Health benefits of corn include diabetes management, and prevention of heart conditions, lower blood pressure, and neural-tube defects at birth. Corn or maize is one of the most popular cereals in the world and forms the staple food in many countries.
What is Corn?
Corn or maize is a grain plant that originated in southern Mexico. The kernels or seeds of corn hold the majority of its nutrients and are the most commonly consumed parts. They come in multiple colors, depending on where the corn is grown and what species or variety they happen to be. Another genetic variant, called sweetcorn, has more sugar and less starch in the nutritive material.
Maize or Corn Nutrition Facts
Corn not only provides the necessary calories for healthy, daily metabolism but is also a rich source of vitamin A, B, E and many minerals. Its high fiber content ensures that it plays a significant role in the prevention of digestive ailments like constipation, hemorrhoids, and colorectal cancer. The antioxidants present in it also act as anti-carcinogenic agents and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Health Benefits of Corn
Corn provides many health benefits due to the presence of quality nutrients within. Besides being a delicious addition to any meal, it is rich in phytochemicals and provides protection against a number of chronic diseases. The well-researched and widespread health benefits of corn are listed below.
The fiber content of one cup of corn amounts to 18.4% of the daily recommended amount. This aids in alleviating digestive problems such as constipation and hemorrhoids, as well as lowering the risk of colon cancer due to corn being a whole-grain.
Fiber has long been promoted as a way to reduce colon risk, but insufficient and conflicting data exist for fiber’s relationship with preventing cancer, although whole-grain consumption has been proven to reduce that risk. Fiber helps bulk up bowel movements, which stimulates peristaltic motion and the production of gastric juice and bile. It can also add bulk to overly loose stools, which can reduce the chances of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea.
Corn is rich in vitamin B constituents, especially thiamin and niacin. Thiamin is essential for maintaining nerve health and cognitive function. Niacin deficiency leads to pellagra; a disease characterized by diarrhea, dementia, and dermatitis that is commonly observed in malnourished individuals. Corn is also a good source of pantothenic acid, which is an essential vitamin for carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism in the body.
Deficiency of folic acid in pregnant women can lead to the birth of underweight infants and may also result in neural tube defects in newborns. Corn provides a large percentage of the daily folate requirement, thus preventing this condition. The kernels of corn are rich in vitamin E, a natural antioxidant that is essential for growth and protection of the body from illness and diseases.
Corn is a rich source of calories and is a staple in many places. The calorific content of corn is 342 calories per 100 grams, which is among the highest for cereals. This is why, it is often turned to for quick weight gain, and combined with the ease and flexibility of growing conditions for corn, the high-calorie content makes it vital for the survival of dozens of agricultural nations.
Provides Essential Minerals
Corn contains abundant minerals which positively benefit the body in a number of ways. Phosphorus, along with magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, and copper are found in all varieties of corn. It also contains trace minerals like selenium, which are difficult to find in most normal 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.
According to studies carried out at Cornell University, corn is a rich source of antioxidants which fight cancer-causing free radicals. Unlike many other foods, cooking actually increases the number of usable antioxidants in sweet corn. It is a rich source of a phenolic compound called ferulic acid, an anti-carcinogenic agent that has been shown to be effective in fighting tumors that lead to breast and liver cancer. Anthocyanins, found in purple corn, also act as scavengers of cancer-causing free radicals. Antioxidants have been shown to reduce many of the dangerous forms of cancer because of their ability to induce apoptosis in cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells unaffected. This is particularly relevant when phytochemicals are the source of the antioxidants, which is another type of chemical found in high volumes in corn.
Protects Your Heart
According to researchers, corn oil has been shown to have an anti-atherogenic effect on cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of various cardiovascular diseases. Corn oil, in particular, is 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 will reduce the chances of arteries becoming clogged, reduce blood pressure, and lower the chances of heart attack and stroke.
Corn helps prevent anemia caused by a deficiency of these vitamins. It also has a significant level of iron, which is one of the essential minerals needed to form new red blood cells; a deficiency of iron is one of the main causes of anemia as well.
Lowers LDL Cholesterol
According to the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, consumption of corn husk oil lowers 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 the reduction of heart diseases, prevention of atherosclerosis, and a general scavenging of free radicals throughout the body.
Eye & Skin Care
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. Beta-carotene is a great source of vitamin A because it is converted within the body according to the amount required by it. Vitamin A can be toxic if too much is consumed, so deriving it through beta-carotene transformation is ideal. It will also benefit the health of skin and mucous membranes, as well as boost the immune system.
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 terrible diseases like cancer and heart disease. That being said, smokers need to be careful about their beta-carotene content, because smokers with high beta-carotene levels are more likely to contract lung cancer, while non-smokers with high beta-carotene content are less likely to contract lung cancer.
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. Studies have shown that the consumption of corn kernels assists in the management of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and is 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 diabetic patients and help them maintain a normal lifestyle.
Cornstarch is used in the manufacturing of many cosmetic products and may also be applied topically to soothe skin rashes and irritation. Corn 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.
How to Select and Store Corn?
Corn is easily available across markets all over the world. It’s always good to consume fresh corn; however, frozen corn can also be used. While buying fresh corn make sure the husks are not dried out. Also, consume fresh corns within few days to ensure good taste. For storing fresh corns you may keep the husk and store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
Quick Ideas to Serve Corn
Soups and salads: Add cooked corn kernels to salads and soups for additional flavor. Mix chopped onion, tomato, lettuce, and cooked corn kernels in a bowl. Season with salt, pepper, lime juice and olive oil.
Word of Caution
Corn does contain large amounts of fatty acid, so for people who are already at a high risk of heart diseases, excess corn or corn oil can dangerously exacerbate those conditions and risks. Also, corn is frequently turned into high fructose corn syrup, which is extracted from corn to use as a sweetener. It is worse than table sugar and is a cause of obesity, as well as has a negative impact on your blood sugar levels.
Corn is a rich source of many essential nutrients and fiber. A meal rich in corn can go a long way in protecting against many diseases and ailments. So start shucking!