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High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener commonly used to enhance the flavor of foods and beverages.
But diets rich in HFCS have been linked to health concerns, including fatty liver, high triglycerides, insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (1, 2, 3, 4).
Consuming fewer foods and beverages with HFCS, on the other hand, may decrease liver fat and lower triglyceride levels (5, 6).
Plus, many foods and drinks that contain HFCS also have lots of calories, highly refined oils, preservatives, and artificial colorings and flavors. Each of these may contribute to weight gain, increased inflammation, and many other health concerns (7, 8, 9).
If you want to cut back on HFCS, you should take stock of what common foods and beverages have this controversial sweetener in them.
This article lists 12 foods and drinks that commonly contain HFCS.
If you have a sweet tooth like mine, you crave a piece of candy as a pick-me-up.
But your favorite candy may be packed with HFCS, plus some other ingredients that you may want to avoid for optimal health.
For example, many popular candies like Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme Bars, Reese’s Take 5, and Baby Ruth bars all contain HFCS (10, 11, 12).
Even if you buy HFCS-free candy, you should be aware that basically all candy is high in added sugar, no matter the source.
Cutting back on your intake of total added sugar is a good way to support your health and help protect against health conditions like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes (13, 14, 15).
2. Packaged sweets
Adults and kids alike enjoy packaged sweets like cupcakes, pastries, and cookies. It may be best to eat them sparingly, though.
Eating packaged sweets regularly may lead to health concerns, like unintended weight gain and elevation of heart disease risk factors like LDL (bad) cholesterol and insulin (16, 17, 18).
This is because packaged sweets are usually high in calories, fat, and added sugar. Plus, many packaged desserts are sweetened with HFCS.
For example, Oreos and Chocolate Hostess cupcakes are made with HFCS (19, 20).
Soda intake is strongly associated with a variety of health concerns, including an elevated risk of (21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28):type 2 diabetesheart diseaseobesityautoimmune conditionsnon-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Studies suggest that excessive consumption of HFCS-sweetened soda can lead to the intestinal formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs).
These harmful compounds travel from the intestines to other tissues, causing inflammation and possibly making joint inflammation worse in people with rheumatoid arthritis (26).
Plus, AGEs and sweetened soft drinks have been linked to lung disease and heart disease (29, 30, 31).
Popular soft drinks, including Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, and A&W Root Beer, are all sweetened with HFCS (32, 33, 34).
4. Juice drinks
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Even though some juices are made with 100% fruit juice and contain no added sweeteners, many juice drinks are flavored with sugary additives, including HFCS.
Hawaiian Punch, Minute Maid Lemonade, and Minute Maid Fruit Punch are just some examples that contain HFCS (35, 36, 37).
Children and teens often opt for these sweetened fruit juices due to targeting by advertisers — a controversial practice because kids are more vulnerable to the effects of a high sugar diet (38, 39, 40).
5. Fast food
Fast food intake is associated with a number of health concerns, including obesity and elevated heart disease risk factors in children and adults (41, 42, 43, 44).
This isn’t surprising — these highly processed foods are loaded with calories, sodium, refined carbs, and added sugar.
Some fast food menu items may contain HFCS.
In fact, many desserts served at fast food establishments are sweetened with HFCS. Sweet dipping sauces served with fast food favorites like chicken nuggets may contain HFCS as well.
For example McDonalds’ Apple Pie a la Mode and the company’s Sweet-n-Sour Dipping Sauce contain HFCS (45, 46).
6. Sauces and other condiments
When you’re cooking a savory dish, the last thing you might be concerned with is added sugar.
Unfortunately, many of your favorite sauces are high in added sugar, sometimes in the form of HFCS.
Condiments like Dai Day Duck Sauce and Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce are made with HFCS (47, 48).
Plus, your favorite savory dips can contain HFCS as well. The classic Heinz Ketchup is just one example (49).
7. Ice cream and ice pops
Ice cream and ice pops are common sources of HFCS and other added sweeteners.
The second ingredient after water in the Original Double Pop Popsicle and Popsicle’s SpiderMan Frozen Bars is HFCS (50, 51).
Remember that food labels list ingredients used in the greatest amounts first, meaning that HFCS is the second most plentiful ingredient in these products (52).
Many ice creams are sweetened with HFCS as well, including many of the flavors in Target’s brand Favorite Day, including Caramel Brownie Moose Tracks, Cookie Dough, and Vanilla Bean (53, 54, 55).
8. Breakfast foods
You may not be surprised to learn that common breakfast sweets like Pop Tarts contain HFCS (56).
However, you may not expect savory breakfast items to harbor HFCS.
Even hearty breakfast dishes like Jimmy Dean Sausage, Egg, & Cheese Frozen Croissants, Dillon’s Breakfast Bacon Egg & Cheese Mini Bagels, and Smart Ones Canadian Style Turkey Bacon English Muffin Sandwiches contain HFCS (57, 58, 59).
9. Fruit preserves and jams
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Fruit preserves and jams can be sneaky sources of added sugar, including HFCS.
Smuckers fruit preserves, including its Red Raspberry, Strawberry, Peach, and Cherry preserves, are sweetened with HFCS (60, 61, 62, 63).
The company’s jams and jellies also contain HFCS. What’s more, its Goober Grape and Goober Strawberry products — blended peanut butter and jelly spread that’s marketed to children — contain HFCS (64, 65).
10. Bread and crackers
Refined carb products, like bread and crackers, are often made with HFCS.
Ritz Crackers, Club Crackers, and Wonderbread are just some examples of popular bread and cracker products that contain HFCS (66, 67, 68).
What’s more, a diet high in refined carbs like the items listed above may increase your risk of certain health conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease (69).
Fortunately, swapping refined grains for starchy vegetables and whole grains may help reduce these health risks.
11. Pancake syrup and dessert syrup
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Pancake syrup and dessert syrups are super sweet, and some or all of that sweetness may come from HFCS.
One of the most popular pancake syrup brands Pearl Milling — formerly Aunt Jemima — uses HFCS in its Original Style pancake syrup (70).
Keep in mind that pancake syrup is not the same as 100% pure maple syrup, which is free from ingredients like HFCS.
Dessert syrups, including Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and Smucker’s Caramel Sundae Syrup, are also made with HFCS (71, 72).
When you’re purchasing applesauce, the last ingredient you’d expect to find on the label is HFCS.
Yet, many applesauces are sweetened with HFCS.
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Notably, Mott’s Applesauce is made with HFCS. To avoid HFCS and other added sweeteners, look for applesauce with no sugar added (73).
The bottom line
Reducing your consumption of all sources of added sugar — including HFCS — is a smart way to improve your overall health.
Certain foods and beverages, including soda, candy, ice cream, breakfast foods, snack foods, and packaged desserts, commonly contain added sweeteners like HFCS.
If you’re unsure whether a product contains HFCS, read the ingredients label. Also, look out for other sources of added sugar like cane sugar, corn syrup solids, and agave.
Last medically reviewed on August 30, 2021
Written by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD on August 30, 2021 — Medically reviewed by Lisa Hodgson, RDN, CDN, CDCES, FADCES
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