctor or nutritionist.

  23. I had to stop eating corn syrup because my son is allergic to it and I’m breastfeeding him. I lost about 12 lbs in about 5 days.. I only gained 15lbs when i was pregnant with him and he is now 3 months and I’ve lost a total of 35lbs.

  24. I am allergic to corn…severely allergic. As a matter of fact, all it takes for me to go into anaphylactic shock is about 3 oz or so of pepsi or coke made with hfcs. As other people have stated, it can be very expensive to find foods that do not have hfcs. Also alot of the brands I have purchased for years without hfcs, now have it because they were bought out by another company who modified the recipe so they could just manufacture it for a few cents cheaper by the ton…. For those who may be in the same boat as myself and a growing percentage of people out there who are allergic to corn, or may just want to avoid hfcs, here is a list of products to check out. Keep in mind that not all products these brands make will be hfcs free, but many are!!!

    Arnold / Brownberry breads…
    Jones Soda (all are hfcs free now)
    Jarritos (pop imported from mexico)
    Bullseye BBQ sauce (was suprised by this one recently when my fav sauce cookies, started using hfcs)
    ben & jerry’s ice cream (this one you have to read the labels…some varieties are ok, like choc fudge brownie, and the peach cobbler one…)
    I have also heard that the reduced sugar heinz ketchup doesnt have any in it, but I have not verified this…
    Campbells Chunky Soups…most are corn starch and hfcs free…but if you cant have corn, be sure to read the label because corn (whole kernel) is in many…my fav’s are the Chicken noodle as well as Beef and Dumplings with Hearty Vegetables…
    cheez-its…original and pepper jack…some of the others have hfcs or maltodextrin (also made from corn and can cause reactions!!!)

    the cheapest places to find alot of these products are just your local walmart…they dont carry jones soda very often anymore, but they usually have the bread and ice cream mentioned for about 60% of what i would pay elsewhere. I would also recommend checking out any ethnic stores in your local area. These stores will commonly stock many products imported from countries that do not use hfcs because it costs more than cane sugar. The only reason hfcs became as popular in the usa is because of corn subsidies offered by the federal gov, and the tariffs on imported sugar cane made cane sugar more expensive. Corn allergies are on the rise in the USA, and some studies state that to date, approximately 10% of the population may be allergic to corn, but only 20-40% of those people (2-4% gross population) know about it. For me the symptoms manifested as asthma for over 20 years. If anyone has any specific types of food they want to find, post a reply and I will tell you what I can. When I found out I was allergic, I spent over 5 hrs reading labels. It can feel devastating, but there are more and more companies now that are starting to not use hfcs, and a lot broadcast it right on the label. I could spend all day listing products, but it would be faster to know what people want…

    What I would like to have happen is for “Corn” to be added to the “List of allergens” many products have to list. There are so many compounds and chemicals added to foods that are derived from corn, that it is truly a pain in the a$$ to narrow down products you can have some times!!!

  25. “Stock up on Kosher for Passover foods – corn is not kosher for passover, therefore no HFCS!”

    ok…that may be the case, but some foods that are labeled “kosher” still have hfcs in them…like hebrew national hot dogs…

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  32. I accidently found this page looking for corn syrups by other names to add to my corn syrup education. I gave up. I can go to the super market and find them better than the detours I get on the Internet by googling it.
    However; I like this post, but most of all the comments. I learned a lot more today and thank all of you.
    I’m see ad’s on sparkling water that we can make our own soda’s. I’m going to do some research more in this area.
    Every thing in the body has to be turn to glucose in order for it to be utilized, including foods. We asumed to much. It take to much hormones to break foods down to glucose in so much we ruin our health in doing so. And, take in too much high fructose in all/any form.
    I will share this link on my blog if that’s ok…if not write me pat

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