Corn is one of the most popular types of crops in the world. Corn belongs to the family of “cereals” and is a grain that was originally grown in Central America. Then, numerous types of corn were distributed around the world.
Typically, corn is an independent food product that can be eaten both raw and processed. Also, corn is often used as an ingredient in the preparation of other foods. These include tortillas, chips, polenta , cornmeal , corn syrup and corn oil.
Corn is a whole-grain crop, and therefore is very useful for the body and has all the healing properties of whole grains. Corn is rich in fiber and many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Corn cobs are usually yellow, but sometimes come in other colors such as red, orange, purple, blue, white and black.
In the article we will consider in detail the scientific facts on the topic: nutritional value of corn, the benefits and harms to human health.
Nutritional value of corn
In addition to the high water content, corn is mainly composed of carbohydrates and has a small amount of protein and fat.
Below is information on all the nutrients contained in 100 grams. boiled corn:
Calories : 96 kcal
Water : 73%
Protein : 3.4 gr.
Carbohydrates : 21 gr.
Sugar : 4.5 g
Fiber : 2.4 g
Fat : 1.5 gr.
Saturated Fat : 0.2g.
Monounsaturated Fat : 0.37 g
Polyunsaturated fat : 0.6 g.
Omega-3 fatty acids : 0.02 g.
Omega-6 fatty acids: 0.59 g.
Trans Fat: ~
Like all cereals, corn is primarily composed of carbohydrates.
Starch is the main type of carbohydrate found in corn, and ranges from 28% to 80% of dry weight. Also, corn contains up to 3% sugar.
Sweet corn is a special variety with a low starch content (28%) and a higher sugar content (18%), most of which is sucrose.
Despite the sufficient sugar content in sweet corn, its glycemic index is low or medium. The glycemic index is an indicator of how quickly carbohydrates are digested. Foods that are high on this indicator can cause an unhealthy jump in blood sugar. The lower the glycemic index, the more useful the product is considered.
Corn is mainly composed of carbohydrates. It has a low or medium glycemic index, and therefore does not cause a serious increase in blood sugar after drinking it.
Corn contains enough fiber. One medium portion of cinema popcorn (112 grams) contains approximately 16 grams of fiber.
This volume is 42% and 64% of the optimal daily fiber intake for men and women, respectively. The fiber content in different types of corn varies, but usually is about 9% -15% (2).
The predominant type of fiber in corn is insoluble fiber, such as hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin.
Corn contains a lot of fiber. One serving of popcorn can provide most of the recommended daily intake.
Protein in corn
Corn is a good source of protein. Depending on the variety of maize, the protein content ranges from 10% to 15%. The most common proteins in corn are known as zeins, which account for 44% -79% of the total protein content.
In general, the quality of zein proteins is poor because they lack some essential amino acids, mainly lysine and tryptophan, which significantly reduces the nutritional value of these proteins.
However, in addition to their role in nutrition, zeins are completely unique and are used in the manufacture of glue, ink and coatings for tablets, sweets and nuts.
Corn contains a lot of protein, which is not of good quality.
Fats in corn
The fat content in corn ranges from 5% -6%, which makes it a low-fat food.
However, corn germ (a by-product that is formed during the grinding of corn) is rich in fats and is used to produce corn oil, which is often used for cooking.
Refined corn oil is mainly composed of linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fatty acid), the remainder being monounsaturated and saturated fats.
Corn oil also contains a significant amount of vitamin E, ubiquinone (Q10) and phytosterols, which increase the shelf life of the oil and make it an effective way to reduce the level of “bad” cholesterol.
However, many nutrition experts caution against the use of refined vegetable oils because of their potential health risks. Therefore, if you want to benefit from corn, eat it whole, not oil.
By itself, whole corn has relatively little fat in its composition. However, oil can be produced from corn by processing corn kernels.
Vitamins and Minerals
Corn can contain quite a lot of vitamins and minerals. However, their number varies greatly depending on the type of corn. In general, it can be said that popcorn is rich in minerals, while sweet corn contains more vitamins.
Manganese : an important trace element that is found in large quantities in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Manganese is poorly absorbed from corn due to the simultaneous content of phytic acid in it.
Phosphorus : Found in decent amounts in both popcorn and sweet corn, phosphorus is a mineral that plays an important role in the growth and development of body tissues.
Magnesium : an important mineral for the circulatory system. Low levels of magnesium can increase the risk of many chronic diseases, especially heart disease.
Zinc : A trace mineral that has many essential functions in the body. Due to the presence of phytic acid in corn, the absorption of zinc is low.
Copper: An antioxidant micronutrient that people usually rarely get with food. Inadequate copper intake can have an adverse effect on heart health.
Pantothenic acid : one of the B vitamins, also called vitamin B5. It is found to some extent in almost all products, so its deficiency is rare.
Folic Acid: Also known as Vitamin B9 or Folate, it is an important nutrient especially needed during pregnancy.
Vitamin B6 : A class of related vitamins, the most common of which is pyridoxine. It performs various functions in the body.
Niacin: Also called Vitamin B3, Niacin in corn is poorly absorbed. But if you cook corn with lemon, niacin will be absorbed better.
Potassium: essential nutrient that is good for heart health, namely blood pressure control. 100 gr. corn provides about 12% of the daily rate of potassium.
Corn is a good source of many vitamins and minerals. Popcorn is rich in minerals, and sweet corn is rich in vitamins.
Other plant compounds
Corn contains a number of biologically active plant compounds, some of which can benefit human health.
Corn contains more antioxidants than many other common crops.
Ferulic acid: one of the main polyphenolic antioxidants in corn, which contains more of it than wheat, oats and rice.
Anthocyanins : A family of antioxidant pigments responsible for the color of blue, purple and red corn.
Zeaxanthin : named after corn (Zea mays), Zeaxanthin is one of the most common carotenoids found in plants. It is proven that it has a good effect on eye health.
Lutein : one of the main carotenoids in corn. Like zeaxanthin, it is found in the retina of the human eye, where it serves as an antioxidant, protecting the eye from oxidative damage caused by blue light.
Phytic acid:an antioxidant that can impair the absorption of minerals such as zinc and iron. Pre-soaking, germinating and fermenting corn kernels can improve the digestibility of minerals.
Corn contains more antioxidants than many other grains. It is especially rich in beneficial carotenoids.
Popcorn is a special kind of corn that forms when corn kernels are heated. This happens when water that has fallen into the center of the grain turns into steam, creating internal pressure, causing the nuclei to explode.
Popcorn is perhaps the most popular snack in the world.
Popcorn is one of the few products that is whole grains and is used in the form of grains. Most often, whole grains of other crops are consumed as food ingredients in the form of bread and other baked goods.
Whole grain foods can have several health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
However, regular consumption of popcorn is not associated with improved heart health. This corn product, the health benefits and harms of which has already been sufficiently studied, can sometimes have negative consequences if consumed in large quantities.
Despite the fact that popcorn is a healthy product in itself, it is often consumed with soda. Almost always, popcorn is made with salt and cooking oil, which can have adverse health effects over time.
Popcorn is a type of corn that appears when corn kernels are heated. This is a popular whole grain snack. However, it is not recommended to eat popcorn often, as this can be harmful.
Health Benefits of Corn
Including whole corn in your diet on a regular basis can have several health benefits.
Corn is good for vision
Macular degeneration and cataracts are some of the most common visual impairments and major causes of blindness. These diseases can often be caused by bacterial infections and aging, but lifestyle and nutrition also play an important role.
Eating antioxidants, especially carotenoids such as zeaxanthin and lutein, can provide serious eye health benefits.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the predominant carotenoids in corn, and account for approximately 70% of the total carotenoid content. However, in white corn they are not enough.
Known as macular pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the retina of the human eye, the photosensitive inner surface of the eye, where they protect the eye from oxidative damage, which causes blue light from computer screens, televisions and other digital devices.
A high level of these carotenoids in the blood is strongly associated with a reduced risk of both macular degeneration and the development of cataracts.
In one study, 356 middle-aged and elderly people found a decrease in the risk of macular degeneration by 43% among those who consumed foods rich in carotenoids (especially lutein and zeaxanthin) ( 2 ). These products also include carrots, pumpkin, red and yellow bell peppers . They contain lutein and zeaxanthin together, which can have a beneficial effect on eye health.
Observational studies have also shown that supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin can have the same protective effect on the eyes ( 1 ).
Being an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants, corn can be good for eye health.
Corn Prevents Diverticular Disease
Diverticular disease (diverticulosis) is a condition characterized by the formation of “bags” in the walls of the colon. The main symptoms of the disease are cramps, flatulence, bloating and, in rare cases, bleeding and infection.
A popular recommendation for preventing diverticulosis today is to exclude popcorn and other high fiber foods, such as nuts and seeds, from the diet ( 4 ). It is believed that the benefits of corn are exaggerated and, conversely, it harms the intestines.
However, there is one large study that has proven the opposite. More than 47 thousand men who periodically consumed corn and popcorn, as well as other fiber foods, took part in the observation. In fact, eating popcorn has shown a protective effect on the intestines. Men who ate the most popcorn were 28% less likely to develop diverticular disease than those who consumed very little corn ( 5 ).
However, further studies are needed to confirm these results.
Corn does not contribute to the development of diverticulosis, as previously thought. On the contrary, it has a protective effect on the intestines.
Corn damage to health
In general, corn is considered a safe product. However, its use can cause unpleasant consequences in some groups of people.
Corn contains phytic acid
Like all cereals, whole grain corn contains phytic acid (phytate). Phytic acid affects the absorption of minerals, such as iron and zinc, from foods.
This is usually not a problem for those who eat balanced and those who have meat products in their diet. However, this can be a serious problem in developing countries where crops and legumes are staple foods.
The solution can be the soaking, germination and fermentation of corn. This significantly reduces the amount of phytic acid.
Corn contains phytic acid, a plant compound that can reduce the bioavailability of minerals such as iron and zinc.
Some cereals and legumes are susceptible to fungal infection. Mushrooms produce a variety of toxins, known as mycotoxins, which can cause serious harm to health. The main classes of mycotoxins in corn are fumonisins, aflatoxins and trichotetcenes.
Fumonisins deserve special attention. They can be found in grain storage facilities around the world. Adverse health effects are mainly associated with the consumption of large quantities of corn, as this increases the likelihood of contact with infected corn. This is especially true for people for whom corn is a staple food.
High consumption of contaminated corn is a likely risk factor for cancer and neural tube defects, common birth defects that can lead to disability or death.
One observational study in South Africa indicates that regular consumption of cornmeal can increase the risk of cancer in the esophagus – the tube that connects the throat and stomach ( 5 ).
Other mycotoxins in corn can also have an adverse effect.
In April 2004, in Kenya, 125 people died from aflatoxin poisoning after eating homemade corn that was not properly stored ( 6 ).
Effective preventative safety strategies may include using fungicides and properly drying the corn before storage.
In most developed countries, food safety authorities control the levels of mycotoxins in food products on the market, and all food production and storage are strictly regulated.
Generally, eating corn and corn products should not be a concern. However, in developing countries and where corn is grown, the risk of adverse health effects may be higher.
When corn is not stored properly, it can become infected with mycotoxins, which are harmful to health. The benefit of corn in this case will be completely offset by the negative effect of the spoiled product.
- Corn is one of the most widely consumed crops.
- Corn is a rich source of antioxidant carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which can contribute to eye health.
- It is also a rich source of many vitamins and minerals.
- Moderate consumption of whole grain corn, such as popcorn or sweet corn, may well fit into a healthy diet and be beneficial, rather than unhealthy.