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Understanding the Versatility and Nutritional Value of Corn

Author: Yean Toh | Published date: June 10, 2024 | Category: Nutrition

Corn: A Unique Grain

Corn is the one grain that can be eaten fresh like a vegetable, as well as dried or as a flour, like other grains. Dried corn or maize is the staple food of Native American Indians and is also widely eaten in Africa, as corn bread or cooked into a porridge.

Nutritional Profile of Corn

In terms of nutrition, corn is average compared to other grains. However, it stands out for its rich content of phytonutrients, which have powerful antioxidant properties. These phytonutrients are not destroyed when corn is dried, so the benefits remain whether you eat fresh corn or dried cornmeal.

Concerns About Corn

A downside of corn is that it tends to be heavily sprayed with pesticides. The bigger downside is that about 85 percent of corn grown today is genetically modified. So check your sources and try to buy organic, non-GMO corn.

Enjoying Fresh Corn

Fresh corn on the cob, steamed and eaten on its own or with a dab of butter, can be a delicious snack. It can also be made into a delicious cream-style pureed soup. I write that corn "can be delicious" because it is not always so, depending on how fresh it is. Ideally, it should be cooked within hours or minutes of harvesting. When corn is kept, it loses its natural sweetness as its sugar quickly turns into starch. Frozen corn is actually not too bad, because freezing preserves its flavor and nutrients. It tastes better than corn that has been kept too long.

Polenta: A Versatile Dish

Polenta is a coarse cornmeal. The Italians cook it firm and dry, and then fry or bake it before serving with a sauce or other dishes. However, polenta can also be prepared into a soft porridge, similar to oat or rice porridge.

The Science Behind Popped Corn

Popped corn can be made that way because the grain has a hard, air-tight outer skin and a small amount of moisture sealed inside. When corn is heated, the water turns into steam and expands until the entire grain "explodes." This is a rather strange method of "cooking" and not likely to be healthy.

Corn Chips vs. Potato Chips: Which is Healthier?

Corn chips, also called tortilla chips, are popular snacks, manufactured and eaten much the same way as potato chips. Which is healthier? There is no clear-cut answer. If the corn chip is baked rather than fried, there is less likelihood of it having been fried in poor quality oil. If both corn and potato chips are salted, well, potatoes have a lot more potassium to balance the sodium in salt. In any case, such snacks should be reserved for occasional enjoyment, not as daily meals.

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