Is Corn a Vegetable, Fruit, or Grain

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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A common question is often heard around the dinner table – is corn a vegetable? The answer is a bit more complicated than you might expect.

Is Corn a Vegetable?

When debating whether corn is technically a vegetable, or whether it belongs to the cereal family, there are a few important things to consider.

  • A vegetable is any edible part of a plant, so when you eat corn on the cob, you are eating a vegetable.
  • However, each of the individual kernels of corn is considered a whole grain, so using a strict definition of corn as a vegetable isn’t totally true. By definition, a whole grain is a small, hard, dry seed of a grass plant. The endosperm (the internal white part) of the corn kernel is used to prepare cornstarch. So, when you use cornstarch, you are using the corn kernel as a whole grain.
  • That being said, since the corn kernels contain seeds, when they are popped into popcorn, the definition changes again, technically making popcorn a fruit. A fruit is an edible part of the plant that contains a seed or matured over of the flowers.

Generally speaking, since all grains and cereals could technically be classified as vegetables, most experts further separate grains and cereals, like corn. Similar to many other fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocados, the classification of corn can change depending on how they are served.

So it may be simply said that corn can be either of the three, among a fruit, vegetable, or grain. This may be decided on the basis of how it is used, whether on the cob, or as popcorn, or cornstarch.

Sliced and fresh corn ears with leaves on a wooden table

Corns kept on a table Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health Benefits of Eating Corn

There are a number of impressive health benefits of eating corn, such as:

  • It can improve digestive function, boost immune health, and lower risk of chronic diseases.
  • The dietary fiber found in corn stimulates digestion and prevents constipation
  • The vitamin C content can boost the immune system.
  • Certain antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, also help to eliminate free radicals in the body and prevent chronic diseases.
  • It aids in boosting bone mineral density.
  • It helps protect heart health by lowering blood pressure and reducing your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

While it is good to know that corn is a vegetable, fruit and a grain; it is even more important to consume this healthy food in its different forms.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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