The Health Benefits of Corn
This favorite summertime side dish is surprisingly good for you
Registered dietitian Cynthia Sass of Health.com explores the many health benefits of corn. So when you’re at the farmers market this weekend, grab some corn on the cob for your dinner!
A lot of people are confused by corn: Is it a vegetable or a carb? And is it actually good for you?
Technically, corn is a member of the whole-grain family. And yes, it can be very good for you. Corn is also naturally gluten-free, which makes it a good alternative to wheat for those who must avoid gluten. Here are four more unique health benefits of corn.
First, four top health benefits of corn
1. Corns packs whole-grain perks.
As a whole grain, corn is in a health-protective food category. Numerous studies have tied whole-grain consumption to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. (Yes, corn is linked to a lower risk of obesity despite its carb content as a grain.) But of course, portion size matters. Try to choose portions that are in line with your body’s needs and activity level. For most adult women, that would mean one ear of corn, a half-cup of oven-roasted kernels or 3 cups of popcorn in one sitting.
2. It’s full of key nutrients.
Corn contains a variety of B vitamins, as well as potassium. The latter mineral supports healthy blood pressure, heart function, and muscle contractions, prevents muscle cramps and helps maintain muscle mass. Corn also supplies about 10 times more vitamin A than other grains. In addition to protecting against cognitive decline, vitamin A supports the immune system and helps to form the mucous membranes in your respiratory tract. Stronger membranes form better protective barriers to keep germs out of your bloodstream.
3. Corn provides protective antioxidants.
Lutein and zeaxanthin, corn’s main carotenoids (or pigments), help protect your eyes and have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Meanwhile, the antioxidant quercetin has been shown to combat both acute and chronic inflammation, and to protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Quercetin has also been linked to apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to kill off worn-out or dysfunctional cells.
Some delicious corn recipes for your kitchen
Roasted corn and tomato tostadas!
Chilled zucchini and corn soup
4. And it’s good for your digestion.
Another health benefit of eating corn: you get a dose of insoluble fiber, which isn’t broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. Insoluble fiber stays in the gastrointestinal tract, increases stool bulk, and helps to push waste through your system. This prevents constipation, reduces the risk of hemorrhoids, and may help lower colon cancer risk. Corn’s fiber may also help support weight management by increasing post-meal feelings of fullness.
A few more things to know
While there are more types of genetically modified corn (140 to be exact) than any other plant species, most fresh corn on the cob is not genetically modified. (The vast majority of corn grown in the U.S. is used for animal feed and biofuels; a smaller percentage is processed to make various ingredients, such as cornstarch.) If you’re buying bagged frozen corn, you can avoid GMOs by looking for “USDA Certified Organic” on the label.
Also, while whole corn is low in fat (1 gram per ear) and sugar (3 grams per ear), we don’t recommend consuming high-fructose corn syrup or corn oil. HFCS has been tied to an abnormal increase in body fat, especially belly fat, as well as to blood fats called triglycerides. And corn oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which have been linked to pro-inflammation, especially when not properly balanced by omega-3s.
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