Corn grows on ears which are covered in rows of kernels that are then protected by thin, translucent threads and encased in an outer husk. Its scientific name Zea mays, explains the traditional name “maize” that many cultures use throughout the world. Corn is highly influential in Latin and Native American cuisine and comes in a variety of colors including red, pink, black, and purple. Many of corn’s health benefits are related to its fiber content; however, corn also has a unique phytonutrient profile that provides immense antioxidant benefits.
Cancer prevention, in particular colon
Cardiovascular disease prevention
Blood sugar regulation
Antioxidant: Corn is a good source of vitamin C and manganese, two conventional antioxidant compounds. However, the main antioxidant components are the phytonutrients that appear in corn. In the case of yellow corn, carotenoids provide especially high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin. Blue corn is unique in anthocyanin antioxidants and purple corn with protocatechuic acid.
Lower blood pressure: Some phytonutrients in corn inhibits angiotensin-I converting enzyme (ACE), which decreases the tension in blood vessels and blood volume.
Digestive benefits: Corn has a high ratio of insoluble-to-soluble fiber. When certain types of fiber, especially soluble fiber, reach the lower part of the large intestine, they can be metabolized by intestinal bacteria into short chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids supply mediate anti-inflammatory effects that can be helpful in treating inflammatory bowel disease.
Cancer prevention: Short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that are metabolized by the fiber in the large intestine mediates anti-tumor effects by modulating expression of cell cycle-regulating protein and inducing apoptosis in colon cancer cells. SCFAs increase the susceptibility of colon cancer cells to complement-mediated cell injury.
Blood sugar benefits: Due to its B-complex vitamins and notable protein and fiber content, corn provides excellent blood sugar benefits. Fiber and protein are key macronutrients for stabilizing the passage of food through the digestive tract and regulating the uptake of sugar into the bloodstream.
Good source of:
Fiber, vitamin C, B3, manganese, B5
Purchasing, storing, & enjoying:
Purchasing: For food safety concerns, it is recommended to select corn that has not been exposed to a substantial amount of heat and is stored in the refrigerated produce area. Look for husks that are fresh and green and not dried out. Examine the kernels by gently pulling down the husks. Kernels should be plump and tightly arranged in rows. Conventionally grown corn has repeatedly been shown to contain organochlorine pesticide residues so it is highly recommended to purchase certified organic corn. Peak season is in the summer. When purchasing out of season, frozen and canned corn are great options.
Storing: To enjoy the optimal sweetness of fresh corn, it is recommended to eat it the day of purchase. Store corn in airtight container or tightly wrapped plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not remove the husks when storing in the refrigerator until the time of consumption to protect its flavor. Fresh corn freezes well in heavy-duty freezer bags. To prepare whole ears for freezing, blanch them first for five minutes with husks removed. Frozen whole corn on the cob will keep for up to one year, while removed kernels can be frozen for two to three months.
Corn can be cooked either with or without husks and in a variety of ways. When using wet heat methods of boiling or steaming, make sure not to add salt or overcook as the corn will tend to become hard and lose its flavor.
Popcorn is not as nutrient-dense as fresh or frozen corn but still contains many benefits. Avoid eating packaged popcorn and try popping your own popcorn to avoid high fat and sodium. Sprinkle corn kernels into your favorite salad for sweetness. Corn works especially well in Mexican-inspired dishes.
Resources & recipes:
Vegan creamed corn: http://greatist.com/health/recipe-vegan-creamed-corn
Corn bread: http://theveganroad.com/recipes/corn-bread
Polenta squares with sundried tomato and walnut tapanade: http://www.choosingraw.com/easy-vegan-entertaining-polenta-squares-with-sundried-tomato-and-walnut-tapenade/
Vegan corn chowder: http://www.girlmakesfood.com/vegan-corn-chowder/
Cheezy popcorn: http://www.food.com/recipe/cheezy-popcorn-vegan-320344
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