The Real Reason People Stopped Cooking With Corn Syrup

For anyone who enjoys cooking or baking, corn syrup is probably a somewhat familiar ingredient. It's in plenty of already prepared goods that you might pick up in the grocery store, for one. Some recipes even call for corn syrup directly, so it's possible that home cooks have reached for it as well. Whether or not you've personally ever used it, though, is an entirely different issue. As normal as corn syrup has been in the kitchens of the past, a lot of people have stopped using it altogether.

The thing is, corn syrup is both more complex, yet, at the same time, more simple than you probably assume. As the name would imply, it's made from corn, and typically only has a few ingredients. But as people have become more interested in health and nutrition, corn syrup has gotten a pretty bad reputation, especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Hence, its kitchen profile has gone down considerably. So, what's the real reason people stopped cooking with corn syrup? 

Well, there are a few, but they might actually make you want to start cooking with corn syrup again. As it turns out, this cooking and baking staple can actually be pretty handy. On the other hand, some of the other reasons for corn syrup's culinary decline may make you want to ditch this sweet, smooth ingredient for good.

People realized any kind of sugar can bad for you

Obviously, with a name like corn syrup you kind of have to assume that it isn't all that healthy. Few nutritionists are likely to recommend a big spoonful of this sticky sweet stuff, at any rate. But with the rise in popularity of healthy living, low-sugar diets, and meals that eliminate processed food, corn syrup has come under particular fire. But really, people have just realized that any kind of sugar is unhealthy, corn syrup included.

In fact, according to Mayo Clinic, any kind of sugar, be it granulated or corn syrup, is bad for you. As Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. explained for the Mayo Clinic, too much added sugar "can contribute unwanted calories that are linked to health problems, such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high triglyceride levels," which in turn increases your risk of heart disease. So really, one of the biggest reasons people have stopped cooking with corn syrup is because, like so many other sugars, it's just plain bad for you, especially in higher quantities. In a more health-conscious society, corn syrup is kind of outdated.

Some confuse corn syrup with high fructose corn syrup

If there is one boogeyman in the nutrition world, it might just be high fructose corn syrup. There have been so many reports about how unhealthy high fructose corn syrup is that people have started to avoid any products whatsoever that contain it. And they're not wrong to do so. One 2004 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a likely link between the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and obesity, and that's just the beginning. But as bad as high fructose corn syrup may be for you, it's completely different from regular corn syrup, though some people confuse the two, hence why they avoid corn syrup at all costs.

According to Kitchn, plain old corn syrup is entirely made of glucose sugars. Meanwhile, some of high fructose corn syrup's sugars have been converted to fructose, which may be the culprit when it comes to linking this syrup with obesity and other health problems. Some manufacturers do add high fructose corn syrup to regular corn syrup, but you can look at the bottle of corn syrup to check its label and confirm its contents. Still, because the names are so similar, and they do sometimes get combined, it makes sense that people would stop cooking with corn syrup. Many just want to be safe and feel a little healthier, if nothing else.

People think corn syrup is worse than regular sugar

Obviously, it's important to remember that cooking with sugar isn't the healthiest thing you can do. No matter what form the sugar takes, it can be pretty bad for your body, at least when it's consumed in large, regular quantities. But because of the fact that corn syrup is processed, and is closely related to high fructose corn syrup, people avoid cooking with it because it seems more unhealthy than regular sugar. 

As Cooking Light reported, many people think that corn syrup is worse than regular sugar and therefore don't cook with it anymore. But at the end of the day, corn syrup is literally just glucose that came from corn. So, no, it's no worse than any other kind of added sugar. Still, it's understandable that people would choose to steer clear of it if they're avoiding overly sugary food in general. After all, Americans are routinely found to consume way too much sugar.  Still, because of the common idea that corn syrup is worse for you than regular table sugar, people tend to avoid it.

There are plenty of corn syrup alternatives

If you've ever come across a recipe that calls for corn syrup, you might have also found yourself looking up alternatives for the ingredient, whether you specifically want to avoid it or just don't have corn syrup in your pantry. Fortunately, there are alternatives out there for anyone who's averse to the specter of corn syrup. In fact, one major reason why people have stopped cooking with corn syrup is simply that there are plenty of corn syrup alternatives out there, so it's not always necessary to use it in baked goods. 

For instance, according to King Arthur Baking, common household ingredients like maple syrup, molasses, and honey can all be used in place of corn syrup. They work pretty well, generally speaking, as long as you adjust the ingredients for the different levels of sweetness in each alternative. Honey, for example, is naturally sweeter than corn syrup, so you would want to use less of it than what the recipe calls for in corn syrup. If you happen to have it, golden syrup is the most similar to corn syrup in terms of sweetness, so it might just be the best alternative if you want to avoid corn syrup. Plus, using golden syrup, a classically British ingredient, might help you pretend that you've finally made it to the Great British Baking Show.

Some people just don't have corn syrup in their pantries

Even if you love to bake, and experiment with new recipes, there's still a good chance that you've never cooked with corn syrup before. After all, it's not a completely necessary ingredient, nor is it all that popular these days. Some might even say that corn syrup is frankly just too old fashioned for many modern cooks.

As Epicurious reported, corn syrup is a bit of a throwback ingredient, meaning that people probably just don't think to grab a bottle of the stuff while they're at the grocery store. And unless you're an avid baker who doesn't mind going out of your way to get an entire bottle of corn syrup for multiple projects, it doesn't always make sense to buy it. For most people, making pies or other recipes that call for corn syrup is something that only happens once a year, like at Thanksgiving or other holidays. This means that it's unlikely they're going to always have it on hand. Really, it wouldn't be shocking if corn syrup went out of style completely in the baking world as the years progress.

You can mimic corn syrup with this simple kitchen trick

One of the biggest reasons that recipes call for corn syrup is because this ingredient helps your finished product to have a smoother and creamier texture. While using plain granulated sugar might yield the same taste and flavor, a lot of times that same sugar will crystalize during the baking process. Surely, no one wants a grainy brownie or, even worse, to feel like there's a cupful of sand in their pumpkin pie. However, some people might have stopped cooking with corn syrup when they realized that an incredibly simple trick can yield practically the same results.

According to The Spruce Eats, not only is sugar the best substitute for corn syrup in terms of taste, but there's an easy way to ensure you avoid the dreaded crystallization issue, too. What's the secret? Simply dissolve the sugar in hot water to create your own concentrated simple syrup. And don't underestimate the power of a good simple syrup just because it's easy to make. This concoction goes great in pies and plenty of other baked goods, for one. Plus, it can also really up your cocktail game, and shouldn't we all have a good classic cocktail recipe or two in our back pocket?

Corn syrup and other sugars can increase the risk of deadly heart disease

These days, people tend to be very in tune with what they put in their bodies. Even when dining out, or indulging in the occasional junk food treat, people still care about what they're eating. When it comes to corn syrup, most people just can't believe that this ingredient is anything good. They're not entirely off base, to be fair. With hardly any nutritional value, as per Nutritionix, corn syrup doesn't offer much beyond its ultra-sweet flavor. However, it does increase your risk of mortally dangerous health problems, and surely no one wants that.

Because, at the end of the day, corn syrup, though it definitely is derived from corn and has its culinary uses, is still added sugar. And, as research has shown, too much added sugar in your diet can actually increase your risk of heart disease. Indeed, a 2014 study that was published in JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that the correlation between added sugar and heart problems was potentially deadly. The study found that most adults in the United States eat far too much added sugar and, moreover, that there appears to be a pretty clear link between this influx of added sugars and cardiovascular disease. Researches also found that overconsumption of added sugars is tied to increased mortality, meaning that too much of any sugar could eventually kill you. When food increases your risk of dying, it's best to steer clear, at least from consuming it in mass quantities.