The other night we watched an interesting documentary called “King Corn.” At first I didn’t think I was going to like it, because it seemed a little quirky. (Perhaps my judgment was affected by having recently watched the highly polished “Food Inc.”)
Both documentaries are about the American food industry. “Food Inc.” covered several different industries while “King Corn” concentrated on corn (surprise!)
“King Corn” seemed more even-handed in its depiction of a country that, in an effort to make sure everyone has enough food, has encouraged the food industry’s growth to the point that we now grow an amazing amount of food…..but it’s no good for us!
The incredible amount of corn now grown in this country is not represented by the lovely ears of sweet corn you see on farmstands in late summer. It’s a less nutritious type of corn that’s used to fatten livestock to enormous levels, and it’s fattening us, too.
I’m a label-reader, but I was still shocked at how many products now have corn in them. Things you would never imagine.
I guess I was unaware of the extent to which corn products have infiltrated grocery store items because I tend to “shop around the sides” of a grocery store, avoiding premade products when possible and sticking to home-cooking for the most part. But most people don’t have the time for that, so they’re consuming incredible amounts of corn that’s being blamed for the big increase in obesity over the past 30 years.
I was particularly interested in the documentary’s report about an East Coast man who had gotten into the habit of drinking a 2-liter bottle of pop each day (pop is almost always sweetened with corn syrup instead of sugar now). He weighed 300 pounds. When he cut pop from his diet, he lost 100 pounds! But he still ended up diabetic.
Our family never got into the habit of having pop on a daily basis, preferring water with meals. I’m sure glad we did that. It might also be the reason why most of us avoid pop entirely now, because our stomachs aren’t used to it.
Corn syrup and other corn products are now found in many, many convenience foods and prepared dinners. I started checking the items in my pantry and found it in pretzels, my son’s very favorite snack food, so I went to Woodman’s and found a different brand of pretzels that doesn’t use corn syrup.
While there, I searched the pop aisle and only found a few products without corn syrup, including Pepsi Throwback, which is made with sugar like Pepsi used to be made. The pop I bought today cost a lot more than pop made with corn products, but that’s not surprising. One of the reasons corn became very popular as an ingredient is that it’s so much cheaper than sugar. I’ve decided that I’d rather pay to avoid the corn now than pay later with health issues. Besides, buying expensive pop means the one person in our household who drinks pop for a treat will have to cut back.
“Food Inc.” deserves its own review, but I’ll save that for another time. You’ll find a lot to think about in both documentaries, but try “King Corn” first. It’s more personal, and we all enjoyed it a lot.