Know Your Grains (KYG): Corn, “the most abundant food in the world”
This week we pick another trail buster grain (or is it a veggie). The story of ‘corn’ is as amazing as the taste it delivers. Would you believe that the corn as we know it today does not grow wild anywhere on the planet and its origin is sort of mystery? Most scientists however agree on Teosinte as its predecessor, a very different looking plant. It is beleievd that over centuries of cultivation Teosinte was finally transformed into this delicious and easily cultivated plant, as we know today.
From humble beginnings, corn/ maize depending on which part of the world you are in, has swept across the world like wild fire in last 8-9 centuries. Research estimates that corn accounts for roughly 21 percent of human nutrition plus a staggering 20-25% of animal nutrition, making it world’s most produced grain. Often consumed with beans and other vegetables, complementary amino acids that work together to provide complete proteins, corn is a staple food a large population worldwide.
One of the reasons for its wide proliferation is the punch it delivers in terms of nutrition. The grain’s high point is its Vitamin A content –more than 10 times that of other grains. Research also shows that corn is a vitamin C, magnesium-rich food. It also supplies good dose of 2 antioxidants and carotenoids associated with eye health - lutein and zeaxanthin. As a gluten-free grain, corn is a key ingredient in many gluten-free foods.
Some of the key benefits of including corn in your daily diet include,
- Rich source of Antioxidants, which are absolutely essential to maintain good health. Different colored corn kernels supply numerous antioxidants such as anthocyanins, protocatechuic acid and hydroxybenzoic acid, beta-carotene, caffeic acid, and ferulic acid.
- High in Fiber, corn provides a healthy dose of filling fiber, with about 4.5 grams of fiber per cup of kernels. It has a high ratio of insoluble-to-soluble fiber, which means it has various beneficial effects on the digestive system. The insoluble fibre improves the digestion process by providing roughage while, the soluble fibre is highly prebiotic and helps increase beneﬁcial gut bacteria.
- Slowly digested source of Carbohydrates, Corn is high in starch, which is a type of complex carbohydrate that supports steady energy levels. Relatively to most other grains, corn is low in calories while still providing nutrients. It is roughly equivalent to eating a nutritious banana, except the corn actually has much less sugar and more protein and fiber.
- Naturally Gluten-Free, a naturally gluten free grain, corn or corn flour makes a good stand-in for wheat or other gluten-containing foods.
- Part of Traditional Diets Linked to Longevity and Overall Health,
Researchers believe that staple crops like corn and legumes have anti-diabetic, antioxidant and anti-hypertension potential. These foods also provide certain protective phenolic phytochemicals that are beneficial for heart health, reversing hypertension as a natural remedy for high blood pressure and controlling blood sugar levels.
Don’t think twice when you next have the urge to grab that big tub of popcorn. It is whole grain too!