Corn Corn Corn!

by Val Dianov

Corn has conquered the world. Or at least the US and most of Canada. When you go through the supermarket, you may think there is a lot of choice, and diversity, but its really just an illusion. There are only a few companies involved, and only a few crops. So much of our industrial food turns out to be clever rearrangements of corn. Corn has become a tool of food science, it really has.

High fructose corn syrup, a famous "face" of corn if you will, is refined from corn. It is not a natural substance, it does not occur in nature. You will not find it anywhere until you run it through a lab. It is extremely processed, its definitely not an ingredient that you will find in someones home pantry. High fructose corn syrup is seen as a "healthy" substitute for sugar, because it acts a sweetener, but  it is showing up in places where sugar has never been. We're seeing it in bread, in pickles, in mayonnaise, and relish. Sugar on the other hand isn't the safest substance on the planet either. Sugar, much like high fructose corn syrup, is concentrated, not natural. Anything that is concentrated may overwhelm a persons body. The US Food and Drug administration (FDA) they've said that high fructose corn syrup has passed GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe). There are a lot of things that are not really good for you that have attained GRAS status.  The major source of calories comes from high fructose corn syrup. Lets go back to the grocery store. Products like, ketchup, cheese, Twinkies, batteries, peanut butter, Cheetohs, salad dressing, coke, jelly, sweet and low, syrup, juice, kool-aid, charcoal, diapers, Motrin, meat and fast food - all sweetened or containing high fructose corn syrup.

Corn is really a remarkable plant. Only 100 years ago, a farmer in America could grow maybe 20 bushels of corn in an acre. Today, 200 bushels it  not a problem. In the US alone, 30%  of land base is being planted in corn. This is driven largely by government policy, which allows farmers to grow corn below the cost of production because corn is so heavily subsidized by the government. The reason this is done is because corn can be broken down and reassembled into so many different things like, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, di-glycerides, xantham gum, ascorbic acid, cellulose, xylitol, alpha tocopherol, calcum stearate, ethyl lactate, xylitol, saccharin, polydextrose, ethylene gluten, sucrose, sorbital, fibersol-2, citrus cloud emulsion, citric acid, inosital, margarine, vanilla extract, starch - just to name a few.  If these ingredients end up in the food that you buy from the grocery store, then you're definitely not getting a good nutritional diet. As human beings, as omnivores, we are designed to require between 50 and 100 different substances and chemical compounds to be healthy. You cannot get that from a diet of processed corn, and that is partly the reason why the western diet, has managed to make its population intermittently sick.

 So how do we battle this invasion of corn. Well according to Michael Pollan in his book, Food Rules, he lists a few rules that help simplify our daily decisions about food. One of the rules that helps simplify the question of my collection of stories, and one that lingers on many peoples minds is, "What should I eat?". His answer is simple - eat food. Real foods that is - the plants, animals, and fungi people have been eating for generations. These days this is easier said then done, especially with the countless amount of new products that pile onto the shelves of the supermarkets each year. Another rule that Michael Pollan lays out, is to shop the peripheries of the supermarket. His reasoning behind this is in the layout of the supermarkets themselves. Most are laid out the same way: processed food products dominate the center aisles of the store, while whole foods (organic foods, produce, meats and fish, dairy) are found on the sides. This is done because they need to be changed more often because they go bad. Which leads to another great tip - don't eat anything that has a shelf life of 6 months to 1 year. If the bacteria and fungi aren't interested in it, then why should you? Food is alive and meant to die sooner or later, so don't eat dead food. 

Don't get the wrong idea about corn here - corn itself is very healthy. The way that it is processed and broken down is what makes the outcome not healthy. One tip to avoid high fructose corn syrup is to stay away from supermarkets whenever possible. You won't find any high fructose corn syrup at the farmers' market.

Incidentally, you wont find any highly processed food products either.