Whole-grain corn is as healthy as any cereal grain, rich in fibre and many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
It is typically yellow but comes in a variety of other colours, such as red, orange, purple, blue, white, and black. Today, numerous varieties are cultivated, but the most common are flint, dent, sweet, and popcorn. Corn is nutritious, providing fibre, which aids in digestion, plus folate, thiamin, phosphorus, vitamin C, and magnesium (about 10% of the daily value for each). And just for fun, before you bite into that cob at your next barbecue, take a closer look: The average ear has 800 kernels, arranged in 16 rows, with one strand of silk for each kernel.
Studies Done on Corn
Obesity-linked diabetes and hypertension are highest when the diet includes high-calorie foods like sugar, drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (which is highly concentrated and processed), and refined flour (especially when it’s genetically engineered). With this in mind, research using basic foods, including corn, in certain combinations to maximize the benefits of their enzymes and antioxidants was conducted to see if it might lower the incidences of these diseases. Scientists concluded that eating simple, plant-based foods may reduce the risk of both high blood sugar and hypertension.3
Because most people aren’t in the habit of eating a lot of fibre, eating about half what they should, one study conducted a 14-day trial involving test subjects eating an extra 12 grams of fibre a day. The scientists concluded that extra fibre in the diet – due to the fermentation process inside the body from corn specifically – might reduce the risk of colon cancer.4
The Myths Busted
According to EatingWell, the following are a few common myths
Myth #1: Corn is fattening and sugary.
Truth: An ear of corn has about the same number of calories as an apple and less than one-fourth the sugar. In other words, it can be one of the healthier foods at the cookout! Just remember: while sweet corn is healthy, some of the toppings people like to put on it aren’t. So don’t assume an ear of corn slathered in butter and/or doused in salt water is still a healthy option.
Myth #2: Cooking corn makes it less nutritious.
Truth: Antioxidant activity, which helps protect the body from cancer and heart disease, is actually increased when it is cooked.
Myth #3: Corn has no health benefits.
Truth: Sweet corn is loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that promote healthy vision. A midsize ear also offers a helpful 3-gram dose of dietary fibre.
Healthy Nutrition Facts
Here’s a round down of Healthline’s nutrition facts;
- It is mainly composed of carbs. It scores low to medium on the glycemic index, so the whole grain variety should not cause large spikes in blood sugar.
- Whole corn is fairly high in fibre. In fact, one bag of popcorn may contain a large proportion of the recommended daily intake.
- Contains a decent amount of low-quality protein.
- Whole corn is relatively low in fat. However, corn oil is sometimes processed from corn germ, a side product of corn milling.
- A good source of many vitamins and minerals. Popcorn tends to be higher in minerals, while sweet corn tends to be higher in vitamins.
- Has higher amounts of antioxidants than many other cereal grains. It is especially rich in eye-healthy carotenoids.
- Popcorn is the type that pops when heated. It is a popular snack food, categorized as a whole-grain cereal.
- Being a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, it may contribute to the maintenance of eye health.
- It contains phytic acid, a plant compound that may reduce the absorption of minerals, such as iron and zinc.
Tips for Preparing Corn
World Healthiest Foods has been able to provide wonderful tips for preparing and cooking it to harness nutrients best. It can be cooked either with or without its husk in a variety of different ways. If using the wet heat methods of boiling or steaming, make sure not to add salt or overcook as it will tend to become hard and lose its flavour. Or, they can be boiled in the husk. If boiling, first soak it while in the husk beforehand.
When purchasing corn tortillas (the popular shawarma wrap), purchase those that include lime (the mineral complex calcium hydroxide, not juice from the fruit) in their ingredient list. The addition of lime to the cornmeal helps make the niacin (vitamin B3) in the tortilla more available for absorption.
The Nutrient-Rich Way of Cooking
Of all of the cooking methods we tried, our favourite is Quick Steaming.
Quick Steaming—similar to Quick Boiling and Healthy Sauté, our other recommended cooking methods—follows three basic cooking guidelines that are generally associated with food science research with improved nutrient retention. These three guidelines are (1) minimal necessary heat exposure; (2) minimal necessary cooking duration; (3) minimal necessary food surface contact with cooking liquid.
To Quick Steam fresh corn, fill the bottom of the steamer with 2 inches of water and bring to a rapid boil. Steam it for 5 minutes. For extra flavour, dress with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Eat it on the cob either just as is or seasoned with a little organic butter, olive oil or flaxseed oil, salt and pepper, nutritional yeast or any other herbs or spices you enjoy.
- Healthy sauté cooked corn with green chillies and onions. Served hot, this makes a wonderful side dish.
- Enjoy a cold salad with an ancient Incan influence. By combining cooked corn kernels, quinoa, tomatoes, green peppers and red kidney beans.
- Use polenta (a type of cornmeal) as a pizza crust for a healthy pizza.
- Add corn kernels and diced tomatoes to avocados to give it an extra zing.
- Adding it to soup, whether it chilli or chowder, enhances the soup’s hardiness, let alone its nutritional profile.
Also see this recipe: Yam and Corned Beef Sauce