Corn, popularly known as maize, is a starchy cereal food that contains kernels on a cob and covered with a husk. It is rich in health benefits and contains high levels of essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
What is Corn?
Corn is a very popular vegetable and cereal grain, known for its health benefits from an early age. Native Americans consider corn to be one of their chief crops. Today, apart from, rice and wheat, corn (common as ‘maize’ or ‘Zea mays’) are the most widely consumed cereal grains all over the world. Corn is usually yellow in color but is often found in other different colors like red, orange, purple, blue, white, and black. In the culinary world, the cob of sweet corn is considered as a vegetable, while the seeds of the kernel, when dried as popcorns, are called whole grains.
Corns are of four types:
1. Sweet corn (yellow, white, or combination of two colors)
2. Popcorn (Whitish soft, starchy center with a hard golden shell)
3. Flint or Indian corn (Harder than sweet corn. Red, white, blue, black, or golden in color)
4. Dent corn (white and yellow in color, with a dent on each kernel)
Nutrient Contents in Corn:
Corn is highly nutritious and packed with high levels of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that provide a good number of health benefits. One cup or about 164 grams of corn contains (1).
- Fiber: 4.6 grams
- Calories: 177 calories
- Carbs: 41 grams
- Protein: 5.4 grams
- Fat: 2.1 grams
- Vitamin C: 17% of the daily value (DV)
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 24% of the DV
- Folate (vitamin B9): 19% of the DV
- Potassium: 10% of the DV
- Magnesium: 11% of the DV
Carbohydrates: Corn is highly rich in carbohydrates, that are derived from the high starch contents in corn. Moreover, corn is gluten-free. So, anybody who maintains a gluten-free diet can choose corn as the ideal food.
Plant Compounds: Corn contains antioxidants and several plant compounds like lutein and zeaxanthin in high proportions that are also notably found in the macular region of human eyes. Recent experiments have found that these plant extracts in corn are useful to maintain eye health by reducing the chances of developing cataracts or similar conditions like AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) by almost 43%. (2)
Genetically Modified Crops: Corn is the world’s one of the most GMO or Genetically modified crops. Corn crops are modified to build the resistance of crops against insects, diseases, pests, and chemical fertilizers. A recent study has revealed that no notable differences between the amount of vitamin C, some minerals, fatty acids, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant nutrients in genetically modified corn compared to corn crops that were not modified (3).
Protein: Though the amount of protein content varies among corn species, the average level ranges between 10–15% (4).
The proteins that are found most abundantly in corn are known as zeins, that range for almost 44–79% of the total protein content. Overall, the protein quality of zeins is poor because they lack some essential amino acids.
Corn is also a rich source of vitamins, like vitamin C, vitamin E, minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper that are beneficial for growth, building immunity, and fighting cardiac diseases. Ubiquinone (Q10), and phytosterols, found in corn oil, are good for the heart and increase shell life.
Corn Health Benefits
1. Prevents Heart and Cancer Diseases
Corn is highly rich in dietary fiber. Almost 112 grams of popcorn is able enough to boost up to approximately 16 grams of fiber, which is nearly 42% and 64% of the daily value in men and women respectively. Studies have revealed that a considerable intake of dietary fiber each day can significantly lower the chances of developing cancer and heart-related diseases.
A recent experiment that has been carried out on 47,000 men reveals that the men who were regularly fed with popcorn, show lower risks of developing cardiovascular diseases, than the normal group (5).
Per serving of sweet corn houses almost: 107 calories, 3 g protein, 24 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 297 mg sodium, and high potassium that prevents risks of stroke or heart attacks. Calories from fat: 11%. The significantly low levels of cholesterol and saturated fats in corn can protect heart health. Moreover, the high fiber in corn feeds healthy bacteria in your digestive system and thus helps to fight colon cancer or diverticulitis, a condition when the colon walls develop pouches. Corn is also rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants that prevent cell damage or irregular cell growth that leads to cancer.
But we often have popcorn with several cooking oils and sugary beverages, say, while watching movies. This can increase the risk of heart and carcinogenic diseases in adults, especially aged people.
2. Regulates Blood Sugar Level
Type 2 diabetes is a very common disease in today’s world. This kind of disorder is caused due to high levels of blood sugar in one’s body. It has been found that whole grains are effective to reduce the causes of type 2 diabetes (6).
3. Improves Gut Health
The fiber-rich sweet corn and whole grain corn products can provide you with better gut health compared to any other food made from processed white flour. It has been found that extracts in corn help to regulate absorption, metabolism, and the easy flow of stool through the gastrointestinal tract, thus keeping you regular.
Apart from these, the nutrients in corn are scientifically proven to maintain overall health, including eye health.
The Negatives of Having Corn
The high amounts of carbohydrates and blood sugar levels present in corn may be adverse for people with high blood sugar because it may spike your blood sugar and may not be suitable for certain groups. A recent study carried out in 115 adults with obesity and type 2 diabetes reveals that only 14% of calories coming from carbohydrates in your diet will result in more stable blood sugars and will also reduce the need for other medications for diabetes, compared to getting 53% of the daily calories from carbs. Limiting the intake of other corn products, mostly the corn syrup that contains extreme amounts of fructose sugar, may help prevent diabetes. Another study in the USA has found that the occurrence of diabetes mellitus was 20% higher in countries where people used to consume greater amounts of fructose-rich corn syrup, compared to areas where the syrup was not available at all. So, if anyone is trying to lose weight or with disorders like diabetes, is usually recommended by dieticians and experts to limit their intake of starchy carbohydrates from corn. Another study experimented on about 133,468 adults found that each additional daily serving of corn or corn products can lead to a 2-pound (0.9-kg) weight gain per 4-year interval. Potatoes, peas, rice, and other similar starchy vegetables did not contribute to as much weight gain (7).
Corn is a genetically modified crop. Some experts often doubt the increased consumption of GMO crops in our everyday diet, mainly because of the possible adversities of such crops over human health. Experts say, consumption of high GMO crops regularly in your diet can have toxic effects on the liver, kidney, and on other organs of your body. Though more studies and research are required to come to conclusions. (8)
Corn contains phytic acid (phytate) that often impairs the capacity of absorption of dietary minerals by your body when taken in high amounts. Moreover, the high levels of myotoxin, present in corn extracts and seeds are considered to have malefic health effects. Corn has also been reported to be a symptom trigger in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or FODMAP intolerance (9).
The Bottom Line:
Corn is undoubtedly healthy plant food, rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that come with several health benefits. But there are certain other extracts in corn that might prove to be adverse for some people. So, it is always advisable to have corn, but not regular and within restricted proportions.
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