High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is a sweetener derived from corn, which is used to extend shelf life of foods and is cheaper than regular sugar. Debate about HFCS sets in when it comes to weight gain. In a study at Princeton University, researchers demonstrated that rats fed high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those fed table sugar. If you are concerned about weight gain, stick with foods that do not contain HFCS.
Fresh and frozen fruit does not contain HFCS. Certain types of canned fruit and dried fruit do, however. When purchasing these items, scan the ingredient label to see if they are free of HFCS. Often, it is added to preserve them and increase the sweetness.
Most fresh, frozen and canned vegetables are free of high fructose corn syrup. These include cucumbers, broccoli, celery, mushrooms, carrots, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, potatoes and squash. Beware of some exceptions: Canned tomatoes, tomato paste, pickles and relish often have HFCS.
Meats and Poultry
Meats and poultry are all high in protein, low in carbs and free of high fructose corn syrup. However, if you add bottled toppings to these meats, that can change. For example, most ketchups, barbecue sauces and marinades have HFCS. Before topping your burgers or steaks with any of these sauces, scan the ingredient labels to make sure they do not contain high fructose corn syrup. The label may also indicate that the product is HFCS-free.
Fish and Shellfish
Fish and shellfish are low in carbs, high in protein and free of HFCS. Salmon, herring, mackerel and albacore tuna are also high in omega-3 fatty acids--a healthy type of fat that helps control cholesterol levels. Catfish, trout, perch, talapia, clams, lobster and mussels are types of fish and shellfish that do not contain omega fats.
Nuts, such as pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and pine nuts, are free of high fructose corn syrup. This goes for both the raw and roasted forms. They are also high in fiber, protein and unsaturated fat, and low in carbs. However, if you buy them honey-roasted, they may contain HFCS, so check the ingredient label. Also, the nuts in bottled ice-cream toppings may contain HFCS as well.
Raw and roasted seeds, such as hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax, do not contain high fructose corn syrup. Like nuts, they are high in protein, fiber and essential fats.
Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, buttermilk and plain yogurt, are HFCS-free. Natural yogurts that contain fruit as a sweetener are free of HFCS. But this is not the case for conventional fruit-based yogurts or cottage cheese with added fruit. Read the ingredient labels to make sure.
Whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, buckwheat, barley, millet, rice bran, quinoa and oat bran are free of HFCS. They are also high in fiber and complex carbs, and have moderate amounts of protein. Pasta, made from semolina wheat, is HFCS-free. Products like cereal, bread, bagels and buns, however, commonly have high fructose corn syrup. Look for it in the ingredient label or on the front of the package.
Soybeans, aduki beans, pinto beans, lentils, fava beans and lima beans are all high in fiber, protein, iron and complex carbs, and free of HFCS. The only exception is canned baked beans, which may have HFCS.