Corn Syrup Vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup: Crucial Differences

corn syrup vs HFCS lg

We’ve all heard high fructose corn syrup is bad. But it’s not uncommon to see regular corn syrup as an ingredient. What’s the difference? Let’s explore corn syrup vs. high fructose corn syrup.

Both corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are made from corn starch. But high fructose corn syrup, which starts as regular corn syrup, has been treated with enzymes to convert some of its glucose to fructose. Fructose is sweeter but has been proven to be more detrimental to health and wellness.


But there’s more to know than just that.

So, in this article, we’ll explore if corn syrup is as bad as high fructose corn syrup and the advantage of high fructose corn syrup over regular corn syrup.

We’ll see how it compares to regular sugar, why food companies use it and what different products are more likely to use one over the other. But we’ll also find out if Karo corn syrup is high fructose or regular.

Let’s get started.

Is corn syrup as bad as high fructose corn syrup?

According to many medical experts, including the American Heart Association, corn syrup is not as bad as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). High fructose corn syrup specifically is implicated in a variety of diseases such as obesity, heart diseases, and type 2 diabetes. 

So, HFCS is a derivative of corn syrup. However, it undergoes enzyme conversion, making it worse for overall health.


First off, both are different forms of sugar. Now, there are three types of sugar: sucrose (regular table sugar), fructose, and glucose. Glucose is the least sweet of the three and the preferred form that’s easily absorbed by the body.

Both corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are made from corn starch. Corn syrup is made from corn-extracted glucose suspended in water.

High fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, is sweeter as it contains pure fructose.

Manufacturers use it as a cost-saving measure because it’s sweeter; as such, one does not need a lot of it. It is made by breaking down the molecules of corn into glucose and then converting them into fructose.

But it’s bad relative to corn syrup because the fructose content, unlike pure glucose, can’t be absorbed directly by the body until it’s converted by the liver. This puts a strain on the liver because of the added work and can lead to liver disease.

Excess fructose intake is also linked to Type 2 diabetes because it could trigger insulin resistance. (source)

In addition to the above, it’s vital to know that glucose sends a signal to the brain when you’re full. Fructose, on the other hand, does not! So, it’s easy to overeat and experience weight gain.

In a recent article, I looked at corn syrup and cornstarch. I explored whether you can use cornstarch for corn syrup and whether you could use corn syrup instead of starch. But I also revealed why corn syrup is banned in the UK.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the advantage of high fructose corn syrup over regular corn syrup?

High fructose corn syrup is cheaper, more readily available, and easier to transport for manufacturers compared to regular corn syrup. It also has a longer shelf life, a lower freezing point, and its taste and texture are better.

But it being cheaper is really the primary reason it gets used so much in the US.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is used a lot in processed foods such as soft drinks, ice cream, salad dressings, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, sugary drinks, and even some dairy products.

OK, so you know to steer clear of corn syrup. What about honey? Is it with the sweeteners? Maybe jams and jelly? Or with the baking products?

Check out a recent article of mine where I shared if you could buy raw honey at Walmart and if honey in grocery stores is real. I also shared where you could buy real honey.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Karo Corn Syrup high fructose?

Karo corn syrup is not high fructose corn syrup. The primary ingredient is regular corn syrup. Light Karo adds vanilla and salt, whereas dark Karo adds additional sweeteners such as “refiners syrup” and caramel color and flavor, in addition to salt and the preservative sodium benzoate.

It serves different purposes in different recipes.

It can be used to control the crystallization of sugar in candy, balance the sweet and sour flavor profiles, serve as an ideal glaze on baked ham and barbecue meat, and sweeten and thicken relishes and chutneys.

Some of your friends swear by Whole Foods. Just the other day, you were wondering why it’s so popular. 

In a recent article, I offered an insider perspective, seeing as I was a general manager there for 20 plus years. In it, I shared when it became popular and whether it’s better and what’s special about it. But I also revealed if it is owned by Jeff Bezos.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is cane sugar better than corn syrup?

Cane sugar is not better than corn syrup. Both are different types of sugar. Cane sugar is sucrose (common table sugar) and is an amalgam of glucose and fructose, while corn syrup is simply glucose, the body’s natural preferred energy source. But either can be unhealthy if consumed in high amounts.

Now, sugars are classified into two types: monosaccharides and disaccharides.

Both are examples of simple sugars. As the names suggest, the latter consists of two of the former. So, disaccharides are made up of two linked monosaccharides that are broken down later during the process of digestion.

One of the vital distinctions between these two groups is that they are digested and absorbed differently.

Monosaccharides are simple sugars, and they don’t need to be broken down further as they are already in such a state that they can be easily absorbed by the body. They are absorbed directly into our bloodstream, in the small intestine.

Disaccharides, on the other hand, have to be broken down before they are absorbed by the body. Cane sugar (sucrose) is a disaccharide, seeing as it’s made up of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule.

Enzymes in our mouth partially break down sucrose into glucose and fructose, and the process is completed in the small intestine.

Regular corn syrup, on the other hand, is a monosaccharide. It can be absorbed directly.

Glucose raises blood sugar more quickly than other sugars triggering the release of insulin. The body requires insulin for glucose to enter the body. Once it’s in the body, glucose is converted into energy for immediate use or turned into glycogen and stored to be used in the future.

Insulin resistance occurs when insulin’s function of controlling the amount of sugar in the blood is impaired. (source)

For most people, one type of sugar is not necessarily better than the other. (An exception may be those battling diabetes who have to pay more attention to dietary guidelines).

But because corn syrup puts less strain on the body, a case could be made that it’s probably better than cane sugar.

Natural sugars are found naturally in fructose (fruits) and lactose (milk).

A mixture of sucrose, glucose, and fructose is known as added sugar and the FDA requires that it should be disclosed on the nutrition facts label. It’s a term for identifying sweetened foods.

Sugar beets are another source of sucrose and are second only to sugar cane as the world’s major source of sugar.

What can I use instead of corn syrup?

As a general rule, substitute any of the following in recipes that call for corn syrup: white sugar dissolved in water, honey, molasses, maple-flavored syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, or golden syrup.

Planning to prepare your favorite pecan pie only to find out you ran out of corn syrup? Not to worry, I’ve got you covered. Let’s find out a bit about 3 of the substitutes.

  1. Dissolved Sugar

Substitute one cup of granulated sugar dissolved in ¼ cup of warm water for each cup of corn syrup.

If you prefer dark corn syrup, simply use brown sugar measured in the same way. It’s an awesome stand-in for pecan pie. But note that sugar crystallizes, so it won’t work for candy recipes that have to go past the soft-ball stage (235 degrees Fahrenheit).

  1. Honey

Honey is an equal replacement for corn syrup, so you can use one cup of honey in place of a cup of corn syrup. It’s similar to sugar in the sense that it doesn’t prevent crystallization. But it’s not ideal for making candy or caramel. It has a distinct flavor that’s going to be detected in what you make. By the way, honey contains 40 percent fructose and 30 percent glucose.

  1. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup can be used as a one-to-one substitute for corn syrup in most recipes. But like sugar and honey, it won’t work with candy. Remember, it has a strong, earthy flavor.


In the article, we explored if corn syrup is as bad as high fructose corn syrup and the advantage of high fructose corn syrup over regular corn syrup.

But we also found out if Karo corn syrup is high fructose.

Then, we explored if cane sugar is better than corn syrup. Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering what you could use instead of corn syrup.

Image by sinapy from Pixabay and Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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