- Corn, or maize as it is known globally, has multiple variants and plays a significant role in cuisines worldwide. Its categorization as a grain or vegetable depends on when it’s harvested – immature corn is a starchy vegetable, whereas mature corn qualifies as a grain.
- When consumed mindfully, corn can have a variety of health benefits, thanks to its carotenoids – a type of phytochemical, as well as fiber and potassium content, which are good for eyes, and can contribute to reducing the risk of chronic diseases and help control blood pressure respectively.
- When purchasing corn, be aware of transport times which may affect the corn’s water-soluble vitamins. Frozen corn can be a more consistent choice. Canned corn can also be an option, but consumers need to look out for sodium levels, additional sugars, and saturated fats.
- There are multiple innovative ways to include corn in the diet – from grilling during summer, seasoning and pairing with other vegetables or proteins, to adding in chili or dishes of other cuisines. Be cautious of the processing involved as it may alter the corn’s nutritional value.
- Encouraging consumption of whole grain is made easier by including dishes like corn tortillas. However, be mindful of the portion size and the method of preparation to avoid unhealthy practices, such as overeating.
Come summer and the aisles of any supermarket flourish with a vibrant display of seasonal merchandise – pool accessories, summer footwear, and BBQ kits. Yet, nothing screams summer more than the classic treat enjoyed at most American cookouts – the irresistible corn on the cob.
In several regions across the globe, corn is alternatively known as maize. Originating around 10,000 years ago in southern Mexico, maize is recognized as the whole plant. What usually makes it to our meal plans is likely to be sweet corn.
Interestingly, maize has different variants. Dent corn, known for the unique indents formed on top of its kernels, is largely utilized for making livestock feed and producing ethanol. With its array of colorful kernels, flint corn typically finds use in autumn decorations and is a key ingredient in dishes like popcorn and hominy.
Understanding Corn: Vegetable or Grain?
Whether corn is considered a vegetable or a grain depends on the time of its harvest. Soft and liquid-filled kernels, typically found at grocery stores, are categorized as starchy vegetables. However, when mature and dry, the same corn qualifies as a grain – this is why popcorn is acknowledged as a whole grain.
The kernels of corn display a stunning spectrum of colors – white, yellow, blue, red, purple, or black. Owing these varying hues to the natural compounds known as phytochemicals, fruits and vegetables might also gain heart-protective advantages from these colorful substances.
“Highly colored fruits and vegetables are typically richer in specific phytochemicals,” states Maya Vadiveloo, an associate professor in the department of nutrition and food services at a renowned University. However, she emphasizes that one shouldn’t fret over the nutritional advantages of yellow over white sweet corn – personal taste reigns supreme here.
Giving Your Health a Boost with Corn
The humble corn might act as a means to invigorate the health of your eyes, courtesy of carotenoids – a type of phytochemical that endows yellow corn with its color. Yet, the nutritional value of corn is subject to certain variables.
According to Professor Vadiveloo, “Occasionally, fresh might not be the best, particularly if it has gone through extensive transport leading to potential loss of water-soluble vitamins. Frozen corn, harvested during peak freshness and nutrient quality, tends to be more consistent.”
Canned corn sounds a feasible pick too, provided one pays heed to the nutritional label for aspects such as sodium, inclusive of additional sugar and saturated fat. One can also rinse the kernels of plain canned variants to lessen the sodium levels. Opt for options with low sodium or no salt added where possible.
Data from the US Department of Agriculture asserts that one cup of raw, sweet yellow corn, approximately equivalent to one large ear, amounts to 125 calories and has 2.9 grams of fiber. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an adequate fiber intake can reduce the risk of chronic ailments like cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and specific types of cancers.
Besides, one cup of raw sweet corn packs 392 milligrams of potassium that helps control blood pressure by relieving tension in the blood vessel walls and offsetting the effects of sodium.
Getting Innovative with Corn Recipes
Summertime BBQs can be made healthier with the inclusion of fresh corn. Professor Vadiveloo accents that if one chooses an ear of corn over a serving of potato chips, it would be a win-win situation, enriching the body with micronutrients and fiber.
For those who love to grill, she suggests wrapping the corn cob in foil to shield against excessive heat and the resulting carcinogens. Corn can be rendered more flavor-packed by seasonings, herbs, spices, or lime juice instead of relying on the customary butter and salt. A healthful twist to Mexican street corn could be substituting sour cream and mayonnaise with plain low-fat Greek yogurt.
When cooking indoors, stir-frying frozen corn and other veggies with tofu or lean chicken, paired with brown rice, can result in a nutritious meal. Corn could be moreover added to chili to balance out the dish’s spiciness with a hint of sweetness.
Mindful Eating of Corn
The processing of corn alters its vitamin and mineral content, leading to a rise in fat content and loss of fiber and potassium, thus diluting its health benefits. Even so, healthy corn derivatives can be integral to a balanced diet.
“Encouraging people to consume more whole grains can be made easier by including corn tortillas (made with whole-grain corn flour) in the diet, as it serves as an appetizing carbohydrate source,” recommends Professor Vadiveloo.
However, it’s essential to be watchful of the portion size and preparation method of tortillas – restaurant-served tortilla chips, while complimentary, might pile on unnecessary calories, sodium, and fat before the main meal arrives.
Still, a carte-blanche restriction isn’t healthy either. Professor Vadiveloo cautions against creating a sense of deprivation that could lead to compensatory unhealthy practices, such as overeating.
So, if you’re asked what to bring to the next cookout, go ahead and propose a simple, yet tasty, choice – an ear of corn!