Well known to many ancient cultures, corn health benefits are so immense that people all over the world continue to use this grain widely in their daily cooking. The scientific name of corn is Zea mays, a name that refers to its Native American name of maize. It is obtained from the Poaceae family and is a widely cultivated crop.
The most commonly available corn is golden-yellow in color but there are several other varieties of corn too such as pink, purple, red, blue and black. Previously, corn was cultivated only during specific seasons, restricting its availability to a particular time of the year. The developments in agricultural technology have now ensured that you can make the most of the corn health benefits throughout the year.
Traditionally, corn was a widely used ingredient in preparing items for a fulfilling meal. Over time, people began using it as a snack; this is actually a positive development because it makes it easier for people to benefit from the corn health benefits on a more regular basis.
Ayurveda on corn
The Indian system of medicine Ayurveda considers corn as having the property to cause dryness and heat within the body. Therefore, corn health benefits are possible in those persons who have a specific constitution.
Corn in Native American Medicine
Native Americans used corn to treat several ailments; a corn meal poultice was one of the common remedies for treating bruises, boils, cuts, sores and inflammation on the skin. Persons who had an itchy skin that turned into sores on scratching were instructed to hold the affected area over the smoke generated by burning corncobs.
Why Corn is Beneficial?
Corn contains specific chemical constituents that make it a nutritious food. The most important ones of these responsible for the corn health benefits are the antioxidants, dietary fiber, vitamins of the B-complex group, Vitamin C and the mineral manganese and phosphorus. It is very low in cholesterol and sodium.
Corn Health Benefits
Corn is rich in phytonutrients that have strong antioxidant properties. The common antioxidant constituents include anthocyanins, coumaric acid, beta-carotene, caffeic acid, protocatechuic acid, lutein and zeaxanthin. The specific proportions of the different phytonutrients depend on the variety of the corn. For example, blue corn has more of anthocyanins whereas yellow corn is rich in carotenoids. Recently, scientists have found that the purple corn health benefits are because of the phytonutrient called protocatechuic acid.
Cardiovascular Benefits : Research on corn health benefits in people with cardiovascular problems such as coronary artery disease and hypertension points to the effectiveness of its antioxidant properties. However, certain studies have also suggested that there may be other constituents in corn that act by some other mechanism to protect the heart. Excess activity of an enzyme called the angiotensin-I converting enzyme (ACE) causes the secretion of certain substances that tend to raise blood pressure. Some of corn health benefits against hypertension are believed to be the result of its ability to inhibit the action of ACE.
Antidiabetic Benefits :
Research on corn health benefits has led scientists to believe that corn may be useful in the management of diabetes. Laboratory tests have found that maize contains some phenolic compounds that showed the property of inhibiting ACE as well as other enzymes involved in the breakdown of glucose. Therefore, it is postulated that consumption of corn provides protection against both hypertension and diabetes. This conclusion has been borne out by a study of the health profile of North American indigenous groups which show a predominance of type 2 diabetes and hypertension. It is considered that this is a result of the communities’ change from a corn-rich diet to a calorie-rich one, containing more of refined grain flours and sugar.
Corn is rich in insoluble fiber and this, along with its protein content helps to slow down the rise of blood sugar following a meal. This means that consuming corn-based foods such as whole grain cornbread makes it easier for diabetics to avoid the spikes and dips in blood glucose levels.
Cancer-preventive Benefits : One of the corn health benefits under investigation is its ability to protect against cancer. The high content of dietary fiber in corn ensures that it passes largely unchanged to the end of the large intestine. The bacteria in this region are believed to be capable of converting this corn fiber into short chain fatty acids, which have a protective role against cancer of the intestine.
Anti-inflammatory Benefits : Activity against inflammation may be one of the significant corn health benefits. A study used anthocyanins found in purple corn on male rats with an acute inflammation. It was found that the animals exhibited lower levels of certain chemicals such as cytokines and the nitric oxide free radical that are found to accumulate during an inflammation. Besides, the swelling too reduced in such animals.
Likely Benefits against HIV : Corn has been found to contain a protein molecule called GNAmaize which has shown the property of inhibiting the HIV virus. This protein belongs to the class of proteins called lectins which can bind with the sugars on the cell membranes of the HIV virus to inhibit its activity. This research is only a preliminary finding; if further research proves a link between the consumption of corn and HIV activity, it will be yet another of corn health benefits.
Nutritional Benefits : Several countries facing problems of insufficient nourishment are investigating if improving the nutrient status is one of corn health benefits. Meals that combine corn with legumes have been found helpful in increasing the absorption of protein and minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc.
How to Select, Store Cook Corn
When buying corn, it is best to choose green and fresh-appearing pieces that have plump kernels firmly held in orderly rows. Preferably buy corn that has been refrigerated or at least stored in a cool place away from direct sunlight. This is important because excessive exposure to heat can cause loss of corn health benefits due to microbial growth. Many farmers today grow genetically modified versions of corn and considering
the fact that these have not been thoroughly investigated, you may want to choose a certified organic corn variety.
How to select right corn:
Make sure the corn look tightly wrapped and not loose, it should have a grassy green color and should be slight damp. Avoid complete dry and excessive damp corns. The corn silk (threads in the corn) should be dry and corn stem should be moist.
In retrospect, it seems that people in ancient cultures who consumed a corn-based diet knew best about what was good for the body. As modern science slowly discovers the value of this wonder plant, it is important for us to include maize in our food and snacks to ensure we do not miss out on the many corn health benefits.
Cooking your corn the right way
Corn cooking and processing is not difficult, just take care of a few simple things. Ensure to remove corn silk and its husk before you cook it. The situation is different when you want to roast it, in this case, pull down the husk (do not remove it), remove the corn silk, pull up the husk again and soak in water for 10 min. then roast for 15 min.
Popular corn recipes
Corn health benefits are numerous and it is easy to start using this in our daily food. We highly recommend this food to each and everyone!