June 21, 2018
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Corn: Cow feed or healthy vegetable?

By Georgia Clark-Albert, Special to the BDN

Corn is one of those vegetables that inspires a lot of one-liners. Corn makes you fat. Corn is only good for cow feed. There’s no nutritional value in corn. Corn is too high in starch.

Corn falls into two food categories. The kernels eaten off the cob are classified as vegetables, but if you dry and pop the kernels as popcorn it is a whole grain.

Yes, corn is a starchy vegetable, but what does that mean? Starch is a carbohydrate, made up of glucose molecules linked together in straight or branched chains, found in plants. Like other starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and winter squash, corn contains four grams of fiber in one cup of kernels, which is about one ear of corn. Adequate daily fiber intake helps with preventing certain types of cancers, and research suggests that consuming adequate fiber-rich foods may boost weight loss by helping you to feel fuller after eating.

Most of the fiber in corn is insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and may help prevent constipation.

Corn is a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds often found in yellow and green vegetables that help protect the healthy cells in our eyes against damaging high-energy blue wavelengths of light. The American Optometric Association reports lutein and zeaxanthin may help protect from developing chronic eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts, and eating foods rich in these nutrients, such as corn, is recommended.

Eating corn also may help to lower blood pressure, as one cup contains about 417 milligrams of potassium. The American Heart Association recommends 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily for most Americans.

One medium ear of corn contains about 10 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C; 14.8 percent of the recommended daily value for thiamin, which helps to produce energy for the heart, muscles and nervous system; 8.3 percent of the recommended daily value of niacin that helps with normal functioning of the nerves, skin and digestive system; 11 percent of the recommended daily value for phosphorus; and 8 percent of the recommended daily value for magnesium and riboflavin.

Corn also is rich in folic acid. Diets rich in folate have been linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, by working with vitamin B6 to reduce homocysteine, which is an amino acid and risk factor for artery blockage when present at high levels. Folic acid also is very important before and during pregnancy, as it is involved in the development of normal tissue growth and helps prevent certain birth defects.

When corn is cooked at high temperatures, it has been found to release a phenolic compound called ferulic acid that provides health benefits such as battling cancer.

Corn is best very soon after it is picked, because the sugars in corn convert quickly to starch. Corn can be stored in its husk for up to four days, but is at its sweetest when first picked. Store husked ears of corn in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for one or two days.

Corn, like any other food, will only make you fat if you eat too much of it. Corn is good feed for cows, but that’s a different type of corn than what humans eat. As you can see, there is a lot of nutritional value in corn, but remember — all things in moderation.

One medium ear of corn (6¾-7½ inches long, 103 grams) contains 111 calories, 1 gram fat, 25 grams carbs, 3 grams fiber and 3.5 grams protein.

Roasted Sweet Corn Salsa

From Fresh Supersweet Corn Council, makes 5 cups

4 ears husked fresh corn

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 can (16 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped sweet red bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½-1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place ears in a roasting pan; brush with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Roast until corn is tender and some kernels begin to turn golden brown, 10-12 minutes, turning once; cool. With a sharp knife, cut kernels from ears (makes about 2 cups). In a large bowl, combine corn kernels, black beans, bell pepper, cilantro, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Serve chilled or at room temperature with grilled meat or fish, if desired.

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.

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