November 15, 2018

View as List 8 A-maizing Corn Facts

  • 8 A-maizing Corn Facts

    An American staple, corn (called maize in other countries) was first cultivated in Southern Mexico and Central America six to ten thousand years ago. Native Americans taught the European settlers how to grow and prepare corn, including popcorn, which they ate as a breakfast cereal with milk and maple syrup. Here, discover other fun and healthy facts about corn products.

  • 1

    Veggie or Grain?

    millet corn stalks

    Corn is technically a grain and not a vegetable—the seed of a type of grass, like wheat. It therefore counts toward the recommended three daily servings of whole grains. The corn we eat is “sweet corn” (white, yellow or bi-colored), which has become even sweeter since scientists began breeding varieties with more sugar. Some “supersweet” corn also stays sweet longer. Baby corn (available canned) is sweet corn that’s been harvested early, and can be eaten cob and all.

  • 2

    Corn Health Benefits

    woman with boiled corn

    Corn is a high-carbohydrate food with lots of fiber, some protein, B vitamins (e.g., thiamin and folate), a little vitamin C and a handful of minerals. Treating corn with lime (as in tortillas) makes certain amino acids and niacin more available to the body. Yellow corn contains some beta carotene and is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin—which may help keep eyes healthy and possibly protect against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Corn contains more calories than most veggies: 175 in a cup.

  • 3

    Buying Tips

    young ear of corn on stalk

    For the best fresh corn, purchase in season (usually mid-to-late summer). Check that the corn has been kept cool. The sugar in corn gets converted to starch more quickly at warm temperatures. Feel through the husk to see if the kernels are tightly packed and plump. Refrigerate corn when you get home, and cook it as soon as possible. Unless it’s a supersweet variety, there may be a noticeable decline in sweetness in just a day or two.

  • 4

    Cooking Corn

    man splitting an ear of corn in kitchen

    Boil, grill or microwave corn. Don’t add salt to the boiling water, because salt toughens the kernels. As an alternative to butter, rub with wedges of lemon or lime. Instead of salt, sprinkle with cayenne, dill or other spices and herbs. You can also add corn kernels to rice and bean dishes, soups, salads, even pancakes. Frozen and canned are just as nutritious as fresh—just watch out for extra sodium and high-fat sauces.

  • 5

    Consider Cornmeal

    cornmeal in a bowl

    Some corn is stone-ground (as opposed to steel-ground) into cornmeal, a process that retains more of the corn’s hull and germ and thus more nutrients. Cornmeal can be used for bread, muffins, polenta, grits and tortillas.

  • 6

    Popcorn Facts

    popped corn

    Popcorn is a special variety of “field corn” that contains a small amount of water inside a thick-walled casing; when heated, steam builds up until the kernel explodes. It’s a healthy high-fiber snack when air-popped with no added butter. Look for packaged microwave popcorn that is low in sodium and contains no trans fats. Be aware: movie-theater popcorn often contains these unhealthy fats. 

  • 7

    Corn Oil Characteristics

    glass pitcher of oil, vinegar; corn cobs in background

    Field corn is also processed into corn syrup, cornstarch and corn oil (as well as ethanol fuel, plastics and other nonfood products). Corn oil is rich in unsaturated fats and sterols, both of which can help lower blood cholesterol.

  • 8

    Corn Sweeteners

    syrup dribbling over corn flakes cereal

    Corn sweeteners, widely found in soft drinks and other processed foods, are just another source of sugar. High-fructose corn syrup, in particular, may raise triglycerides and have other negative health effects.