Corn is available in several varieties, each with a slightly different texture and flavor, and has multiple identities—a grain, a vegetable, or a fruit.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn can be considered either a grain or a vegetable, based on its maturity and the time when it is harvested.
Corn that is harvested when fully mature and dry (used in foods such as corn tortillas, popcorn, and cornbread) is considered a grain, whereas fresh corn (corn on the cob or frozen corn kernels) that is harvested when it is soft and has kernels full of liquid is considered a starchy vegetable.
Some experts say corn is a seed derived from the flower/ovary of the corn plant; hence, it is a fruit.
Ultimately, similar to many other types of produce, corn can be considered a grain, a vegetable, and a fruit because it technically fits into the definitions of all three of them.
What is corn?
Corn is a culinary and cultural staple for people across the globe.
Corn is available in several varieties (white, yellow, red, purple, and blue), each with a slightly different texture and flavor, and has multiple identities—a grain, a vegetable, or a fruit.
Corn or maize is a starchy vegetable that comes as kernels on a cob, covered by a husk.
Corn was first cultivated about 10,000 years ago from a wild grass called teosinte by farmers in southern Mexico. Natives of North and South America also grew corn by the name “maize.”
Corn is a favorite of summertime cookouts, available in yellow, white, or a combination of the two colors, and has a mildly sugary taste and is affordable for most people.
Three main types of corn
- Indian or flint: Harder than sweet corn, available in red, white, blue, black, and gold, mainly used for fall decorations in the United States.
- Dent corn: It has a dent in the top of each kernel, mainly used as animal feed and in some manufactured foods such as tortilla chips and grits.
- Sweet corn: Consumed in several ways and available in local grocery stores.
Nutritional value per serving of corn
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture food database, one small ear of corn contains the following:
How is corn eaten?
Corn is one of the most popular vegetables in the United States and can be consumed in different ways—often on the cob, as a side dish, or mixed with other vegetables.
Steamed and popped corn (a perfect snack for movie nights or parties) are two common ways to eat corn. Additionally, the following are a few ways to add corn to your diet:
- Dried and grounded into flour, becomes cornmeal for tortillas, chips, and crackers
- Boiled, steamed, roasted, or grilled corn on the cob
- A hearty addition to soups, stews, and casseroles
- Corn muffins or cornflakes
- Added to pasta, sandwiches, and salads
- Pickled corn
10 nutritional health benefits of corn
The potential health benefits of this versatile vegetable include:
- Better gut health
- Choosing corn and other whole-grain corn products rather than processed white flour helps improve your gut health.
- Corn is higher in starch content than green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and broccoli.
- Promotes digestive health
- Prevents chronic diseases
- Aids in weight loss
- The fiber in corn helps you stay full for longer and prevents unhealthy snacking in between meals.
- Protects against colon cancer
- It feeds healthy bacteria in your digestive tract, which may help protect against colon cancer.
- Prevents diverticulitis
- Some studies suggest that people who eat more popcorn have a lower risk of getting a diverticular disease.
- Works as an antioxidant
- Promotes eye health
- Enriched with nutrients
- Contains plant pigments
- Plant pigments are natural chemicals called phytonutrients that carry the antioxidants.
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6 risks associated with corn
Similar to potatoes and peas, corn is a starchy vegetable, which means it has sugar and carbohydrates. Over consumption, large portion sizes, and adding fatty ingredients (butter and oil) may not only ruin its health benefits but also instead make it hazardous.
- Raises blood sugar levels
- The high sugar and carbohydrate content of corn (when consumed in excess) can raise your blood sugar levels.
- Contains antinutrients
- Antinutrients are compounds that keep the body from absorbing nutrients. Soaking corn can help remove many of them.
- Endangers people with gluten intolerance
- A flare-up for irritable bowel syndrome
- Corn may also cause a symptom flare-up in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Genetically modified
- Scientists can change the deoxyribonucleic acid in corn to make it more resistant to drought or insects, or add more nutrients.