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Is corn good for you? 3 myths and truths about corn

April 19, 2024
5 minutes
Healthy Eating
Food mythbusting

From commercials on TV to articles in magazines, you don't have to look far to find opinions on whether corn is good for you. Corn's nutritional value has been debated for years, and it can be tough to find an answer to whether it's the right fit for your nutritional needs. Here, we'll take a look at the nutritional profile of corn, facts and myths around the vegetable, and how you can enjoy corn as a part of your balanced nutrition plan.

The nutritional profile of corn

A jack of all trades, corn is technically classified as a grain, vegetable, and fruit, and can be used to meet many dietary needs. Corn is high in carbs (which isn't necessarily a bad thing!), and it's also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The veggie is also fairly low in fat.

One cup of sweet corn includes:

  • 177 calories
  • 41g carbohydrates
  • 5.4g protein
  • 2.1g fat
  • 4.6g fiber

A cup of corn also contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • 17% of the recommended daily value (RDV) of vitamin C
  • 25% of the RDV of thiamine (vitamin B1)
  • 19% of the RDV of folate (vitamin B9)
  • 11% of the RDV of magnesium
  • 10% of the RDV of potassium

Myth 1: Corn is high in sugar and unhealthy

While corn is higher in sugar than other vegetables and may not be the best fit for people with certain health conditions (like diabetes), most people can safely enjoy corn. That being said, staying away from high-fructose corn syrup – a type of sweetener derived by isolating corn sugar – is a smart move for anyone.

Truth 1: Corn provides essential nutrients and dietary fiber

Whole, unprocessed corn provides your body with nutrients and fiber that can support a healthy lifestyle. Adding corn to your grocery list can help you enjoy meals that are packed with iron and plenty of fiber that can be helpful for dealing with constipation and other digestive issues.

If you're concerned about your sugar intake or have health conditions that require you to limit the amount of carbohydrates you eat, it's important to talk with your doctor to ensure that you're following the correct nutritional guidelines for your health.

Myth 2: Corn is genetically modified and unsafe

Studies show that over 90% of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified. While more research needs to be done on the effect of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on humans, research thus far has shown that GMOs are generally safe to consume.

Truth 2: Understanding GMOs and corn production

Many people enjoy genetically modified foods as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Some of the most common crops that are genetically modified in the United States include soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets, potatoes, and alfalfa. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more than 95% of animals raised for meat and dairy purposes in the United States are fed GMO crops.

Some GMOs have been modified to increase the amount of nutrients in the food, allowing your body to get more of what it needs. Some fruits and vegetables are genetically modified to reduce browning, or to resist certain pests during the growth process.

GMO foods are studied carefully before they're released to the public and GMOs in the US are regulated by the FDA who “makes sure that foods that are GMOs or have GMO ingredients meet the same strict safety standards as all other foods,” but some researchers believe their safety is still up for debate. While human clinical trials have yet to be run, some animal studies show that the consumption of GMOs may be related to accelerated aging, blood pressure changes, infertility, gastrointestinal issues, endocrine system problems, and changes to the immune system. 

Myth 3: Corn causes weight gain and should be avoided

Every food can be enjoyed on a balanced diet, and there's no need to avoid anything that's eaten in moderation and fits into your nutrition plan. An ear of corn on the cob is calorically similar to an apple, and the fiber in corn can help to slow down your body's digestive process, increasing the amount of time until you feel hungry again.

While corn is sweet for a vegetable, it has less than a third of the sugar in a banana, and less than a fifth of the sugar in an apple. Whole sweet corn – not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup – can be a balanced addition to any nutrition plan.

Truth 3: Incorporating corn into a balanced diet

It's easy to add corn to your nutrition plan, and it's a good fit for any meal of the day. Try these Mexican Street Corn Breakfast Tostadas, an easy breakfast option that will have everyone in your family coming back for more.

Sweet corn can also be a delicious addition to a balanced lunch or dinner – check out these quick, delicious options that allow you to enjoy raw corn (no cooking required!).

Cooking and serving suggestions for corn

Whether you're using canned corn or you're working with corn on the cob, there are plenty of ways to prepare this delicious, sweet, starchy vegetable in your kitchen.

A few tips for cooking and serving sweet corn in your home:

  • Corn begins to lose sweetness after it's picked, so it's best to use corn that you bring home from the grocery store or farmer's market as soon as possible.
  • Focus on including fresh corn in your diet during summer and early autumn, when corn is in season.
  • Corn is fairly low in calories, and there's no reason to limit yourself when it comes to enjoying the veggie. That being said, keep an eye on how much salt, butter, or other additions you add to your corn.
  • Cooking fresh corn is simple: with or without the husk, you can boil, steam, roast, microwave, or grill corn. If you'd prefer, you can also remove the corn husk and cut the kernels from the cob prior to cooking.

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