The sweet truth about sweet corn

 Ready-to-eat healthy vegetarian food

The sweet truth about sweet corn

One of summer’s simplest, purest pleasures is sweet corn. But many consider sweet corn unhealthy. What’s the real truth?  Is it okay to indulge in or not?  The reality is, yes, sweet corn can be enjoyed like just about all food nature naturally provides. Corn is a vegetable and like all veggies, has a whole lot to offer nutritionally.  Besides, right about this time of year is when corn is in season.  If you happen to live in the “corn belt” you will understand the meaning of “corn as high as an elephant’s eye.”  Under good growing conditions including lots of rain, corn stalks are commonly about 7 feet tall by midsummer.

Corn, also known as maize, is a large grain plant first domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mexico about 10,000 years.  Corn was an early staple food in American cultures until it eventually spread to the rest of the world by Spanish explorers in the late 15th century.

Corn is grown in all 50 states with Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois growing about half of all corn in the United States.  In fact, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of corn supplying almost half of all the corn on earth. 

Every time we eat corn we are consuming the seeds or kernels of corn.  The ‘corn on the cob’ variety is the sweet corn which is very popular during summer for barbeques and get-togethers.  We always associate the color yellow with corn but actually corn kernels can be found in a variety of hues including white, blue, purple, and red depending on where they are grown and what species or varieties they are.

Health benefits of corn

Corn has a reputation of being a “starchy” food, which is true but you have to remember, you’re eating a bunch of seeds when you consume corn.  In order for a seed to germinate and grow it needs a lot of energy packed into it if planted to be able to grow into a tall corn stalk.  Does that mean the only thing corn has to offer is a lot of starch and sugar?  No – those kernels are packed with a bevy of nutrition:

·      Corn is a good source of thiamin, folate, and vitamin C.  It also provides trace minerals such as selenium which can be difficult to find in most normal diets.

·      Corn also provides numerous phytochemicals, including lutein and zeaxanthin – antioxidants linked to eye, heart, and skin health

·      Studies suggest corn offers heart health benefits, including improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

·      A study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology found a component of corn to decrease the inflammatory response associated with colitis

·      Early studies are suggesting that corn may help protect against cancer by reducing the risk of lung and colon cancers

·      One cup of corn provides about 4 grams of fiber representing about 18.4% of what is recommended daily.  This can help aid in reducing digestive problems of constipation and hemorrhoids.  Corn is a whole-grain food and the fiber it contains helps to bulk up bowel movements, stimulating peristaltic motion which stimulates the production of gastric juice and bile.  It can also add bulk to overly loose stools, reducing the chance of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea. 

Selecting corn

Corn is available year round but fresh corn harvest peaks during the summer months.  Select ears with green leaves and plump kernels firmly held in place in orderly rows.  Avoid corn with shriveled husks with dark spots or brownish-colored tassels. 

Store corn in its husk, uncovered, in the refrigerator and use within a few days. 

 Ideas for serving corn

Fresh ears of corn can be steamed, broil, microwaved or roasted.  During off season times of the year, use frozen or canned corn as alternatives for fresh. 

Use corn in a variety of ways such as adding to soups, salads, and dips such as salsa.  Try mixing chopped onion, tomato, lettuce, and cooked corn kernels in a bowl.  Season the ingredients with salt, pepper, lime juice and olive oil.