Corn

Benefits of corn

CornCorn is also commonly known as maize. It is one of the most popular cereal grains in the world. Popcorn and sweet corn are some of the most commonly eaten varieties of corn. Besides these products, corn is also used in a wide range of other products. For example, corn is used to make tortillas, cornmeal, flour and corn syrup. This article will provide more information on corn and its health benefits.

Description

The kernels which we commonly refer to as “corn” are the fruit of the plant called Zea Mays. It is for this reason that in many parts of the world, corn is also referred to as maize. The plant Zea Mays is classified as  a grain. Since the plans is considered to be a grain, it is often included in studies which also include products such as barley, oats and wheat. While the term “corn” is often adopted in English speaking countries, it is said that it is best to refer to the vegetable as “maize” since it was first domesticated in Mesoamerica. In this region they referred to the product as “maiz”. For many communities in Central and South America, corn became one of the most commonly used foods. Also, among Native American tribes did corn play an important role in the everyday diet. All types of corn come from the same species of plant. Moreover, they also belong to the same genus. However, within this species, there are more than 100 different types of subspecies and varieties of corns. The different subspecies can be recognized through the different colors. Most people know corn as having  a bright yellow color. However, corn is also available in the colors white, pink, purple, blue and black. All these different types of corn are varieties of the Zea Mays plant. Each specific type of corn has its own health-supportive nutrients. As will be explored later on in this article, corn is a rich source of antioxidants. For example, the most common type of corn had a high concentration of carotenoids. This yellow corn contains high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin. Blue corn, on the other hand, is a source of anthocyanics. Thus, while all the different types of corn are related to the same plant, they provide different health benefits and contain different nutrients.

History

Corn is probably the food which is most closely identified with the Americas than any other type of food. The first domestication of maize is said to have taken place between 9000 and 8000 BC. Various communities in the Americas had and continue to adopt corn in their everyday diet. For example, the Mayan as well as the Olmec communities have adopted maize as a staple food since 2000 BC. These communities did not only use maize as a source of food, but they also used maize in religious ceremonies, in arts and in their everyday rituals. Also, maize has also played an important role for Native American tribes living in North America. When European colonists arrived in these regions, they largely ignored the tribal wisdom about this food product. One of the aspects the European colonists ignored was the pot ash tradition. By ignoring this tradition, they later fell victim to vitamin B3 deficiency. Native Americans developed a practice when they would be cooking corn and cornmeal. They would incorporate ash from the fire in the food. By including ash in the food, the minerals which were found in the ash increased the bioavailability of vitamin B3. It is for this reason that lime is currently added to tortillas today since this has a similar effect. While many people might not consume corn in its original state, many people still consume corn in a different type of way. Corn has a large influence on diets all over the world. More than forty percent of all pre-packaged and processed foods in the United States contain some form of corn. In most of the cases, this component is high fructose corn syrup. The United States even has a part which people often refer to as the Corn Belt. This region includes Illinois, Iowa, parts of Missouri and the eastern parts of Nebraska. These states together produce more than fifty percent of all US corn crops. Another popular trend in the United States is the cultivation of corn for non-food purposes. One example of the non-food use of corn is the addition of corn to biofuel production and gasoline. The cultivation of corn specifically for ethanol production is becoming more popular and is slowly finding its way into the marketplace. While the United States is one of the biggest commercial corn producers in the world, corn is also produced in other parts of the world. For example, countries such as China, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and Russia are also ranked among the top corn producers in the world.

High in fiber

One of the main health benefits of corn is that it provides a high dose of fiber. This is similar to many other vegetables and whole plant foods. Corn is said to provide about 4.5 grams of fiber per cup of kernels. Various studies have confirmed that corn can have a positive influence on the digestive system since it contains a high ratio of insoluble-to-soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber which moves through the digestive system unabsorbed and metabolized. Thus, this type of fiber plays an important role in the digestive system since it can help us go to the bathroom. Soluble fiber are also the type of fiber which reach the lower part of our large intestines. In this part of the intestines they are metabolized. This happens through the intestinal bacteria which turn the fiber into short chain fatty acids. This process is important since it makes sure that there are enough good bacteria in your intestines and it helps to create a healthy microbiome. The short chain fatty acids from high-fiber foods are also important since they provide energy to the cells which are found in our large intestines. Moreover, they also ensure that the digestive tract is healthy and is kept in good shape. A healthy digestive tract ensures that we have regular bowel movements and that our body regularly flushes out toxins and waste. It is for this reason that the short chain fatty acids are linked to a better functioning of the intestinal cellular function. Thus, on the long term, these nutrients can help to prevent cancer of the digestive organs.


Additional health benefits of corn

Besides the fact that corn is a source of fiber, it is also a high antioxidant food. As mentioned, the different corn kernels can have different colors. These different varieties of corn also signify the different types of phytonutrients present in the vegetable. The most popular type of corn is the yellow variant. This type of corn is a rich source of carotenoid antioxidants. This yellow type of corn contains zeaxanthin and lutein, which are also to be found in squash and carrots. Moreover, other vegetables which have a deep color usually also contain these carotenoid antioxidants. These antioxidants are known for supporting the immune system. Also, various studies have shown that these nutrients also play a role in protecting the skin and eyes from oxidative stress. Since a wide range of antioxidants are sensitive to heat and can be reduced when cooking, it is often recommended to cook corn at low temperatures. Corn should not only be cooked at low temperatures, but they should also be cooked slowly. This was also the way traditional populations cooked corn. In this way they could preserve the kernels during the cold months. However, more importantly, by cooking corn at a low temperature a high percentage of the nutritional value is preserved. This is particularly the case for antioxidants. Furthermore, corn is often grouped together with other types of grains. Corn is, however, not a grain since it does not contain any gluten. Gluten are often associated with negative symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, constipation and bloating. Thus, since gluten are often problematic for many people, corn or corn flour are a great substitute for wheat or other gluten products.

Ideas to serve corn

Corn can be eaten and prepared in various ways. As mentioned earlier, corn is often used to make tortillas, corn flour or corn syrup. While this is not always easy to do at home, it is also possible to eat the kernels by themselves. One way to prepare corn is to steam them. Make sure that you clean the fresh corns and cook them in boiling water. Depending on your personal preference, you can add lime, salt or butter to the cooked corn. Before taking them out of the boiling water, let them cool down for a bit so you do not burn yourself. Corn is also often used in soups and salads. They do not only provide a bright color to a soup or salad, but they also add extra flavor. You can combine corn with tomatoes, lettuce, chopped onions and olives. Season the salad with pepper, salt, olive oil and lime juice. While corn is a rich source of many essential nutrients, it is also a source of fatty acids. Thus, people who are at high risk for heart disease should consume corn with moderation. Consuming large amounts of corn or corn oil could exacerbate the risk of a heart disease. Moreover, one of the most common uses of corn is in high fructose corn syrup. The syrup is commonly used all over the world since it is considered to be a cheap sweetener. However, this type of sugar is considered worse than table sugar and can cause obesity when consumed on a regular basis and in large amounts.

How to select and store

When buying corn in the supermarket or at your local market, there are a few things you should pay attention to. When choosing corn, select those which have not been exposed to any substantial amount of heat. When corn is exposed to heat, it can increase its susceptibility to microbial contamination. Most supermarkets therefore sell corn in the refrigerated section. Thus, is it recommended to purchase this type of corn instead of corn which has been exposed to sunlight or is near a heat source. The same applies when you purchase corn at a local market. Try and select those which are in the shade and out of direct sunlight. Traditionally, it was best to consume corn the same day as it was purchases because then the corn had its optimal sweetness. The new varieties of corn which have been introduced to the market allow you to enjoy the full flavor of corn up to three days. When storing corn, place it in an airtight container or in a plastic bag. Also, if you do not intend to cook corn the same day of purchase, make sure that  you store it in the refrigerator. Moreover, it is not recommended to remove the husk of corn since this can have a negative influence on the flavor.





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1548x
Added: 31-01-2017 22:49
Last modified: 02-04-2017 17:06

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