Is corn actually good for you? We dig in and find out.
Corn is one of those foods that is confusing. As good as it is, there are many questions that swirl around about whether it is actually good for you. Here’s some juicy detail on corn and our opinion on how best to enjoy it this summer.
All About Corn
- Corn originated in Mexico over 9,000 years ago and is known by its original name “maize” in many parts of the world. Native Americans grew and harvested this crop as a main source of food.
- There are three types of corn: sweet corn, field corn and Indian corn. We normally eat sweet corn and sometimes Indian corn for popcorn.
- Corn is a starchy vegetable and cereal grain that is one of the world’s most popular. Corn is actually a seed of a plant in the grass family native to Central America.
- Corn is a good source of nutrients: fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants.
- Corn is naturally gluten-free.
- Corn is a pretty good source of protein but is not a complete protein (does not include all essential amino acids).
- Popcorn is a good source of minerals: phosphorus which helps with growth and maintenance of body tissues; magnesium, which is used in SO many parts of the body including the heart; and copper which is actually not abundant in the western diet and also good for the heart. Popcorn also has vitamin E, CoQ10 and good phytosterols (antioxidants), all helpful for lowering cholesterol.
- Sweet Corn has good vitamin Bs and some good amounts of potassium. It also contains antioxidants Zeaxanthin and Lutein, which are very helpful and protective to the eyes. Lutein specifically protects your eyes from the oxidative damage from blue lights (from our screens).
The Downside of Corn
- Corn and Sugar: Corn is high in starch, which may spike your blood sugar and is not great if you have blood sugar issues (prediabetes, diabetes, stubborn weight loss).
- Corn is sometimes highly refined to make high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, and those aren’t so good for you. Processed corn products lose beneficial fiber and other nutrients during production AND sometimes add salt, sugar or fat.
- Unlike other starchy carbs that turn primarily into glucose (rice), high fructose corn syrup is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, which is harder to digest because the fructose needs to be converted into glucose by the liver before it can be used as fuel in the body.
- Corn is often genetically modified and we don’t have a lot of info on what a genetically modified food DOES inside the body. Some suspect it is not as good for you as non-genetically modified foods.
- Corn has an anti-nutrient called Phytic acid, which may impair your absorption of dietary minerals and make it harder to get the ‘goodness’ from corn.
- Corn is potentially inflammatory for some. Corn contains zein proteins that are related to gluten and can be problematic for some. There have been some studies where corn has caused similar problems to those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
- Potential Problems with IBS: Corn sometimes triggers reactions in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or FODMAP intolerance due to the large amounts of fiber, causing diarrhea, bloating and/or gas.
- Corn is used for fuel and animal feed. In fact, 40% of the corn grown in the US is used for fuel and 60–70% of corn worldwide is produced to feed animals.
Corn Nutrition Facts
One cup (164 grams) of sweet yellow corn contains:
Calories: 177 calories
Carbs: 41 grams
Protein: 5.4 grams
Fat: 2.1 grams
Fiber: 4.6 grams
Vitamin C: 17% of the daily value (DV)
Thiamine (vitamin B1): 24% of the DV
Folate (vitamin B9): 19% of the DV
Magnesium: 11% of the DV
Potassium: 10% of the DV
So, YES or NO on choosing corn at the next BBQ?
As you can see, there’s not a cut and dry answer as to whether you should enjoy corn at the BBQ. In my opinion, enjoy corn in its most whole versions: corn on the cob, sweet corn salad and popcorn. SKIP the fried corn chips, corn oil or corn syrup. Always go with your gut — if you bloat, or corn makes you feel bad, avoid it! It might not be your body’s favorite food. If you feel good eating it, include it in your summer menus.
Quick and Easy Corn Recipes
Summer Corn Salad
From Barefoot Contessa
This dish is gluten, dairy and soy free, vegan and the perfect 15-minute side dish.
5 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook corn for 3 minutes. Drain. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob. Combine the kernels with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Enjoy!
Grilled Corn Salad
From Love and Lemons
This salad is gluten, dairy and soy free, veg/vegan.
3 ears of grilled corn on the cob
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
½ small cucumber, diced
2 ripe peaches, pitted and diced
1 small avocado, pitted and diced
8 basil leaves, thinly sliced
juice of 1 lime, plus lime wedges for serving
Serve with Chile Lime Dressing (this makes extra)
¼ cup Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayo
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup chopped cilantro, including stems
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
⅓ serrano chili, plus more to taste (optional)
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of onion powder
Make the dressing in the food processor: Chop avocado, mayo, olive oil, cilantro, lime, chili, spices. Next cut corn off the kernels and add pepper, cucumber, peaches, avocado, basil and lime juice. Slice the kernels off the grilled corn into a large bowl. Add red pepper, green pepper, cucumber, peaches, avocado, basil, lime juice, a few pinches of salt, and toss. Top with dressing. Enjoy!
For more summer recipe ideas and tips on healthy summer eating, visit us at healthynestnutrition.com/blog.
For more info on feeling your best through smarter food choices, contact our holistic nutritionists. Book a complimentary 20-minute consultation with Healthy Nest Nutrition owner Robin Hutchinson to see if our programs are right for you.
Hi! I’m Robin, the founder of Healthy Nest Nutrition. I am a board-certified holistic nutritionist in Denver, Colorado. My passion is helping people find the right diet for their bodies and then showing them how to make healthy nutrition doable and delicious!