High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a highly processed sweetener and preservative, is manufactured from chemically altered cornstarch. Does that sound natural to you? It does to the FDA, which recently reversed its original stance (from April 2008) and ruled that products containing the sweetener may be labeled “natural,” since synthetic agents used during processing don't actually come into contact with the corn syrup.

“We do not restrict use of the term natural except on products that contain added color, synthetic substances, and artificial flavors,” says FDA spokesperson Michael Herndon.

Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, disputes the FDA, saying, “HFCS does not occur in nature and should be considered an artificial ingredient.”

But although the sweetener may not exist in nature, it abounds in our food supply, lurking in sodas and sweetened beverages, as well as in staples, including cereal, bread, yogurt, and salad dressing. And even though some studies have linked HFCS to obesity, diabetes, and other modern-age maladies, nutritionists continue to debate whether it's unhealthier than regular sugar. To keep HFCS out of your diet, buy unprocessed foods and study ingredient lists. For more about HFCS, go to deliciouslivingmag.com and enter the sugar debate into the search box.