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Corn syrup is glucose from the corn plant that is used to make baked goods, granola bars, candy, caramel and fudge. “It’s an inverted sugar, meaning that its chemical composition is slightly different from table sugar and it does not crystallize,” says celebrity chef and nutritionist, Serena Poon. “Sweeteners in liquid form,” she explains, “lends a certain type of smoothness and consistency that is ideal for certain types of baked goods.” You’ll find corn syrup in everything from breakfast cereals and soft drinks, to candy, baked goods and fast-food items.
There are several reasons that people might want to avoid corn syrup. “One reason might be because of an allergy or sensitivity to corn, which could be signaled by symptoms such as bloating, headache or mood changes,” says Poon. Others may avoid corn products because they avoid GMO foods and additionally, corn syrup is quite high on the glycemic index, which measures how foods can impact your blood sugar.
Best Corn Syrup Substitutes
1. Agave Syrup
This sweetener comes from a succulent native to Mexico, known as the agave plant. You might recognize the name of the plant, as it’s also harvested to make tequila. “Agave syrup is going to have the lowest glycemic index score out of all of the corn syrup substitutes,” says Poon.
This corn syrup alternative has a neutral flavor, which will help keep the intended flavor profile intact. In addition to cooking with agave, you can also swirl it over pancakes in place of maple syrup or use it to sweeten oatmeal. Agave is about one and a half times sweetener than sugar, so a little bit goes a long way. Try this recipe for Agave-Sweetened Brownie Gems to put this sweetener to the test.
If you’re looking for a sweetener that comes straight from nature, give honey a try. “This is a natural sweetener that offers an array of health benefits, such as antioxidant and healing properties (though some of these are lost when honey is heated),” says Poon. Additionally, honey has a lower glycemic index value than corn syrup and is a common pantry item, making it an easy swap.
Honey comes in a variety of different flavors and as a general rule, the darker the honey, the stronger the taste. A jar of honey will last a long time in your cupboard, making it a handy corn syrup alternative to always have on hand.
3. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a wonderful substitute for corn syrup if you don’t mind the unique flavor. Different types of maple syrup, like golden and amber, exhibit different flavor profiles. These can contain a sweetness accented by hints of vanilla, caramel, and of course, maple. “Maple syrup is another natural option, contains antioxidants and is lower on the glycemic index than corn syrup,” says Poon. Keep in mind that when you bake with maple syrup, it will be a more noticeable flavor than if you used something more mild like corn syrup or sugar.
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