How Do You Take Your Tea? Sugar, Honey or HFCS

"At Honest Tea, we are alarmed by the obesity epidemic gripping our nation. Super-sweet beverages loaded with high-fructose corn syrup are often blamed for America’s growing waistlines." from the Honest Beverages website

"At Honest Tea, we are alarmed by the obesity epidemic gripping our nation. Super-sweet beverages loaded with high-fructose corn syrup are often blamed for America’s growing waistlines." from the Honest Beverages website

A common question to tea drinkers has been sugar or honey? But if your tea is already sweetened and comes in a can or a bottle it is most likely sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Competition from companies like Honest Beverages forced Snapple to re-evaluate its own ingredients list recently. High-fructose corn syrup is an artificial sweetener and preservative that is created when one of the sugars contained in cornstarch is converted from glucose to fructose. The result is a sweetener that is made up of both glucose and fructose. This extremely sweet substance extends the shelf life of processed foods. And it is these two characteristics that have helped high-fructose corn syrup become such a widespread food ingredient since the late 1970s. In fact,

“HFCS now represents more than 40 percent of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages and is the sole caloric sweetener in soft drinks in the United States,” according to George A. Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen and Barry M. Popkin, the authors of a commentary in the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Unfortunately, research has yielded conflicting results to date regarding the impact of high-fructose corn syrup on the body and health. It is believed to be a hidden culprit in the rise of obesity and type II diabetes in Americans. This is because some studies have shown that fructose unlike glucose is metabolized (or used) by the body in a different manner, so that it is converted to fat more readily than is glucose. At the same time, it bypasses the release of leptin, a hormone (or chemical messenger) that tells your brain you’re satiated (or full). The results of other studies (some of which have been privately funded by the beverage industry) suggest that HFCS does not behave any differently in the body than other sweeteners. Obviously, strict moderation is the key if your goal is to eat right. Be aware of high-fructose corn syrup on the labels of foods you purchase and eat. If it’s one of the first ingredients listed, then that item contains a large amount of HFCS and is probably not the best choice if you also want to get some nutritional value from the calories you consume. In general, limiting the processed foods you eat and choosing fresh, whole food alternatives (as I discussed in a previous post on veganism) will help a great deal. The announcement of changes to the Snapple line of beverages is just one of several examples of the need to read food labels closely and critically. Other foods that you might not expect to contain HFCS include: fruit flavored yogurt, frozen yogurts, fruit juices with added sweeteners, juice cocktail beverages, and fruits canned in heavy syrup.

What types of foods have you been surprised to learn contained high-fructose corn syrup? Leave a comment and let me know.


Mohr, C.R. (2005, May). Is This Disguised Sugar Affecting Your Diabetes [Electronic Version]. Diabetes Health.

High-fructose corn syrup: What are the concerns? In Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Expert Answers. October 24, 2008. health/high-fructose-corn-syrup/AN01588
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