Is corn a starch or a vegetable? Is it good for you or fattening? Many people are confused about corn’s benefits.
Corn is actually considered a grain, like wheat and rice and for vegetarians is added to a meal of tofu or legumes to make a complete protein of amino acids. But it is also a starchy vegetable. It depends on the variety and when you harvest it.
Corn was a staple to the Native Americans. Most of us think of corn as yellow, but there are white, blue, black and red varieties as well. Yellow corn is high in carotenes and lutein which have been researched as a preventative for macular degeneration and heart disease. So called sweet corn (Indian corn, sugar corn) it comes in many varieties. Shoepeg or white corn is highest in sugar content and so is often considered a starchy vegetable. The difference between Indian sweet corn and field corn is the Indian corn is picked prematurely when it is in a milky stage. Field corn is picked when its kernels have matured and dried and then ground into masa, a corn based flour.
Corn is a staple produce in the United States but is also grown in Brazil and today in China as well. When sweet corn is picked, it must be consumed fairly quickly, freezed or canned to keep the sucrose from turning into starch.
Corn is one of the most popular garden grown vegetables. It does require a good amount of space, however. Corn is monoecious, which means it contains both male and female flowers on the same plant. The males are the tassels, and the females that catch the pollen are what most people term as the silk. However, it is better to plant corn in several block rows rather than one single long row to allow thorough cross pollination.
To grow corn, plant 2-3 seeds in each hole, 12-15 inches apart, in nitrogen enriched soils only after it has reached at least 50-60 degrees, depending on the variety. Otherwise, the seeds will not germinate. If you buy seed packets, look for the symbols su, se or sh2 on the label. The “se or EH” means it is enhanced to be more sweet and tender. The sh2 variety has the kernels which are smaller and closer together for added sweetness.
Corn Nutritional Content
Corn does contain carbohydrates, which has given it a bad reputation in recent years. But it also has high levels of antioxidants that actually increase when you cook it. By cooking corn it does lose its Vitamin C pretty rapidly, however.
For each 100 grams or 3.5 oz serving of sweet corn –
Niacin 1.7 mg
Vitamin C 6.8 mg
Magnesium 37 mg
Potassium 270 mg
Corn Health Benefits
The antioxidants in corn come from ferulic acid, which has been linked to cancer prevention. Even though it scores a medium on the glycemic index, it is high in niacin and potassium. Its lutein and beta carotene levels have been linked to cognitive brain function retention. Advanced Alzheimer patients have low levels of both, but it is not clear which is the “chicken” and which is the “egg”. More research needs to be done. Corn also is a good source of magnesium and essential fatty acids.
Corn Cautions and Concerns
Those on a low glycemic diet should consult with their dieticians before adding corn products to their diet. Because of the high sugar content, Diabetics need to also monitor their intake carefully.
Corn is a starch, and when combined with beans, does complete the amino acid proteins. However a 1/4 cup of corn will suffice with a 1/2 cup of beans. While many are saying it can ward off cancer, eye degeneration and Alzheimer’s, other healthy foods can make the same claim.