Health Benefits of Corn
When you reach for those tempting ears of sweet corn in the produce aisle, you’ll be pleased to know that in addition to being delicious, there are many health benefits of corn. Although it is a popular vegetable, many people still don’t think of corn as belonging in the good-for-you healthy produce category. But it does!
Corn is a whole grain food, high in fiber, low in fat, a source of essential nutrients and only about 80 calories per medium ear. Corn also contains two important carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin (pronounced zee-uh-zanthin), relatives of vitamin A that support eye health and may have other disease-preventing properties. Read on to find out more about the surprising health benefits of corn.
DIGEST THIS! A FEW FACTS ABOUT THE FIBER IN SWEET CORN
- One medium-sized ear of corn provides over 10% of our daily requirement for dietary fiber.
- There are two types of dietary fiber—soluble and insoluble—and sweet corn contains both!
- Dietary fiber as part of an overall healthy diet helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower your risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. It is the insoluble fiber that binds to cholesterol preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
- Insoluble fiber is responsible for promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation by speeding up the passage of food and waste through the intestines and by absorbing water to keep stools soft. Insoluble fiber has been shown to reduce your risk for hemorrhoids.
- Fiber-containing foods like sweet corn also help provide a feeling of fullness and so may help curb appetite and assist with weight management.
- Dietary fiber is also associated with reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes; a fiber-rich diet helps patients manage their disease
- Fiber is fermented by bacteria in the colon. Promising studies are underway to determine the health-promoting benefits of the breakdown products of fiber fermentation, for example, the short chain fatty acids that may work to keep the intestines healthy.
EYES ON CORN FOR HEALTHY EYES
- Studies have shown that a high intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of a chronic eye disease called macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is not some obscure medical condition—it is the leading cause of legal blindness among the elderly. According to the National Eye Institute, 6.5% of the population over 40 has symptoms of ARMD, for which there is no cure.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin may also play a role in slowing the development of cataracts. Since lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids detectable in the lens, researchers believe that these powerful antioxidants may protect the clear proteins in the lens from undergoing the oxidation that causes them to become cloudy.
STILL MORE Health REASONS TO LOVE YOUR SWEET CORN
- Lutein’s health benefits extend beyond eye health. Emerging research suggests that lutein may help prevent hardening of the arteries that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
- Corn contains beta-cryptoxanthin, another cousin of vitamin A that is being studied for its possible role in slowing bone loss associated with aging, reducing the risk of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis as well as various forms of cancer, especially lung cancer.
- Corn is a good source of the vitamin folate that supports cardiovascular health and significantly reduces the risk of neural tube birth defects.
- Corn contributes thiamin (vitamin B1) that helps the body’s cells convert carbohydrates into energy. It is also essential for the proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system