Corn, it does a body good ...

CORN is the seed (grain) of a plant from the grass family similar to other familiar grains like wheat and oats and rice. Corn is widely and correctly classified as a grain. Popcorn and sweet corn are commonly eaten varieties, but refined corn products are also widely consumed as ingredients in foods.

 

Whole-grain corn is as healthy as any cereal grain; rich in fiber and many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The kernels hold the majority of the nutrients, and while some think of corn as a plain staple, corn is actually a unique phytonutrient-rich food that provides well-documented antioxidant benefits. 


In terms of phytonutrients, corn is best known for the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin, but the exact phytonutrient combination actually depends on the variety. Yellow corn is richer in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin; blue corn has unique concentrations of anthocyanins, especially cyanidin-3-glucosides.  Other phytonutrients found in corn include organic acids like ferulic, diferulic, and coumaric acid, and the flavonoid quercetin. Corn is a good source of pantothenic acid, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, manganese and vitamin B6.

Corn is mainly composed of carbohydrates and has small amounts of protein and fat. Starch is the main type of carbs found in corn, making up 28-80% of the dry weight. Corn also contains small amounts of sugar (1-3%). Sweet corn, also known as sugar corn, is a special low-starch variety (28%) with a higher sugar content (18%), most of which is sucrose. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly carbs are digested, so foods that rank high on this index may cause an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. Despite the sugar content of sweet corn, it is not a high-glycemic food, ranking low or medium on the glycemic index. 

 

Corn is also a decent source of protein. Depending on the corn variety, the protein content ranges from 10-15%. The most abundant proteins in corn are zeins, accounting for 44-79% of the total protein content but overall, the protein quality of zeins is poor because they are lacking in some essential amino acids,

 

Other Plant Compounds

Corn contains a number of bioactive plant compounds, some of which may have beneficial health effects.

In fact, corn contains higher amounts of antioxidants than many other common cereal grains such as:

 

  • Zeaxanthin: one of the most common carotenoids found in plants. In humans, it has been linked with improved eye health.

  • Lutein: One of the main carotenoids in corn, which is also linked to protecting the eye from oxidative damage produced by blue light.

 

Anti-nutrients in Corn

Like all cereal grains, whole grain corn contains phytic acid (phytate) which impairs the absorption of dietary minerals, such as iron and zinc, from the same meal. This is usually not a problem in well-balanced diets, but may be a serious concern where cereal grains and legumes are staple foods. Soaking and sprouting corn can reduce the levels of phytic acid substantially

 

Mycotoxins

Some cereal grains and legumes are susceptible to contamination by fungi. Fungi produce various toxins, known as mycotoxins, that are considered to be a significant health concern. The main classes of mycotoxins in corn are fumonisins, aflatoxins, and trichothecenes. Fumonisins are particularly noteworthy. They are found in stored cereals worldwide, but adverse health effects have mostly been linked with the consumption of corn and corn products, especially among people who depend on corn as their main dietary staple.

 

Other mycotoxins in corn may also have adverse effects. In most developed countries, food safety authorities monitor the levels of mycotoxins in foods on the market, and all food production and storage is strictly regulated. Generally, eating corn and corn products should not be a cause for concern.

 

Summary

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. 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. Phosphorus is essential for regulating normal growth, bone health, and optimal kidney functioning, and magnesium is necessary for maintaining a normal heart rate and for increasing bone mineral density. Corn also contains trace minerals like selenium that are difficult to find in most normal diets which is why corn is often a base ingredient in formulated pellets.

 

An ear of corn has about the same number of calories as an apple and less than one-fourth the sugar. In other words, it can be one of the healthier foods.  Contrary to popular belief, cooking corn does not make it less nutritious. In fact, antioxidant activity actually increases when corn is cooked.

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