I do apologize for being guilty of skipping some time off the weekly health tidbits, but I hope you have been enjoying the other content and hopefully some different ideas in the segments will be coming up soon since it will be summer (if you aren’t below the equator). Since I do notice views coming in from other countries around the world, I have an interest in their food cultures and may discuss them in the future.
I thought since it is going to be warmer soon and here in America it is corn season, that I could look into the benefits of corn. Of course some of the corn we eat in products can be genetically modified so that is a particular downside if you aren’t interested in eating foods that are synthetically changed. However, when you get the chance to have non-gmo corn products you can look back on here for resources and information on corn that I will provide. So let’s take a dive into seeing what really makes corn so a-maize-ing. Since I think most people believe it doesn’t many health benefits at all and is just a starchy filler vegetable (although technically this is true since it is mainly composed of carbohydrates).
What is so great about Corn?
- Antioxidant Power!– Corn is mainly known for its carotenoids, which I will discuss in a second (but beta carotene is one of them). Along with the carotenoids, other antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin (which is good for the heart) are in corn also. Blue corn has some different antioxidants such as anthocyanins which are important for reducing oxidative stress.
- Keeping Your Eyes Sharp: With the new digital age, many people tend to look at their computers or other devices all day and this can cause eye strain and fatigue. These aren’t things we really want for our eyes, and we desire to keep them strong for the long term as we get older. A lot of people have heard that carrots are great for your eyesight, but generally have never heard that corn is good for it as well.
- The two most well known antioxidants for eye health that are in corn are named lutein and zeaxanthin. Concentrations of these antioxidants are found in our eyes and are believed to block blue light from reaching the retina which could reduce light induced oxidative stress, thus reducing the risk of macular degeneration in the eyes. Corn only has about 2.2mg of lutein in a cup and its recommended to get at least 6mg, but don’t fear since many other veggies like dark leafy greens have high amounts of lutein.
- Protecting Your Heart: When I do these weekly health tidbits now, I notice a pattern in the health benefits of many of the ingredients especially with heart health. It is no surprise that corn would also be on the list at being able to help with cholesterol levels and hypertension, but how exactly? Well, generally the intake of soluble fiber from any vegetable is beneficial for the cardiovascular system, but corn oil in particular has been looked at for preventing or inhibiting plaque on the arteries and on cholesterol levels (or an anti-atherogenic effect). The main reason why corn oil can be beneficial to the heart this way, is that it is an optimal or ideal combination of fatty acids. Bad LDL cholesterol can get replaced at binding sites due to the omega 3 fatty acids that strip them away, thus reducing plaque in the arteries, blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Digestive Health: With 4.5 grams of fiber in a cup of it, corn provides a filling amount of fiber both soluble and insoluble. The insoluble parts of the corn kernels actually pass through our digestive tract metabolized as well as unabsorbed. While this doesn’t sound that beneficial, it actually helps regulate things like our bowel movements.
- What is even more beneficial is the soluble fiber, which can go down into the large intestine and get metabolized by intestinal bacteria, turning into short chain fatty acids. These acids help to create a healthy microbiome and a place in the intestines to grow good bacteria, leading to better intestinal function and reduction of digestive health concerns like colon cancer.
- Can help regulate blood sugar: While many people see corn as a starchy vegetable that isn’t good for blood sugar levels, it is important to note that it is a complex carbohydrate that isn’t refined like white carbs such as pasta or bread. (although obviously processed corn products aren’t the same as whole and fresh corn- we are talking to you candy corn).
- Crops like corn have antidiabetic properties due to the protective phenolic phytochemicals that can control blood sugar levels. Corn is filling and doesn’t make you lose energy quickly, but its fiber content is also what helps to regulate or keep your blood sugar a little more steady. Yes, corn will still bring up your blood sugar levels if they were low and you hadn’t eaten in a while (like most foods do) but it will do it in a way that is at a slowed rate into your bloodstream. If you are diabetic though, it should be eaten in moderation since it is a higher starch vegetable, so don’t go eating cups of it each day (or if you are on a lower carb diet, small amounts of corn on occasion would be best).
While there are some downsides to corn, such as antinutrients like phytic acid (that is also in other foods like whole grains and beans), the benefits can greatly outweigh the cons that come with everything we eat. The key with corn is to not have it as salty processed snacks since it is a cheaper crop that is used in many snack items. Having it in moderation in its whole forms and different colors too is what is most helpful for our bodies, especially for those with health conditions like hypertension and diabetes.