Corn is my most favorite food; from corn soup and popcorn to a lovely corn on the cob and a bowl of cornflakes, I have always adored those yummy yellow cereal grains. But, I have often wondered, what are the health benefits to be gained from regularly eating maize, and what are the dangers from eating too much of it? Here is a very special corn guide that describes just what the pros and cons of corn (or sweetcorn) really are.
In Europe, and beyond, they had wheat, and in the Far East they had rice as their daily staple. But in the Americas, for about 10,000 years, the grain that eventually became the well-loved corn was cultivated. Starting as just a tiny teosinte cob (pictured below) with miniscule grains, Meso-American farmers planted its biggest and best seeds, which over time produced the magnificent gleaming cob we use today. This genuinely American food was taken by Columbus back to Europe, from where it proceeded to penetrate every part of the world, now becoming, by weight, the most produced grain on earth.
Image showing the evolution of corn/maize - source
Corn is a staple cereal crop that has nourished generations of people as part of a healthy diet, providing 10% of our recommended daily intake of magnesium, vitamin C, phosphorus, thiamin, folate and fiber. You may know that there are several varieties of corn that are cultivated for mainstream use today, such as flint, dent, sweet and popcorn, but did you also know that it also comes in variety of surprising colors: such as red, black, purple, blue, white and orange? Corn truly is a wonder of the world, and here are some of its greatest health benefits...
The Health Benefits of Corn
1. Corn reduces the risk of hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer
Due to corn’s rich fiber content (nearly 20% of our daily amount), it is a terrific food for alleviating digestive problems like constipation and hemorrhoids. As a whole-grain, it also helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. A fiber rich diet is good for your bowels and bowel movements, as is well known: this means there is less of a chance of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea.
2. Corn protects your heart
If your heart is already in a good condition, the optimal fatty acids in corn oil help keep the balance between Omega-3 (good) and Omega-6 (bad) steady, reducing cholesterol, blood pressure and the chances of heart attacks or strokes.
3. Corn prevents anemia
One of the main causes of anemia is iron deficiency, since it is iron that forms red blood cells. This mineral is plentiful in corn, therefore making a great food to keep anemia at bay.
4. There are cosmetic benefits from corn
Corn starch is often used in cosmetic products already, and it can also be applied to your skin to soothe any rashes or irritations you are suffering from. A lot of traditional skin creams unfortunately contain pore-blocking carcinogens: corn starch provides a better replacement for these harmful products.
5. Corn can control diabetes and hypertension
Eating plenty of fruits and veg, like corn, will much reduce the risk of diabetes, and even alleviate the condition. The corn kernels themselves assist in management of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Phenolic phytochemicals are present in whole corn, and they are effective against hypertension since they regulate the release and absorption of the body’s insulin.
6. Corn promotes good eye health
Corn is a good source of both lutein and zeaxanthin, which it has been argued may help preserve good eye health. High levels of these catenoids in the blood have been frequently associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
7. Corn helps prevent diverticular disease
Like nuts and other seeds, it was once thought that sufferers of diverticulitis should avoid high-fiber corn. However, one extensive study has found that popcorn consumers were 28% less likely to develop diverticulitis.
8. Corn's Antioxidants slow cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s
Antioxidants eradicate the harmful effects caused by free-radicals, and thus they can slow cognitive decline and help prevent such terrible problems like Alzheimer’s.
Corn is rich in so many good things
- Its vitamin C boosts immunity and fights infections
- Its vitamin E has anti-aging properties
- Its thiamine boosts memory, cognitive functions and nerve health
- Its phosphorus helps maintain normal growth, kidney function and bone health
- Its magnesium boosts bone health and regulates heart rate
- Its vitamin B7 keeps skin and hair healthy
- Its high fiber content is good for weight loss diets that lower cholesterol
Unfortunately, although corn is great, it's not perfectly healthy for everybody all the time, particularly when not eaten in moderation, or as part of a well-balanced diet. Here are some of the ill-effects that can come from corn.
Anti-nutrients: All cereal grains contain phytic acid, which in too-great numbers can impair the absorption of necessary dietary minerals like iron and zinc. If you eat meat regularly this problem will be assuaged. Another solution is to soak your corn before eating, which will greatly reduce the amount of phytic acid.
Mycotoxins: Mytoxins develop when fungi infect the corn, increasing the cancer risks in those for whom corn is a vital staple. Fortunately, in the developed world, food safety authorities monitor the level of mytoxins in all foods, especially corn so that they are stored properly.
A Delicious Bonus Recipe: Jamie Oliver's Mexican Cheesy Corn on the Cob