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Chances are you’ve heard some trash talk about corn around the water cooler at work. Movies like King Corn and books like the Omnivore’s Dilemma have stirred quite a controversy about our summer cookout staple. But is all corn really bad for you?

Let’s make our way through the maze of corn myths…

1. Corn has no health benefits.

First of all, there needs to be a clear distinction made between fresh sweet corn “the vegetable” (see #4) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)/packaged foods made from highly processed corn. To say that all corn is bad and devoid of health benefits is like tossing the baby out with the bathwater. It is wise to avoid HFCS and processed junk foods, but it is ignorant and irresponsible to tell people to avoid corn fresh sweet corn (especially locally and organically grown sweet corn) when there are clearly undeniable health benefits (i.e. high in insoluble fiber, folic acid, niacin, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and minerals, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, and copper.) (1)

2. Corn is full of sugar and makes you fat.

While it is true that corn contains more starch than most other vegetables, the Glycemic Load (how much a food will raise a person’s blood sugar level after eating it) of a serving of corn is actually lower than that of a baked potato, basmati rice, or sweet potato. To put it in perspective, 1 ear of corn on the cob has 60 calories and 2.3 grams of sugar compared to 1 cup of pineapple which has 80 calories and 16 grams of sugar. Fresh corn can be a healthy part of a meal as long as it isn’t slathered in butter and salt. (2)

3. Corn is to blame for the obesity epidemic.

Corn has been a nutritionally critical food staple for thousands of years. Our Mayan and South American ancestors have been using corn for centuries – long before the obesity epidemic was even remotely conceivable. Demonizing corn does not solve the problem. However, eating the correct number of calories for our bodies might be a good place to start.

4. Corn is NOT a vegetable, it’s a grain!

Do NOT be misinformed! Corn is technically classified as a vegetable, grain and fruit depending upon the form it takes. Fresh sweet corn (as I refer to it in the article above) is classified as a vegetable, dried corn (popcorn, corn meal etc.) is considered a grain and corn seed is a fruit because that is the botanical definition. (5)

5. All corn is GMO (Genetically Modified Organism).

Currently, only 3 to 4% of the sweet corn grown in the U.S. is GMO. If you want to know whether the sweet corn you’ve got is GMO, ask the farmers you buy from if they plant GMO corn. You can also choose USDA organic corn. Organic standards forbid GMO crops. (6) 

Vegetable definition = a plant cultivated for an edible part or parts such as roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds/fruit.

TIPS

1. Limit/Avoid HFCS (and any other added sugars) along with packaged and highly processed foods (which probably come from corn). Choose foods/ingredients as close to their natural state as possible. (i.e. raisins vs. Cheez-It). By limiting packaged and processed foods, you will also be limiting your intake of processed corn.

2. Fill half of your dinner plate with colorful fruit and non-starchy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, peppers, zucchini, carrots, etc. Fill the other half of the plate with whole grains and lean protein. Remember, although fresh corn is technically a vegetable, it is a good idea to corn as the starch on your plate. (3)

3. Know the difference between “sweet corn” and “field corn”

Sweet corn = the tasty vegetable we buy at roadside stands, farmers markets, and grocery stores and eat at picnics and summer BBQs.

Field Corn = the practically inedible commodity crop that is used to produce everything from feed for livestock, high fructose corn syrup, ethanol, oil, paint, crayons, etc. (4)

Where do you stand?

Corn

25 Responses

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  1. I love this post. You have hit so many great points. I’ll be sharing this post with many. Thanks!

  2. Embrey Pollet

    Thank you no Nonsense-Nancy! I love your posts, they are so practical and you do a great job of hashing out the facts from the hype.

  3. two things I HAVE to eat inn the Summer are heirloom tomatoes and corn!

  4. Littles

    There’s Not much better than a plain ol’ ear of corn..simple deliciousness. Great, informative post for all those corn hataz.

  5. Great post! I love corn. I agree 100% and am constantly debunking this myth that people believe about corn being full of sugar and bad for them… Corn in its whole, natural form is a healthy food while processed products made from it like corn syrup and corn oil are best avoided.

  6. @ Corinne…..thanks! This myth takes so much debunking it’s outrageous. Who doesn’t love a fresh ear of corn on the cob….or a homemade corn muffin with a bowl of veggie chili!!?

    @ Littles….Amen!

  7. @ Embrey and Jenna…thank you! I’m glad you enjoy these posts :)

    @ Jayne….yum, heirloom tomatoes! I’ve also heard that heirloom corn is amazingly tasty too.

  8. leigh

    Helpful information, I always wondered about corn and if it’s healthy to eat. We love it in the summer! thanks!

  9. Right on and well said. It’s crazy how we have come to shun a perfectly healthy whole food.

  10. Blake

    I have trouble believing what you wrote simply because you said corn was a vegetable!! Ha!! Corn is a grain – just like wheat and rye. You need to check your facts before you post.

  11. @ Blake….thanks for your comment, however, you are misinformed in thinking that corn is only a grain. It is not. Corn is technically classified as a vegetable, grain and fruit depending upon the form it takes. Fresh sweet corn (as I refer to it in the article above) is classified as a vegetable, and dried corn (popcorn, corn meal etc.) is considered a grain and corn seed is a fruit because that is the botanical definition.

  12. Carol

    The one’s that want you to believe that corn is bad for you are the ones who don’t know a hill of beans!

  13. Thank you SO much for the smart and reasonable information about corn.
    I am so tired of opponents of corn spouting nonsense without any proof behind them.
    This is the first thing I’ve read about corn that I actually want to share with my friends and readers.
    The only thing I have to say is that I don’t believe HFCS is as bad as people say… Sugar is sugar no matter what form it comes in and should be limited in all its forms.

  14. @ Lorie…thanks for the feedback! Good point too.

  15. Erica

    Is the corn used in chips like Sun Chips sweet corn or field corn? The package says whole corn but I don’t know which version… the good sweet corn or the unhealthy field corn. Yes, I understand it might be better to not eat chips and only fresh corn, but that’s not going to happen right now… but I do try to select the healthier snacks out of the selection. :) Thanks!!

  16. Hope Wilson

    Thank you , this helped me a lot . I was curious about corn vs potato. Now I know and will be enjoying corn once in a while.

  17. Eryka

    What about Genetically Modified (GMO) corn?

  18. @ Eryka…good question. Currently, only 3 to 4% of the sweet corn grown in the U.S. is GMO. One way to find out whether the sweet corn you’ve got is GMO is to ask the farmers you buy from if they plant GMO corn. You can also choose USDA organic corn. Organic standards forbid GMO crops.

  19. Ah :) I came here googling whether corn is too good to be true… It’s so delicious and healthy! So glad that I’m not disappointed!

  20. Fisher

    Good info. Maize is a wonderful and useful food.
    Just an FYI about field corn – it is not technically inedible, though it does require a certain process (called nixtamalization) to enable the niacin to be ‘unlocked’ so our bodies can use it. Traditionally, our Native ancestors used some breeds what we call ‘field corn’ to make cornmeal, which was a common staple in much of Central and North America, but they combined it with eating proteins, like beans and meat, and squash to make a fully nutritious diet. I think knowing this ancient way of eating helps us to remember that we have to have a balanced and varied diet to be healthy.

  21. Glad to read this as I like fresh corn and want to feel okay about eating it when I do.

  22. Aaron

    What about the fact that corn cant be digested?

  23. @ Aaron…..actually the inside of each corn kernel is almost pure starch and is easily digested and absorbed. The outer cellulose husk is the only part that is indigestible.

  24. Deen

    Thank You so much for this article. Great information for me to “ease” my mind this Corn-filled summer.

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