When baking a lot of different recipes and experimenting outside of your comfort zone, it can be quite easy to mix up some ingredients. After all, there are a lot of them. They can even sometimes sound the same or be used in the same way. Cane sugar and corn syrup are both very similar ingredients and can easily be mistaken for one another. Knowing the differences between high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar, and their respective different uses, is incredibly important. Both for anyone who is wanting to start baking, or someone who wants to continue baking more and more.
Table of Contents
- Cane Sugar vs High Fructose Corn Syrup – What are They?
- What Is the Difference Between the Two?
- Health Effects of Cane Sugar vs High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Cane Sugar vs High Fructose Corn Syrup: A Summary
Cane Sugar vs High Fructose Corn Syrup – What are They?
What is Cane Sugar?
Cane sugar is very easily summed up as being your standard everyday table sugar. It is one of the most commonly processed foods and is used all the time.
You use cane sugar when you put some sugar in your coffee or tea, when you sprinkle some sugar over your cereal, or when you want to lightly dust a cake with some sugar.
The point is, cane sugar is what you initially think of when the word sugar is mentioned.
It is made by the sugar cane plant after it has been processed. The plants are grown and harvested. Once harvested, the cane is pressed until a sweet sugary juice runs from within it. This liquid is incredibly high in sucrose and is what will eventually be our sugar.
The liquid is collected from the pressed sugar canes and is boiled until white crystals are formed. While you would assume the process ends here, it does not.
The initially formed crystals are essentially sugar, but in a very impure and unrefined state. The crystals are sent off to a refinery where they are washed, filtered, recrystallized (through the same process as before), dried, and packaged to then be eventually sold.
An additional step that the sugar crystals can sometimes undergo is bleaching. If the sugar is not white enough to meet the quality standards set by the refiner, it can be bleached using food-safe bleaching products.
Once properly packaged and sold, the sugar finds itself in retailers such as a supermarket or bulk-buy markets. There, it is advertised as granulated sugar before being purchased by someone like you, where it shall be used in any way imaginable.
Cane sugar – sucrose – is made from equal parts of glucose and fructose. These two types of sugar are essential to the flavor and sweetness that cane sugar has.
What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?
While some plants, such as sugar cane, naturally possess the sugary sweet chemicals needed to make sugar, other plants do not.
Corn syrup is exactly what it sounds like. It is a sugary sweet syrup made from corn. While there is no prevailing chemical such as sucrose, glucose, or fructose that immediately comes to mind when you think of corn, there are still ways to get a sweet flavor from it.
Sweet corn is surprisingly full of sugars, although they are just a lot harder to find as they are hidden by another name – carbohydrates.
Carbs are known for giving the body a lot of energy and this is because carbs are made up of glucose, which is a type of sugar. Therefore, by isolating the glucose in sweet corn, you can make sugar and syrup.
The way this is done is by adding an enzyme to the glucose that helps turn it into fructose. As the corn starch is 93-96% glucose, this results in a high fructose corn syrup. Although, they are watered down a bit as this is an incredibly high number.
Commercially sold fructose syrups are typically 50% fructose.
What Is the Difference Between the Two?
There are many ways to look at the two ingredients and compare them to understand their differences.
One of the most interesting differences is how the body and metabolism react to each ingredient and processes it.
The simple forms of sugar – glucose and fructose – are known as monosaccharides. These are found in their free and untethered form in corn syrup, which makes them easy to digest in the body. There is no digestion needed at all for corn syrup, as fructose and glucose can directly enter your bloodstream.
However, as cane sugar is made from sucrose, the same two ingredients but tethered together, the body has to break them down before it can digest them. This results in a much slower processing time for cane sugar when compared to corn syrup.
While still looking at the two ingredients at a chemical level, table sugar contains equal parts of glucose and fructose. They are fitted together as a joint bond known as sucrose. This means that you will always have even parts fructose and glucose.
However, with corn syrup, the levels and amounts of fructose differ, depending on what the manufacturing company decided.
Because of how quickly your body can process high fructose corn syrup and allow it into the bloodstream, it has been the target of a lot of scientific research concerning health. It is easy to produce corn syrup. But as companies can decide the percentage of fructose in it, it is like having added sugar to an already sugary item. It is digested far too quickly and has been shown to promote obesity and increase belly fat.
On top of this, high fructose corn syrup creates glycerol which is a building block of blood fats. All of this together increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
While a lot of scientific research was done to see the health impacts of high fructose corn syrup, identical tests were done with cane sugar (aka granulated sugar/table sugar). These came back with results that were nowhere near as bad or terrifying as the alternatives.
Regular table sugar is still dangerous for your blood sugar levels in high doses. Yet it is a much higher dosage needed before the effects seen in a lower dosage of high fructose corn syrup are shown.
Are Sugar and Corn Syrup Interchangeable?
At the early stage where one is a vegetable and the other is a collection of raw sugar crystals, no they are not interchangeable. However, both ingredients have fructose and glucose molecules which make them taste sweet and sugary.
Corn syrup has a significantly lower concentration of glucose molecules, yet they are both still very sweet.
Glucose syrup, fructose syrup, corn syrup, and table sugar can all be interchangeable in a recipe that calls for a sweetener or a sweetening ingredient. The only thing that needs to be researched is the strengths and measurements.
High fructose corn syrup is a lot stronger than table sugar. It will need to be added in a smaller amount than the alternative will need to be added in. This can make some recipes a bit confusing. But ultimately, it should be fine to swap the two out whenever you need.
Although if health is a concern and you are unable to stay away from both sugar and syrup, the latter is the smarter choice to avoid. After all, it is linked heavily to weight gain, and other health concerns.
While the interchangeability of these two ingredients may be noticeable, other products such as maple syrup and golden syrup do not possess such as easy swap. While they are still incredibly sweet, there are additional flavorings added to the syrups to make them more desirable.
Health Effects of Cane Sugar vs High Fructose Corn Syrup
While both ingredients can be seen as unhealthy, they are not immediately dangerous. As long as they are consumed in moderation.
As long as you are not eating a high amount of either one daily, then there is no concern that will occur overnight.
However, as previously stated, there is a much closer link between corn syrup and health-related complications than table sugar and the very same health-related complications.
According to a scientific experiment done at UCLA‘s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, when samples of a cancerous pancreatic tumor were added to a petri dish and introduced to some fructose, the cancer cells grew at an increased rate.
While the test was only done with a pancreatic tumor, a lot of the doctors at the university stated that it is highly plausible that this would also increase the growth speed of other cancers too.
Fructose is proven, yet again, to be unhealthier than table sugar. It also promotes an increased growth of belly fat.
Princeton University underwent a study where rats were fed high fructose corn syrup and standard table sugar. The rats on the high fructose diet gained considerably more weigh. The majority of it was around the abdominal area.
High Blood Pressure
The study was conducted using 4,500 adults without a history of hypertension or any other blood-related complications. Doctors discovered that people who have high-fructose diets, mostly high fructose corn syrup, were more likely to have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. They also have other blood-related health complications.
Cane Sugar vs High Fructose Corn Syrup: A Summary
So, a quick recap.
There isn’t a lot of noticeable difference between regular sugar and corn syrup when used as a sweetener. However, there’s actually a lot of difference behind the scenes.
Though cane sugar seems to affect the body less negatively, don’t forget to consume in moderation!