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Corn is among the most popular and versatile of cereal grains with a very high nutrition value. It is also called maize (Zea mays) and belongs to the grass family. It can be regarded as a starchy vegetable which is rich in carbohydrates and other nutrients. One can eat corn raw as well as cooked, along with other spices and ingredients. It can be fit for any part of your meal whether it is breakfast, cereals or any in-between snack. While sweet corn and popcorn are widely consumed forms of products, corn is available in a wide array of products. These will include corn flour, corn syrup, corn oil and tortillas among various others. Different types of corn are meant for different purposes.Namely, there are six popular varieties- dent corn, flint corn, sweet corn, flour corn, popcorn, and pod corn. Corn is usually yellow but is also found in other colour variations like blue, purple, black, red, orange and white.
Health Benefits of Corn
1. Eye Health–
Yellow corn and other pigmented corn varieties have an abundance of carotenoids and antioxidants which are very beneficial for the eyes, especially the health of the retina. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are the main carotenoids in corn comprising a portion of approximately 70%. They are also known as macular pigments and found in the retina of the eye which is the inner portion sensitive to light entering the eye. The nutrients protect the eye from oxidative damage caused by especially by blue light entering the eye. With a higher proportion of these carotenoids, researches have proved that there is an improvement in eye conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts in middle-aged as well as older people.
2. Diverticular disease prevention–
Diverticulosis is a condition caused by pouches in the walls of the intestinal colon. The main symptoms of the condition are bloating, cramps and sometimes bleeding and infections. While it is said that consuming high-fibre foods like nuts, seeds or corn should be avoided in this condition, some experiments have shown that consuming popcorn can be beneficial. However, it’s a rough estimate, and one must consult a doctor in case of noticing an increase in symptoms by consuming corn.
3. Prevents Haemorrhoids–
The high fibre content of corn gives it the reputation of a digestive tract solution. Consuming corn can be beneficial in avoiding chances of constipation, haemorrhoids and even colon cancer. The fact that it is a whole grain gives it a property lowering cancer risk. The good fibre content in your diet helps in balancing bowel movements stimulating peristalsis and bile production. This is turn stimulates excretion and also adds bulk to a loose stool with lower chances of diarrhoea.
4. Increases growth–
The richness in Vitamin B components makes corn a very growth-promoting plant. The lack of niacin or vitamin B3 causes pellagra or severe malnourishment with symptoms like diarrhoea, dermatitis and dementia. Thiamine or vitamin B1 maintains balance in nerve functions and other cognitive operations of the body. Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 is also important for the metabolism of other nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and lipids in the body. Folic acid is an important nutrient for the development of pre-born infants in pregnant women, the lack of which may result in newborns with neural tube defects and other problems. Corn kernels are a rich source of vitamin E which is important for immunity in the body and also proteins important for growth.
5. Weight gain–
A diet rich in corn can be recommended to an underweight person. Sweet corn is among the best sources of calories which are good for the body to gain weight. Despite being a high-starch food, the lower glycemic index of corn makes inconvenient for consumption as a staple diet. Other starchy cereals and plants often have a high glycemic index which causes spikes in blood sugar. While corn is a gluten-free carb intake, it is among the best options for daily cereals for several countries.
6. Protects the Heart–
Corn oil derived as a side product of corn milling, is shown to have great effects on heart health. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases having been observed to have anti-atherogenic effects on cholesterol levels. Moreover, an optimal fatty acid combination has been speculated in the corn oil composition which makes it good for the heart. A passage is made for omega-3 fatty acids to remove the bad cholesterol and replace them at the binding site itself. Therefore, chances of clogged arteries are considerably reduced; maintain blood pressure and also reducing the chances of heart strokes.
7. Cancer prevention–
Corn is well reputed to be a rich source of antioxidants, and these have the power to fight the free radicals which cause cancer. Ferulic acid is an anti-carcinogenic agent which has been shown effective in fighting tumours causing breast cancer and liver cancer. Anthocyanins also eat the cancer-causing free radicals, while being nourishing antioxidants to other healthy cells. Cancerous cells are killed by apoptosis through antioxidants which are best derived from phytochemicals. Moreover, these properties of corn are only increased by cooking, unlike other cereals.
8. Other Benefits
While corn is a proven beneficiary for various purposes, like eye and skin care, it is also a good diet addition for diabetes patients. Moreover, it is also an effective remedy for hypertension. Corn oil and cornstarch can be alternatives for cosmetic care, due to their enriching source of minerals and vitamins. Corn products can be an effective replacement for carcinogenic petroleum products. Corn oil is an effective skin cleansing and wrinkle-reducing agent.
The best thing about corn is its versatility and abundance of nutrients. Corn has already been a staple in many countries and shall continue to be a great addition to the diet for generations to come.