Corn is a popular cereal most of us are familiar with. It also goes by the names Indian corn or maize besides its scientific name, Zea mays. It belongs to the cereal plant of the family Poaceae. Corn or maize is among one of the most popular domesticated crops. It is native to America from where it got widely distributed all over the world. If you know corn as a cereal only, you will be amazed to know that corn is commonly used as livestock feed too. Moreover, it also works as a biofuel and raw material in various industries.
About the Corn Plant
The corn plant is identified as a tall plant with a firm and erect stem. It has some large but narrow leaves with margins in wavy patterns, which are present alternately on the stem. The yellow and white corn varieties are among the most common edible cereal. Every corn is wrapped up in leaves called husks.
Types of Corns
1. Dent Corn (Zea mays indenata)
Also known as the field corn, this variety of corn is mostly used as livestock feed on farms. It can be white or yellow, having starch of both types, hard and soft, which becomes indented when the fruit matures. It is used in the industrial preparation of processed foods.
2. Flint (Zea mays indurata)
This variety of corn or maize is known as Indian corn. It is used for almost the same purposes as the dent corn. It is, however, distinguished by a solid outer shell and the color of its kernels. The kernels of flint corn or maize might range from white to red. It is commonly grown in the regions of South and Central America.
3. Sweet Corn (Zea saccharata or Zea rugosa)
This variety of corn appears to have wrinkled seeds that are mostly translucent. Unlike the other varieties, the plant sugar from this type of corn cannot be converted to starch. It is mostly eaten on the cob, or its kernels can be canned or frozen to increase the storage time. It is much preferred to be used as livestock feed or to make flour because of its sweet taste.
4. Flour Corn (Zea mays amylacea)
This variety is characterized by soft starch with kernels softer than other varieties, which means they can be easily grounded to make a powdery flour. Flour corn is usually used in baked dishes. It is also an important ingredient of various Mexican dishes, such as tortilla and tortilla chips.
5. Popcorn (Zea mays everta)
Popcorn is actually a sub-variety of flint corn. It has a peculiar center filled with starch, having a hard shell around it. When the kernel is heated, the steam created by the natural moisture inside the kernel pressurizes the kernel to explode or pop in a soft white starchy mass.
Nutritional Profile of Corn
Corn or maize is a very beneficial cereal grain for our health. It is packed with high amounts of fiber along with numerous essential minerals, vitamins, and healthy antioxidants. This section reviews the nutritional profile of corn.
According to the US government resources, 100 grams of boiled yellow corn that equals to about 3.5 ounces provides you with 96 calories. Also, consuming the same amount of corn provides you with 73% water and 21 grams of carbs. Similar to the other cereal grains, corn or maize also primarily contains carbohydrates in the form of starch (up to 80% of the dry weight of corn).
The sweet corn variety of this cereal is one of the best options for low-starch sugar, known as sucrose. Nevertheless, this sugar content does not make corn a high-glycemic food, which is very good for people looking for healthier options.
Fiber is another very critical component in corn or maize. A little over 100 grams of corn provides you with 16 grams of fiber, making up for about 64% of the Daily Value for adults. Fiber accounts for about 15% of the dry weight of corn. Most of the fiber in corn is insoluble one, including hemicellulose, lignin, and cellulose.
Protein is another very important component in corn; there are about 15% of the components in maize, with the most common one known as zeins. However, corn is not considered a reliable and efficient source of protein as it falls short of some amino acids. Therefore, we cannot rely on corn alone as a protein source.
Health Benefits of Corn
1. Good for the Eye
Eye health is one of the major concerns in age-related eyesight issues. Macular degeneration and cataract are known as top causes of blindness, which can be prevented by a balanced nutritious diet. Studies affirm the importance of consuming antioxidants, such as carotenoids, for boosting eye health. Two of the main antioxidants that have shown promising prospects are zeaxanthin and lutein, both present in corn. In white and yellow corn, these two antioxidants make up about 70% of the whole carotenoid content.
One research involving middle-aged adults documented the positive impacts of consuming these carotenoids on the risks of developing age-related eye disorders. Results showed a 43% decrease in the risk of macular degeneration in the participants compared to those who did not consume these antioxidants.
2. Might help Prevent Diverticular Disease
Diverticulosis is a condition wherein pouches form in your colon walls, presenting physical symptoms of cramps, flatulence, and bloating. It had been a long-held belief that corn and other fiber-rich foods were responsible for this condition. However, a longitudinal study spanning 18-years involving 47,228 men shattered this belief and presented how corn could help prevent the development of this condition.
3. Fiber-Rich Diet Help Keep Digestive Issues At Bay
Corn is loaded with fiber. The intake of dietary fiber is linked with decreasing the risks of numerous diseases such as heart-related issues and digestive ones. Consuming more fiber is documented to result in healthy digestion. Popcorns are also considered to help provide you with fiber, but since they are mostly consumed with soft drinks and are loaded with salt content, their consumption is not recommended for a healthy diet.
4. Might help in Regulating Blood Sugar
Corn has high sugar content – mostly in the form of starch. Therefore, they are not recommended for some people. Their consumption can significantly result in spiked levels of blood sugar. However, research regarding low-carb diets, such as corn, helping in managing diabetes is surfacing. Nevertheless, consuming corn is not wholly recommended for managing type-2 diabetes in the whole population. Always consult your physician before drafting a meal plan for a person with type-2 diabetes.
All in all, corn is a very complex food. It is rich in fiber and protein but cannot be recommended as a good source of protein since its protein lacks some important amino acids. Also, it might be eaten for regulating blood sugar levels given its fiber content – but one shouldn’t because corn also contains high amounts of sugar in the form of starch. The bottom line is to always consult a professional before planning out a healthy diet.