Corn is a starchy vegetable and cereal grain eaten all over the world. It is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
However, its health benefits are controversial. While it contains beneficial nutrients, it can also increase blood sugar levels. Additionally, it is often a product of genetic modification.
In this article, we will talk about the facts, nutrition, benefits, and risks of eating corn.
What is Corn?
Corn is both a vegetable and a cereal grain. The culinary world sees the sweet corn we eat off the cob as a vegetable. Also, the dry seeds used for popcorn are classified as whole grains.
It originated in Mexico over 9,000 years ago. People know it by the original name “maize” in large parts of the world. Native Americans grew and harvested this crop as their main source of food.
Also, in the world today, it is one of the cereal grains people eat very often.
Furthermore, it is usually white or yellow but also comes in red, purple and blue. We can eat it as sweet corn, popcorn, tortillas, polenta, chips, cornmeal, grits, oil, and syrup and added to countless other foods and dishes.
Additionally, it serves as fuel and animal feed around the world. In fact, forty percent (40%) of the corn grown in the USA is used for fuel. Between sixty and seventy percent (60–70%) of corn worldwide is produced to feed animals.
A few Corn facts that might interest you are:
- In most countries, people call corn maize, it comes from the Spanish word “maiz”.
- On average, a corn ear has 800 kernels in 16 rows.
- It is a cereal crop that is part of the grass family.
- An ear or cob of corn is part of the flower and an individual kernel is a seed.
- It will always have an even number of rows on each cob.
- A bushel is a unit of measure for volumes of dry commodities like shelled corn kernels. A Bushel of corn equals 8 gallons.
- Apart from Antarctica, it is produced on every continent in the world.
- There are over 3,500 different uses of corn products.
- It is now a completely domesticated plant so you’re unlikely to find it growing in the wild.
- It can be produced in various colors including blackish, bluish-gray, purple, green, red, white and the most common yellow.
It is rich in carbs and filled with fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Also, it is relatively low in protein and fat.
Corn Nutritional Value
A cup (164 grams) of sweet yellow corn contains:
- Calories: 177 calories
- Carbs: 41 grams
- Protein: 5.4 grams
- Fat: 2.1 grams
- Fiber: 4.6 grams
- Vitamin C: 17% of the daily value (DV)
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1): 24% of the DV
- Folate (Vitamin B9): 19% of the DV
- Magnesium: 11% of the DV
- Potassium: 10% of the DV
Most of the carbs in it come from starch which can quickly raise your blood sugar. This depends on how much you eat.
However, it’s also high in fiber that can help balance your blood sugar levels.
Because of the impressive nutrient profile it has, many people benefit from eating whole corn and popcorn as part of a balanced diet.
It is a naturally gluten-free food. Hence, it is good food for people who avoid gluten.
On the other hand, processed corn products may not be very nutritious, as refined oil, syrup, and chips lose beneficial fiber and other nutrients during production.
Also, many processed products are high in added salt, sugar or fat.
A cup (164 grams) of sweet yellow corn contains 177 calories.
Here are a few Corn Benefits:
Macular degeneration and cataracts are part of the world’s most common visual impairments and major causes of blindness.
Infections and old age are among the main causes of these diseases. However, nutrition can also play an important role.
Also, dietary intake of antioxidants, carotenoids like zeaxanthin and lutein, can boost eye health.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the predominant carotenoids in corn. They account for about 70% of the total carotenoid content. And, their levels are generally low in white corn.
Commonly called macular pigments, these compounds are found in the retina, the inner surface of the light-sensitive eye. They protect against oxidative damage caused by blue light.
High levels of these carotenoids in the blood are mainly caused by reduced risk of both macular degeneration and cataracts.
Observational studies also suggest that high dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin can be protective, but not all studies support this.
Prevention of Diverticular Disease
Diverticular disease (diverticulosis) is a condition characterized by pouches in the walls of your colon. The main symptoms are cramps, flatulence, bloating, and less often, bleeding and infection.
Furthermore, popcorn and other high-fiber foods were believed to trigger this condition at some point.
However, an 18-year study in 47,228 men suggests that popcorn might, in fact, protects against diverticular disease.
Men who ate the most popcorn were 28% less likely to develop Diverticular disease than those with the lowest intake.
Corn is safe generally. However, there are some health risks involved. A few are:
Just like all cereal grains, whole grain corn contains phytic acid (phytate). Phytic acid weakens the absorption of dietary minerals like iron and zinc, from the same meal.
This is usually not a problem for people who follow a well-balanced diet. Nevertheless, it can be a serious concern in developing countries where cereal grains and legumes are the main foods.
Also, soaking, sprouting, and fermenting corn reduces phytic acid levels substantially.
Some cereal grains and legumes are resistant to contamination by fungi. Fungi produce various toxins, called mycotoxins. They are considered to be a significant health concern.
The main classes of mycotoxins in corn are fumonisins, aflatoxins, and trichothecenes.
Large consumption of contaminated corn is a suspected risk factor for cancer and neural tube defects. These are common birth defects that can result in disability or death.
An observational study in South Africa shows that consumption of cornmeal often increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus.
An effective preventive strategy includes fungicides and proper drying techniques.
In most developed countries, food safety authorities place a check on the levels of mycotoxins in foods in the market. It monitors food production and storage is strictly regulated.
Gluten intolerance (or celiac disease) is a common condition. It is caused by an auto-immune response to gluten in wheat, rye, and barley.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance are fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Also, for most people with celiac disease, the symptoms vanish on a strict gluten-free diet. However, in some people, the symptoms persist.
In numerous cases, the celiac disease might persist because of undeclared gluten in processed food. In other cases, related food intolerance may be to blame.
Additionally, corn contains proteins called zein that is related to gluten.