Corn is a starchy vegetable and cereal grain that has been eaten all over the world for centuries.
It’s rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
However, the health benefits of corn are controversial — while it contains beneficial nutrients, it can also spike blood sugar levels. In addition, the crop is often genetically modified.
Sweet corn that you eat off the cob is usually considered a vegetable in the culinary world, whereas the dry seeds that are used for popcorn are classified as whole grains.
Corn originated in Mexico over 9,000 years ago and is known by its original name “maize” in many parts of the world. Native Americans grew and harvested this crop as a main source of food.
Today, it’s one of the most widely consumed cereal grains worldwide.
Corn is usually white or yellow but also comes in red, purple and blue.
It’s eaten as sweet corn, popcorn, tortillas, polenta, chips, cornmeal, grits, oil and syrup and added to countless other foods and dishes.
What’s more, it’s widely used for fuel and animal feed. In fact, 40% of the corn grown in the US is used for fuel and 60–70% of corn worldwide is produced to feed animals.
Corn is high in carbs and packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s also relatively low in protein and fat.
One cup (164 grams) of sweet yellow corn contains:
- Calories: 177 calories
- Carbs: 41 grams
- Protein: 5.4 grams
- Fat: 2.1 grams
- Fiber: 4.6 grams
- Vitamin C: 17% of the daily value (DV)
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 24% of the DV
- Folate (vitamin B9): 19% of the DV
- Magnesium: 11% of the DV
- Potassium: 10% of the DV
Most of the carbs in corn come from starch — which can quickly raise your blood sugar, depending on how much you eat. However, it’s also high in fiber that can help balance your blood sugar levels.
Due to its impressive nutrient profile, most people can benefit from eating whole corn and popcorn as part of a balanced diet. It’s also a naturally gluten-free food and can be eaten by those who avoid gluten.
Contains Plant Compounds and Fiber That Benefit Health
Corn contains antioxidants and plant compounds that may provide a number of health benefits.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin Content May Benefit Eye Health
Corn is particularly high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that may prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is likely because lutein and zeaxanthin make up a large part of the macular region of your eyes.
May Prevent Diverticular Disease and Other Digestive Issues
The fiber in corn may also provide health benefits.
Dietary fiber intake has been linked to a lower risk of several diseases, including heart disease and some cancers. Even more, eating enough fiber promotes healthy digestion and may protect you against gut.
Corn, in particular, may protect against specific digestive issues, including diverticular disease, which is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract.
Can Spike Blood Sugar and May Prevent Weight Loss
Since corn is high in starch, it can spike your blood sugar and may not be suitable for some populations.
People who have diabetes may need to limit their starchy carb intake, including corn.
Corn Crops are Often Genetically Modified
Corn is one of the most genetically modified crops in the world. In fact, 92% of the crop grown in the US in 2016 was genetically modified (GMO).
Corn crops are modified to increase yield and improve resistance to insects, disease or chemicals used to kill pests.
The impact of modified corn and other crops on human health and environmental safety is one of the most widely debated topics in the field of nutrition.
Current research on the safety of genetically modified corn for humans is limited and conflicting.