The Corny Truth Series: Sugar and Other Sweeteners,

Everybody deserves a sweet treat once in a while, and I would prefer that mine come un-corned, please. The sad thing is that this is actually something that corn intolerant people have to worry about – is my sugar safe? Is it really sugar? Or is it corn masquerading as sugar? You would be surprised.

So then you may think “maybe I can just use sugar substitutes, or use natural sweeteners”. Well, that is a great thought, but you have to watch out for those, too. I know. It’s exhausting to even think about. Oh, how I miss the days of “grab and go” shopping!

As usual, I have been hunting around on the old interwebs trying to find all of the sources of “corntamination”, and have come up with quite a bit of useful information. For a complete list of corn allergens check this site. For more useful information on sweeteners as well as all other types of food this other site is very helpful as well.

Here is what I found out about all of the sweet stuffs (not in alphabetical order – I am never that organized):

Sugar – can be made from sugar cane, beets, or corn. If a label does not specifically state “cane sugar” then it is usually safe to assume that it is not, and you should try to find out more information before purchasing. Some companies will also add a de-clumping agent to their product, such as corn starch. I have found Domino brand to be a safe choice for us.

Brown Sugar – for this one, you have to watch out for “caramel color“. That stuff is made from corn (dextrose), and is in quiet a bit of food items. Again, I have found that Domino makes a safe brown sugar.

Confectioner’s Sugar – granulated sugar that has been finely ground into a powder and usually always has cornstarch added as a de-clumping agent. Sometimes they use tapioca starch, but very rarely. Better to make your own.

Sucralose (Splenda)- Sucralose by itself may possibly be corn-free, but they add maltodextrin and dextrose as bulking agents, both of which are made from corn.

Sucrose – This is usually derived from sugar cane or beets, but rumor has it that it sometimes can also be derived from corn, like many other things. This is another one to be weary of when reading labels – if it does not specify where it is derived, always use caution.

Aspartame – We all know that aspartame should be avoided at all costs anyway, but for the sake of this post – it is encased in maltodextrin (corn derivative) to increase shelf life.

Dextrose – AKA glucose or corn sugar. This is a simple sugar made from corn and can be found in a great number of things, including baked goods, foods that are meant to be crispy such as fries, chips, tater tots, etc., and is even very common in IV solutions. (!!!!!) If you land yourself in the hospital (heaven forbid) definitely tell every single person that you come in contact with that you are allergic to corn – and that means anything with dextrose in it! You may want to get a medical bracelet… just in case you are unconscious and can not inform them yourself. Better to be safe than sorry.

Fructose – This is another simple sugar made from corn.

Sorbitol – AKA glucitol, Sorbitol is derived from corn and is used in A LOT of food items, including but not limited to: Sugar-free foods for diabetics, diet foods, mints, sugar-free chewing gum, candies, cough syrups, toothpaste, mouthwash, breath spray, soap, and various cosmetics. I always wondered why brushing my teeth made me nauseous….ugh.

Xylitol – a “natural” sweetener, Xylitol is either derived from corn cobs or birch trees. Obviously, one with corn intolerance would want to avoid the corn derived one, but the birch derived xylitol is not much better for a number of various reasons. This site extrapolates on those reasons a bit more. The environment impact alone is enough reason for me to stay away from it.

Treacle – AKA golden syrup, is sickly sweet syrup that contains molasses and corn syrup.

Honey– Ah honey. I love to use this natural alternative to sugar whenever I can, but I have learned to use extreme caution. Yes, honey can be corny. Many beekeepers supplement the bees diets during the winter with corn syrup. Sometimes the bees are sprayed with a corn-based spray to keep them from contracting certain illnesses. And, seeing that honey is the end-product of what the bees have been pollenating, you should check to see if any corn fields are nearby – yes, that causes reactions. You really should get to know your local beekeepers.

Maple Syrup – I love me some maple syrup and use it quite a bit. Just like honey, you have to use extreme caution with maple syrup as well. Packaging can be a source of “corntamination” as well as the actual processing of the syrup, as many manufacturers use a de-foaming agent which is often corn oil. I have learned this lesson the hard way a few times out of sheer stubbornness.

Molasses – many manufacturers add corn syrup to their product. You have to check!

Agave Nectar – another great alternative, but this one can also become corny if packaged in certain plastics, and/or during many steps of processing. Tread carefully.

Coconut Sugar – I have not found much on this, but as always, watch for cross-contamination. Find out what else they manufacture in the same facility.

As always, check every single ingredients label on every single product that you pick up off of a shelf. Print out this complete corn allergen list, and take it with you every time you go shopping to ensure that you don’t miss a corny ingredient. When you find something that works for you, write it down and keep a master list of safe foods that you can easily refer to for future shopping trips.

I really hope that you found this information to be helpful for your corn intolerance journey. Please like, share, and follow this blog for more information!


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