Sweet Corn: kernels full of health

The kernels of corn are friendly little things, they get along well with any cuisine and gift your body an amazing variety of nutrients


Who can refuse the offer of eating a freshly grilled or boiled corn on the cob smeared with melted butter?

Corn, popularly known as maize, is an all-time favourite of most people eaten in many forms—corn chips, popcorn, corn tortillas, Indian bread [makki ki roti made of ground corn].

Corn variety

Corn comes in an array of colours such as yellow, white, pink, black, purple, red and blue. There are five types of corn—flour corn, flint corn, dent corn, popcorn and sweet corn.

As the name indicates, flour corn is the only corn that can be ground into fine flour as the kernels are soft with no dents. The flint corn, also known as Indian corn, has hard and smooth kernels and little soft starch.

It can be ground into corn meal. Dent corn [or field corn] has a dent on each kernel. It is found in two colours—yellow or white. It is grown mainly to feed livestock and for industrial use.

Popcorn has a soft starchy kernel covered by a hard shell. The kernels are white or yellow. Sweet corn is the most popular form of corn used these days owing to its sweetness and tenderness.

The kernels are round, plump and juicy and have a darker yellow colour compared to dent corn. Though it tastes best when eaten fresh off the cobs, it is also available frozen or canned.

The natural sugar content in this variety of corn is high as compared to dent corn, which lends it the name. It is eaten as a vegetable rather than a grain. Baby corn is corn that is harvested when it is still immature.

Kernels of health

Research touts corn as a nutrient-dense food, rich in plant compounds [phytonutrients] that are beneficial for health.

  • Helps fight cancer: Studies reveal that the antioxidant arsenal of corn helps reduce one’s risk of cancer by scavenging the cancer-causing free radicals. Ferulic acid, an anti-cancer agent found in corn, has been shown to be effective in offering protection against breast cancer and liver cancer. Carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin found in corn helps reduce the risk of lung cancer.
  • Is good for heart: The high fibre content helps in keeping a check on cholesterol levels by slowing down the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream. The antioxidants reduce the risk of heart disease by fighting free radicals.
  • Helps control blood sugar: Regular intake of corn ensures better sugar control in people suffering from both type-1 and type-2 diabetes by preventing fluctuations in the sugar levels.
  • Improves digestive health: Eating corn is linked with a healthy digestive tract; the high fibre content helps keep constipation and haemorrhoids at bay.
  • Fights anaemia: Corn is a good source of folic acid and vitamin B12 and hence is good for anaemics.
  • Sharpens memory: Corn is good for the brain due to its high thiamine [vitamin B1] content—the brain requires thiamine for proper functioning and its lack can impair mental functions causing diseases like Alzheimer’s.

In addition, corn provides necessary minerals required for various body functions.

When you buy…

  • Ensure that the outer green covering [husks] is fresh and bright green in colour. Make sure that the husk envelops the ear [the corn from top to bottom without the stock or handle] tightly. Don’t buy it if the husk is dry.
  • Check the kernels to see if they are plump and juicy. When you press a kernel, if a milky liquid oozes out, the corn is fresh. If it doesn’t, it is immature or overripe.
  • Buy corns with tightly-set rows of kernels.

How to store

  • Keep the corn with the husk intact in either an air-tight container or in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
  • You can also freeze corn for later use. Blanch the whole ears for 8 – 10 minutes and then freeze them. Frozen ears can be stored for nearly a year.
  • For freezing just the kernels, blanch the whole ear for five minutes and then cut out kernels with a sharp knife. Consume frozen kernels within two months of freezing.

3 ways to make corn a part of your diet

  1. Boil, steam, grill or roast a corn on the cob. When cooked, rub lemon juice, salt and pepper on the corn kernel.
  2. Add corn to a soup or salad.
  3. Sauté cooked corn kernels with onions and green chillies. Sprinkle lemon juice and serve as a side dish.

Is corn flour healthy?

Corn flour is made by grinding the whole corn kernels of white corn. The flour contains all the three parts of the grain—the endosperm, the germ and the bran. Being a whole grain product, corn flour is good for health because it retains the nutrients of corn.

Corn starch, on the other hand, is not a whole grain product. It is made by soaking the corn, removing the outer layer then drying the kernels and finally grinding them to flour. It has only the endosperm, the inner part of the corn kernel, and is therefore not a whole grain product.

This was first published in the November 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Aparna Pradhan
Writing for me is a journey of the soul which never ends. Writing has been a passion for me since my childhood. It is a great outlet for creative expression and gives me enormous pleasure and a sense of satisfaction when I share my passion with others, enriching their lives. I am now pursuing my passion for painting professionally and exhibiting my works in various exhibitions. Some of my works adorn the walls of Raj Bhavan, Goa and private collections. I write on varied subjects – my favourite being health and nutrition


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