Corn has gotten a bad rap these days, largely as the result of industrial farming techniques and the fact that the byproducts of highly-processed corn (think sugars) abound. In its most genuine form, non-GMO corn, grown in healthy soil without the use of toxic herbicides or pesticides is very good for you. Not only that, since it is considered a vegetable and a whole grain, it’s incredibly versatile.
Let’s be clear that for this article, we’re talking about the traditional white or sweet corn you see in your grocery store produce aisles. If you’re shopping at farmer’s markets or you belong to a CSA, odds are you have access to a much wider range of corn products, including colorful heirloom corns – all are healthy but not all are as sweet and different varieties have different uses. For example, some are best to eat right off the cob, some are better for drying and popping (a very healthy snack, we might add!) and still others work best when used for tortillas or breads.
The Nutritional Value of Corn
Here is a breakdown of the nutritional value (RDA) for one cup of sweet yellow corn, assuming it’s grown in optimal conditions.
- Carbohydrates (20.86%)
- Vitamin B5 (20.80%)
- Vitamin B1 (18.75)
- Phosphourous (18.43)
- Vitamin B3 (16.03%)
Below, we’ve included information about how unprocessed corn is beneficial to your health.
Corn can be used as a whole grain
In an era where wheat- and gluten-sensitivities are on the rise, corn is an excellent whole-grain option. The key is to find and purchase cornmeal, polenta, grits – the label should say “whole corn” or “whole grain corn.” Some products may have the word “degerminated” on them and these dried corn products are not considered “whole grain”.
It’s a healthy starch
When you review the nutritional contents of corn, you see that a cup of corn has about 20% of the carbohydrates you need each day. This shouldn’t be alarming to those who are watching carb intake; unlike other empty carbs, the starches in corn are considered “healthy starches.” When they’re eaten in their natural form, they are much easier for your body to assimilate and they aren’t as disastrous for blood sugar levels. Our advice is to skip packaged foods and snacks that have “corn” byproducts in their ingredients (unhealthy sugar) and get your daily carb intake via delicious, healthy corn.
Corn is high in fiber
Corn has a high fiber content. In addition to being good for your digestive tract, high fiber diets help to control the rate at which sugars enter your blood stream. So, consuming these whole-grain, high-fiber vegetable can be beneficial for those who have heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Again, the trick is to pay attention to food labels. Corn makes its way into just about everything so you’re best off skipping all the processed foods, making it easier to track how much “real food” you are eating each day. A high-fiber diet also helps to protect you from getting hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer.
It contains important antioxidants
Antioxidants work to fight the free radicals in your body. These molecules cause cells to age faster and can lead to increased inflammation, disease and even cancer. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant so eating fresh corn, or dried corn products, is a smart way to fight free radicals using a delicious food product. You’ll benefit even more if you pair corn with other foods high in Vitamin A, like carrots, yellow squashes, and sweet potatoes.
We recommend trying this Pinto Bean Chili with Corn & Winter Squash to enjoy a high-fiber, vegetarian meal that will knock your socks off. It’s a perfect complement to a cold, winter evening. Are you looking to add more meat-free meals to your dinner rotation? Read, Balance an Omnivore Diet… for more information on that topic.
Corn abounds this time of year so take advantage of it. From entrees and side dishes to healthy breads and snacks, it’s easy to make corn a regular part of your weekly menu.