Corn: Nutrition And Health Benefits

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

Corn or maize might just be one of the most popular cereals in the world. From corn on the cob to tortillas, cereals, and hominy grits, we consume it in many ways. Apart from the cereal itself, we also use many of its by-products. Corn oil is popular as a cooking oil. Less known is its possible high fructose corn syrup which is omnipresent in many packaged foods.

It can be rich in vitamins, essential minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. It might also be good for the heart, may prevent constipation, might help to manage diabetes, and maybe good for your skin.

What is Corn?

Corn, also known as maize is a cereal grain that originated in southern Mexico. The kernels or seeds of corn are the edible parts. It can be eaten whole when it is very young and tender. But as it matures, the corncob or the part on which the kernels grow becomes harder and inedible. They come in multiple colors, depending on where they have grown and what species or variety they happen to be.

Sweetcorn is another genetic variant and it has more sugar and less starch in the nutritive material.

Nutrition Facts

Nutrition Facts

Corn grain, yellow
Serving Size :
Water [g]10.37
Energy 365
Energy [kJ]1527
Protein [g]9.42
Total lipid (fat) [g]4.74
Ash [g]1.2
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]74.26
Fiber, total dietary [g]7.3
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.64
Calcium, Ca [mg]7
Iron, Fe [mg]2.71
Magnesium, Mg [mg]127
Phosphorus, P [mg]210
Potassium, K [mg]287
Sodium, Na [mg]35
Zinc, Zn [mg]2.21
Copper, Cu [mg]0.31
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.49
Selenium, Se [µg]15.5
Thiamin [mg]0.39
Riboflavin [mg]0.2
Niacin [mg]3.63
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.42
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.62
Folate, total [µg]19
Folate, food [µg]19
Folate, DFE [µg]19
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]11
Carotene, beta [µg]97
Carotene, alpha [µg]63
Vitamin A, IU [IU]214
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]1355
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.49
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]0.3
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.67
16:0 [g]0.57
18:0 [g]0.08
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]1.25
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]1.25
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]2.16
18:2 [g]2.1
18:3 [g]0.07
Tryptophan [g]0.07
Threonine [g]0.35
Isoleucine [g]0.34
Leucine [g]1.16
Lysine [g]0.27
Methionine [g]0.2
Cystine [g]0.17
Phenylalanine [g]0.46
Tyrosine [g]0.38
Valine [g]0.48
Arginine [g]0.47
Histidine [g]0.29
Alanine [g]0.71
Aspartic acid [g]0.66
Glutamic acid [g]1.77
Glycine [g]0.39
Proline [g]0.82
Serine [g]0.45
Sources include : USDA [1]

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, corn not only provides the necessary calories for healthy, daily metabolism but can also be a rich source of vitamins A, B, E, K, and many minerals. Its high dietary fiber content may ensure that it plays a significant role in the prevention of digestive ailments like constipation. The antioxidants present in it might act as anti-carcinogenic agents and may help in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. [2]

Corn Calories

According to the USDA, its calories can differ based on its preparation. For instance,

Health Benefits of Corn

It may provide many health benefits due to the presence of quality nutrients within. Besides being a delicious addition to any meal, its possible richness in phytochemicals protects some chronic diseases. The well-researched and widespread health benefits are listed below.

May Prevent Constipation

The fiber content in one cup of corn amounts to 18.4% of the daily recommended amount. This may aid in alleviating digestive problems such as constipation and hemorrhoids, due to maize being a whole grain. One study found that a corn barn was significantly better than a wheat barn in relieving constipation. [6]

Dietary fiber may help bulk and soften stools, can help to promote regular elimination, and decreasing straining. This process is done by stimulating the peristaltic motion and the production of gastric juice and bile. By adding bulk to loose stools, the chances for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea can be greatly reduced.

Sliced and fresh corn ears with leaves on a wooden table

Corn is delicious and healthy for you! Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Might Induce Weight Gain

Corn, especially the yellow variety, can be a rich source of calories and is a staple in many places. The calorific content of sweet yellow and white corn is 96 calories per 100 grams. This is why it is often turned to for quick weight gain. [7]

May Provide Essential Minerals

Corn may contain several essential minerals that can help in ensuring proper growth and fighting diseases. According to a 2017 study, published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, it is an important source for Fe, Zn, Cu, Mn, Mg, and P. The nutritional composition can, however, vary according to the way it is harvested and processed. The nutritional content is best preserved when it is eaten whole or as popcorn. Steaming, boiling, or roasting lowers the nutritional content. [8]

It may also contain trace minerals like selenium, which are difficult to find in most diets. Phosphorus is essential for regulating normal growth, bone health, and optimal kidney functioning. Magnesium is necessary for maintaining a normal heart rate and for increasing bone mineral density.

Might Protect Your Heart

According to research, corn oil might have an anti-atherogenic effect on cholesterol levels, thus possibly reducing the risk of various cardiovascular diseases. Corn oil, in particular, might be the best way to improve heart health and this is derived from the fact that corn is close to an optimal fatty acid combination. This allows omega-3 fatty acids to strip away the damaging LDL or bad cholesterol and replace them at the binding sites. This may reduce the chances of arteries becoming clogged, might lower blood pressure. [9]

According to another study, consumption of corn husk oil might lower plasma LDL or bad cholesterol by reducing cholesterol absorption in the body. As mentioned earlier, this reduction in LDL cholesterol does not mean a reduction in HDL or good cholesterol, which can have beneficial effects on the body. They include possible reduction of heart diseases, prevention of atherosclerosis, and general scavenging of free radicals throughout the body. The Australian government recommends corn oil as one of the foods that can help in preventing heart diseases. [10] [11] [12]

To know more, read our detailed article on the Benefits & Side Effects of Corn Oil.

Eye & Skin Care

Yellow corn might be a rich source of beta-carotene, which forms vitamin A in the body and is essential for the maintenance of good vision and skin. As per a study published in the journal Science, beta-carotene is a great source of vitamin A because it is converted into the body according to the amount required. Vitamin A can be toxic if too much is consumed, so deriving it through beta-carotene transformation is ideal. It may also benefit the health of skin and mucous membranes, as well as boost the immune system. [13] [14] [15]

The amount of beta-carotene in the body that is not converted into vitamin A acts as a very strong antioxidant, like all carotenoids, and can combat diseases.

May Help Manage Diabetes

In recent decades, the world has seemed to suffer from an epidemic of diabetes. Although the exact mechanism for this cannot be pinpointed, it is generally related to nutrition.

A study published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness in 2018 has shown that consumption of whole-grain corn is related to a possibility of a decreased risk in the development of type 2 diabetes. According to the Journal of Medicinal Food, consumption of its kernels assists in the management of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and may be effective against hypertension due to the presence of phenolic phytochemicals in whole corn. Phytochemicals can regulate the absorption and release of insulin in the body, which can reduce the chance of spikes and drops for people with diabetes and help them maintain a healthy lifestyle, as per the British Journal of Nutrition. [16] [18]

Health benefits of corn infographic

Yellow corn is a rich source of beta-carotene, which forms vitamin A in the body and is essential for the maintenance of good vision and skin.

Might have Cosmetic Benefits

Cornstarch is used in the manufacturing of many cosmetic products and may also be applied topically to soothe skin rashes and irritation. Its products can be used to replace carcinogenic petroleum products which are major components of many cosmetic preparations. Many of the traditional skin creams contain petroleum jelly as a base material, which can often block pores and make skin conditions even worse. [19]

In fact, you can use it yourself for homemade body care products. Check out our recipe on How To Make Homemade Deodorant.

How to Select and Store Corn?

The two types of corn include sweet corn and field corn. Sweet corn is more commonly consumed, and field corn is usually grounded and used in the production of flour. You can pick sweet corn for most culinary purposes. While buying fresh corn make sure the husks are not dried out.

It is easily available in supermarkets and farmer’s markets. It’s always good to consume fresh corn. However, frozen corn can also be used. For storage, it is best to keep it with the husk in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Quick Ideas to Serve

Corn is one of the most beloved cereals across the world and it is prepared in many ways. It is milled and made into flour, eaten tender in salads and soups, steamed, and roasted. We have a selection of delicious dishes that you can try:

Word of Caution

Regular addition of whole corn to your meal or eating popcorns now and then should be perfectly ok. There have been some concerns regarding a corn-only diet because it lacks certain nutrients like iron. However, almost all the corn available in supermarkets today is fortified. However, you should be aware of the side effects of unfortified corn products and certain derivates like high fructose corn syrup.

  • High-fructose corn syrup, a derivative of corn, is linked to higher risks for obesity, hypertension, leaky gut, high cholesterol, and other diseases. The Harvard Medical School cautioned against its inclusion for a healthy heart. You can read more about it in our article on Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad. [20]
  • Corn is quite susceptible to mycotoxins and contaminated corn can cause serious health problems. Modern cultivation requires regular screening to ensure that there is no occurrence of mycotoxins. You will rarely find contaminated packaged corn.
  • Although rare, some people may develop an allergy to corn or corn protein. In that case, avoid products containing corn or products containing corn proteins. Most corn-derived products, such as high fructose corn syrup, do not contain corn protein and will ordinarily not affect someone with a corn allergy.
  • An unfortified corn-based diet for pregnant women may cause folate deficiency, which can lead to birth defects in the child. If you are on a corn-based diet, make sure that you are consuming folic acid-enriched corn flour.

Corn can be a rich source of many essential nutrients and fiber. A meal rich in corn can go a long way in protecting against many diseases. So start shucking! Protection Status
About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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