There's a lot of information out there about the nutritional value of corn. Is it good for us? Why has it become such a hot topic in recent years? And, what's the deal with High-Fructose Corn Syrup anyway? We're here to give you the facts about corn and corn products, plain and simple.
Does corn have nutritional value?
The short answer is yes. The idea that whole corn contains no nutritional value, and only acts as a filler, is a myth. Whole corn, as well as products like corn tortillas, grits and popcorn, are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, antioxidants and B vitamins. Corn can help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, boost your immune system and metabolism, and contribute to eye and muscle health.
So why the concern?
The myth that corn contains no nutritional value exists based on a couple of misunderstandings. Corn is one of the top commodity crops in the United States. American farmers currently produce about thirteen billion bushels of corn per year, as oppose to four billion bushels in 1970. Only a small fraction of nutrient-dense whole corn ends up on our dinner plates, in the form of sweet kernels, cornbread, corn chips, etc. Much of the corn produced in the U.S. becomes animal feed and processed food. This is where the big misunderstanding comes in.
About how much corn do you think you eat in a year? The average American eats only about one bushel of corn per year. This number, however, only accounts for the corn that looks like corn. If you were to count all the corn an average American eats, both directly and indirectly, it would equal about one ton of corn per person, each year. Half of the corn produced in the U.S. is eaten by animals, and therefore turned into beef, chicken, fish or pork. One-tenth of corn is turned into processed food: soft drinks, condiments, preservatives, sweeteners, breads and other baked goods, frozen meals, salad dressings, fruit juice, candies, and the list goes on. The corn used in these products, as well as the corn fed to the animals we ingest, are the types of corn that yield no nutritional value, and can even be harmful to humans in excessive quantities.
What about High-Fructose Corn Syrup?
You have likely heard of High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). There's a lot of controversy around this sweetener, most often known for it's presence in things like soda and fruit drinks. According to the FDA, "to make HFCS, enzymes are added to corn syrup in order to convert some of the glucose to another sugar called fructose." Some of the concern surrounding HFCS is due to uncertainty about whether or not our bodies can tolerate and process it similarly to glucose. Many sources say there is currently insufficient evidence to support that HFCS is less healthy than any other sweeteners, and that the key is to keep ALL sugar intake to a minimum. This includes all added sugars, such as table sugar, honey, and agave. Consuming too much sugar can lead to type II Diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver.
A few takeaways:
- Eat corn that looks like corn!! It's good for you!
- Fill your diet with other corn products made from whole corn, such as corn tortillas and chips, grits, popcorn, cornbread, and polenta!
- Stay away from processed foods to avoid excess "hidden" corn and high-fructose corn syrup
- Keep all sugar intake to a minimum to maintain a your health