Corn, also known as maize, is a large grain plant which is said to have originated in Mexico and Central America. Though viewed as a vegetable, it is actually a food grain. The leafy stalk of the plant produces ears, which contain the grains known as kernels. For every kernel on the cob, there is a strand of silk. The white and yellow kernels are most popular, but today corn is available in red, brown, blue and purple also. The white and yellow hybrids are known as butter and sugar corn which contain both kinds of kernels. This cereal is known for its pleasant taste and its versatility.
Baby corn is available in cans or jars in the supermarkets and is used in Asian cooking. This grain is generally available in summer and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Sweet corn can be used to garnish the fresh rice or cooked with onion and chilies to make an evening snack. It can even be eaten straight out of the maize ears. In India, vendors are often seen selling corn which is known as ‘bhutta’. The best part is that corn is not just delicious, but rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, thus offering several health benefits.
For simplicity is reading, we have broken down this segment into corn health benefits followed by skin and hair benefits.
Health Benefits of Corn:
In addition to its delicious sweet taste, corn is high in fiber, low in fat and a great source of essential nutrients offering an array of health benefits given below.
1. Good for Digestion:
Corn is high in dietary fiber which comprises of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps in blocking cholesterol absorption by turning into a gel like consistency whereas insoluble fiber prevents constipation and intestinal problems by promoting soft and bulky stool that can move easily through the intestines, thus reducing the chances of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and diarrhea. Thus, it aids in preventing digestive problems like constipation and hemorrhoids as well as colon cancer. Though corn contains both types of fiber, it has a higher content of insoluble fiber.
2. Prevents Anemia:
Anemia is caused due to the deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid. Corn contains a significant amount of these as well as iron which is one of the essential minerals required to form new red blood cells. Deficiency of iron can also cause anemia.
3. Increased Energy:
Corn is considered as a starchy vegetable as it contains a high amount of carbohydrates which provide you with short term and long term energy. They also ensure proper functioning of brain and nervous system. One cup of corn provides around 29 grams of carbs. This is particularly beneficial for athletes as they require more carbs to optimize exercise performance. Moreover, corn is a complex carb so it gets digested at a slow pace, thus providing you with balanced energy levels that are free of peaks and valleys. It is advisable to eat corn a couple of hours before exercising for lasting energy.
4. Lowers LDL Cholesterol:
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and there are generally two types of cholesterol, HDL or good cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol increases due to the intake of fatty food, thus weakening your heart and causing cardiovascular diseases. Sweet corn is rich in vitamin C, carotenoids and bioflavonoid that keep your heart healthy by controlling cholesterol levels and increasing the flow of blood. Corn oil has anti-atherogenic effect on the cholesterol levels as it lowers cholesterol levels by reducing cholesterol absorption by the body, thus preventing atherosclerosis and scavenging free radicals throughout the body.
5. Facilitates Weight Gain:
Corn is a great option for underweight people, referred to as ‘hard gainers’. They need to increase their caloric intake so as to put on some pounds on their frames. Corn is rich in carbs as well as calorie dense to bulk up your body. Thus, it can be a healthy addition to your meals if you are underweight. One cup of corn kernels provides as much as 130 calories.
6. Prevents Diabetes and Hypertension:
Organic fruits and vegetables like corn have proven to be effective in reducing the signs of diabetes. Regular consumption of corn kernels assists in the management of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and protects against hypertension due to the presence of phenolic phytochemicals in whole corn. Phytochemicals regulate the absorption and release of insulin in the body, thus reducing the chances of spikes and drops for diabetic patients and enabling them to maintain a normal lifestyle. Besides, corn is a good source of pantothenic acid. This vitamin B helps in carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism. Hence, it prevents stress by supporting the functioning of adrenal glands.
7. Stronger Connective Tissue:
Connective tissue comprises of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage. Corn contains the trace mineral manganese that strengthens the connective tissue. In addition to these, manganese keeps blood sugar levels stable and breaks down carbs and fat to provide energy. A cup of corn provides about 12 percent of the daily recommended value of manganese. Corn also contains a large proportion of minerals like magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus which is needed for healthy bones. These nutrients prevent your bones form cracking as you grow older.
8. Improves Vision:
The yellow kernels of corn contain substances called carotenoids which reduce the risk of macular degeneration i.e. impairment of vision at the center of your line of sight. Beta-carotene helps in producing vitamin A, thus supporting better vision.
9. Anti-cancer Properties:
Research has proved that antioxidants found in corn can fight and eliminate cancer causing free radicals. Moreover, this grain is a good source of phenolic compound, ferulic acid which is effective in fighting tumors in the breast and liver.
10. Beneficial during Pregnancy:
Being a rich source of folic acid, corn is particularly beneficial for pregnant women. Deficiency of folic acid in pregnant women can cause the birth of underweight infants and also cause neural tube defects at birth. Thus, pregnant women should include corn in their diet as it benefits the health of both the child and the expecting mother. However, in case of high blood pressure or swollen hands or feet, it is advisable to consult their doctor first.
11. Beneficial for Heart:
Corn oil is said to have anti-atherogenic effect on cholesterol levels, thus, protecting against cardiovascular diseases. Corn oil is particularly beneficial for heart health as it has an optimal fatty acid combination, thus enabling omega-3 fatty acids to remove the damaging bad cholesterol and replace them at the bonding sites. As a result, it prevents the arteries from becoming clogged, reduces blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
12. Prevents Alzheimer’s disease:
Corn is a good source of thymine which is an integral participant in enzymatic reactions central to energy production as well as brain cell/cognitive function. It is also needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory and whose deficiency can cause age related impairment in mental function (senility) and Alzheimer’s disease.
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Skin Benefits of Corn:
Corn is a good source of several vitamins including vitamin C, thiamin and niacin, as well as minerals and antioxidants which play an important role in skincare. Given below are the benefits of corn for skin.
13. Maintenance of Healthy Skin:
Yellow corn is a rich source of beta-carotene which forms vitamin A that is vital for the maintenance of healthy skin. Vitamin C and lycopene are potential antioxidants that prevent the UV generated free radicals from damaging the skin and increase the production of collagen that assists in the maintenance of smooth skin. Besides being eaten, corn can also be applied topically as corn oil which is a rich source of linoleic acid.
14. Prevents Skin Problems:
Corn starch is used as an ingredient in many cosmetic products and can even be applied topically to soothe skin rashes and irritation. Carcinogenic petroleum products can be substituted with corn products in cosmetic preparations as skin creams use petroleum jelly as a base material which can block pores and worsen the skin conditions.
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Hair Benefits of Corn:
Regular consumption of one cup of corn strengthens the hair follicles as it contains potent antioxidants like vitamin C and lycopene which assist in collagen production, thus maintaining smooth hair. Corn oil is particularly beneficial for adding sheen to your hair and numerous other hair care benefits given below.
15. Combats Hair loss and Dryness:
Corn oil offers a great combination of fatty acids and nutrients such as vitamin E. Thus, topical application of this oil helps to keep the hair follicles hydrated, well-nourished and prevents premature ageing. The antioxidants prevent cell damage by trapping the free radicals. Hence, it is effective in combating dryness and hair fall due to free radical action. It also contains vitamin K that helps in the absorption of calcium, thus preventing hair loss.
16. Maintenance of Healthy Hair:
Hot oil treatment with corn oil can give you soft and silky hair. It has a right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that controls inflammation and prevents the scalp from becoming dry and flaky. These fatty acids are important constituents of cell structure facilitating the transport of fat and deficiency of any of these can cause brittle hair or hair fall. For this purpose, heat corn oil for half a minute and massage it on your scalp with the tip of your fingers. Leave it for 15 minutes and then rinse with shampoo to get soft and lustrous hair.
Nutritional Value of Corn:
Corn does not contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals but does contain a lot of water and is rich in dietary fiber. It has a moderate Glycemic Index which enables the body to break it more slowly than other higher glycemic index foods like white bread. It is a great source of vitamin B1, vitamin B5, vitamin C and folate. Its nutritional profile is explained below.
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Corn, white Corn, yellow Corn, white
|Amount Per 100 grams 1 cup (166 g) 100 grams|
1. % Daily Value*
|Total fat 4.7 g||7%|
|Saturated fat 0.7 g||3%|
|Polyunsaturated fat 2.2 g|
|Monounsaturated fat 1.3 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0%|
|Sodium 35 mg||1%|
|Potassium 287 mg||8%|
|Total Carbohydrate 74 g||24%|
|Protein 9 g||18%|
|Vitamin A||0%||Vitamin C||0%|
|Vitamin B-6||30%||Vitamin B-12||0%|
|*Per cent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.|
Carbohydrates: Corn has a significantly lower content of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It has a high content of carbohydrates which provides nearly 82 percent of calories of this food grain. A half cup of corn contains around 80 calories out of which 10 calories are from fat whereas a 5 inch ear of corn contains 65 calories.
Fiber: Corn is high in dietary fiber and sweet corn contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. A medium-sized ear of corn provides nearly 10 percent of required daily value (DV) of corn.
Vitamins: Corn is a good source of vitamin C though processed forms such as popcorn or cornmeal contain less of this nutrient. Corn is also rich in B vitamins such as Thiamin and Niacin. Pantothenic acid is a vitamin that is vital for carbohydrate as well as protein and lipid metabolism in the body and corn contains it in significant amounts. Besides, it provides a large proportion of the daily folate requirement and is a rich source of beta-carotene which is required for vitamin A formation. The corn kernels contain vitamin E which is a natural antioxidant for growth.
Antioxidant Phytonutrients: Corn contains antioxidant phytochemicals which vary depending upon the different varieties of corn. Yellow corn is rich in carotenoids which provide high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin. Blue corn is rich in anthocyanin antioxidants whereas purple corn contains a particular acid called protocatechuic acid which is a strong antioxidant. Ferulic acid is natural antioxidant occurring in plants that helps to neutralize free radicals. Corn contains very high levels of this acid which can increase up to 900 percent on cooking it.
Thus, corn can be a healthy addition to your diet but certain things should be kept in mind. Corn contains high amount of fatty acids and is, therefore, not suitable for those who are at a high risk of heart disease. Excess of corn or corn oil can worsen these conditions as well as cause unnecessary weight gain. Hence, it is advisable to consume it in moderation to enjoy maximum health benefits of this delicious cereal.
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