Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients

The Debate

Sugar and High Fructose Corn syrup

For decades, we have sipped on fountain sodas, wondering, what exactly makes those drinks and foods sweet if they do not have sugar. It’s called high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and we have known about it for some time now, and is it bad for us in a way that sugar is or worse. But what exactly is it, where does it come from, and how much does it truly differ from sugar.


In response to the ubiquity of these very questions, the American Chemical Society put together a short 3 min. video (below) that walks anyone watching through a simple, scientific explanation of the difference between HFCS and sugar.

Sugar and Fructose Video

HFCS is the result of science—it’s the product of a process where corn is broken down into corn starch, which is in turn broken down into corn syrup, and then finally sweetened by tweaking the proportion of glucose and fructose. The result is something that in its composition is very similar to sugar. Both are essentially made up of fructose and glucose, although the proportion of each can vary in HFCS and therefore affect the relative sweetness of it.

High fructose corn syrup comes in different concentrations for different products, but it’s remarkably similar to sugar, the video explains. The scientific consensus is that there’s almost no nutritional difference between the two, and HFCS is a very cheap alternative to sugar.

Although we know that the makeup of sugar and HFCS is remarkably similar, we’re still unclear on the long-term effects of consuming it. While studies have linked HFCS consumption to obesity and diabetes, it’s not apparent whether the tie is to the actual sweetener or the types of foods it is found in. To be fair, that means that it’s very possible that there are not adverse consequences outside of those already seen in sugar. Unfortunately, it might be decade before we have any clarity on that front, which is why, given the science, our best approach might simply be to treat it much as we do regular sugar, and eat as little of it as possible.


That Sweetness…


The World Health Organization is dropping its sugar intake recommendations from 10 percent of our daily calorie intake to 5 percent.

Many people don’t realize that much of the sugars they take in, are “hidden” in processed foods, according to WHO. A can of soda may contain up to 10 teaspoons or 40 grams of sugar. A tablespoon of ketchup has 1 teaspoon of sugar.

The suggested limits on intake of sugars in the WHO draft guideline apply to all monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) that are added to food by the manufacturer, the cook or the consumer, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake for women to no more than 6 teaspoons and for men no more than 9 teaspoons per day.

Simple sugar-reduction steps 


Nearly 40 percent of the added sugar in American diets comes from sugary beverages like soda, sweet tea, lemonade, and fruit punch. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 140 calories, all from added sugar. Kick the habit, and replace sweet drinks with good, old-fashioned water, flavor it with lemon, lime, fresh mint, cucumber, or a few slices of any fruit.

Look for hidden sources of sugar

Sugar hides in dozens of foods. Unfortunately, there’s no way to look at a Nutrition Facts label and tell how many calories come from added sugar. And even the grams of sugar can be deceiving, because there’s no distinction between naturally occurring sugar versus sugar that has been added. 


Buy plain foods and sweeten them yourself

Buy unsweetened goods, like Greek yogurt, oatmeal, and almond milk instead of sweetened vanilla almond milk.

If you need a little sweetness, add it yourself to control the amount and type you use, such as, organic honey, maple syrup or pureed fruit into yogurt or oatmeal at breakfast, both of which provide some nutrients and antioxidants, rather than buying pre-sweetened versions made with more refined sweeteners

Replace sweetened foods with natural fruit

In place of strawberry jam on toast, use warmed up frozen strawberries. Just one level tablespoon of jam has 50 calories and is typically made with high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and sugar. A half cup of frozen strawberries warmed and seasoned with a little cinnamon and ginger, contains less than 25 calories with no added sugar, and has vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Fruit be it, fresh, baked, grilled, or pureed-makes a great replacement for sugar in lots of dishes.

Limit sugary treats to once a week

Setting some limits on how often you indulge in sugar-rich foods is important. Pick a day, to enjoy your favorite treats like candy, baked goods, or ice cream. Just knowing that you have a pre-planned treat to look forward to can help you avoid giving into temptation more often, and can result in lowering your overall sugar intake.

Determine your daily sugar intake.Try the sugar calculator designed by Dr. Deb Kennedy of