Natural Health Tips

Health Benefits of Corn

Corn is a highly nutritious food that is particularly rich in immune-boosting vitamins and minerals that benefit heart health, and reduce the risk of diseases like various cancers and diabetes.

Corn is a cereal grain and is also eaten as a vegetable. Sweet corn is the most popular corn consumed, and is also known as maize and scientifically called zea mays. Other types of corn include dent corn (or field corn), pop corn and flour corn, which is ground corn. However, the most nutritious form is sweet corn, which are the kernels that grow on the cob.

Corn is a good source of fiber, vitamin B1, folate, Vitamin C and pantothenic acid. Corn contains the phytochemicals beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, saponins, alkaloids, sitosterol, stigmasterol, malic acid, palmitic acid, tartaric acid, oxalic acid, and maizenic acid, which have heart health and cancer-fighting properties.

Health Benefits

heart health

Corn is high in folate, a vitamin not only beneficial for reproductive health, but is known to reduce homocysteine, an inflammatory marker attributed to heart disease.

lung cancer

Corn is rich in beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid that is linked to significantly lowering the risk of developing lung cancer. One study evaluated the diets of over 63,000 adults in China, finding that those who ate the most cryptoxanthin-rich foods had a twenty-seven percent reduction in lung cancer risk.

colon cancer

Corn is very high in phenolic compounds that are associated with helping to prevent colon cancer and other digestive cancers. Corn is also high in resistant starch that helps promote butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid found in the colon that may be beneficial in fighting colon cancer.

Diabetes

Cornstarch, a component of corn, was shown to improve glucose metabolism in normal and overweight women.

Improved memory Function

Corn is a good source of thiamin, or vitamin B1, an important nutrient for enzymatic reactions involved in energy production, and is also critical for brain cell/cognitive function. Thiamin is needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory, whose lack has been found to be a significant contributing factor in age-related impairment in mental function (senility) and Alzheimer's disease.

Tips on Using Corn

  • The sugar content in corn rapidly turns to starch as soon as the corn is picked, so to enjoy it at its optimal sweetness and nutritional peak, corn should be eaten as fresh as possible.

  • When storing corn, keep it in the refrigerator and do not remove its outer husk since this will protect its flavor.

  • To tests the juiciness of the corn, press your fingernail into a kernel. Corn that is fresh will exude a white milky substance.

References

  • Bazzano LA, He J, Odgen LG et al. Dietary intake of folate and risk of stroke in US men and women:NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Stroke 2002 May;33(5):1183-9.

  • Yuan JM, Stram DO, Arakawa K, Lee HP, Yu MC. Dietary cryptoxanthin and reduced risk of lung cancer: the Singapore Chinese health Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2003 Sep;12(9):890-8.

  • Adom KK, Liu RH. Antioxidant activity of grains. J Agric. Food Chem. 2002;50:6182-6187. Bauer-Marinovic M, Florian S, Muller-Schmehl K, Glatt H, Jacobasch G. Dietary resistant starch type 3 prevents tumor induction by 1,2-dimethylhydrazine and alters proliferation, apoptosis and dedifferentiation in rat colon. Carcinogenesis. 2006 Apr 20

  • Toden S, Bird AR, Topping DL, Conlon MA. Resistant starch prevents colonic DNA damage induced by high dietary cooked red meat or casein in rats. Cancer Biol Ther. 2006 Mar;5(3):267-72.

  • Hylla S, Gostner A, Dusel G, Anger H, Bartram H-P, Christl S, Kasper H, Scheppach W: Effects of resistant starch on the colon in healthy volunteers: possible implications for cancer prevenrtion. Am J Clin Nutr 1998, 67:136-142.

  • Behall KM, Scholfield DJ, Hallfrisch JG, Liljeberg-Elmstahl HG. Consumption of both resistant starch and beta-glucan improves postprandial plasma glucose and insulin in women. diabetes Care. 2006 May;29(5):976-81.