(Health Secrets) Corn has been downplayed and even ridiculed as being a food that has no nutritional benefits, but nothing could be further from the truth. Maize was the name native Americans gave to corn, and they lived long healthy lives with maize as the backbone of their diets. Now scientists have discovered the reason that made this possible – corn’s antioxidant benefits are astronomical!
Researchers at Cornell University have recently shown that corn contains many powerful phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) not previously discovered. Previous research assessed antioxidant power by measuring only the free form of phytonutrients. The Cornell team looked at the bound forms of phytonutrients released during digestion. What they found was absolutely stunning.
Phenolics are a class of phytonutrients that are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidant benefits are what have allowed fruits and vegetables to gain heroic status in the fight against disease. Phenolics include quercetin, curcumin, ellagatainnins, catechins and many others you can read about on this site.
The Cornell team found that despite the differences between the free and bound phenolics in fruits and vegetables compared to those in corn and other grains, the total antioxidant activity in all these foods is high. They measured the antioxidant activity of various vegetables and fruits and rated them on an ascending scale. Banana rated 65, broccoli rated 80, and spinach 81. Apple rated 98. Of the whole grains tested, corn rated the highest with a rating of 181. This astonishingly high antioxidant level can prevent and treat cancer, ward off Alzheimer’s and fight aging to keep you looking and feeling young. When coupled with the high fiber content of corn. the picture emerges of a true nutritional powerhouse that explains the enthusiasm of native Americans for this food.
What other health benefits does corn offer?
Cardiovascular Health – The delicious and versatile kernel of corn is a rich source of B vitamins including folate, Vitamin C, phosphorus and manganese. Each of these nutrients plays a role in cardiovascular health. Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine that can directly damage blood vessels and bring on heart attack, stroke or peripheral vascular disease. It has been estimated that if all the people consumed 100% of the daily value of folate, the number of heart attacks in America each year would decline by 10%.
Lung Health – Corn is rich in the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin that may significantly lower the risk of developing lung cancer. In one study, those eating the most crytopoxanthin rich foods showed a 27% reduction in lung cancer risk. In smokers this was associated with a 37% lower risk.
Brain Health – Thiamine, one of the B vitamins found in corn, is essential to energy production and critical for cognitive function. Thiamine is involved in the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory. A lack of acetylcholine contributes to age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s. Pantothenic acid, another B vitamin found in corn, is what helps you keep cool under stress by boosting the adrenal glands.
Getting the best from corn
The best corn is grown at home, where you can go out and pick an ear right off the plant, peel back the husks and eat it while standing in the sunshine. If that is not an option, the next best is fresh, locally grown corn from someone you trust. In the grocery store, look for corn with husks that are green, tight fitting and not dried out. Kernels should be plump and tightly arranged. Test for juiciness with your fingernail. A fresh kernel will spill out a milky substance.
Corn can be prepared in a variety of ways. If you are boiling or steaming corn, do not add salt until it is done so kernels stay tender. To broil or grill, soak the corn first in the husk. Then cook with or without husk.
But don’t rely on corn as your only vegetable. Corn contains large amounts of fatty acids, so people at high risk of heart disease who consume excessive amounts of corn may be in even greater danger. And be sure to steer clear of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is extracted from corn to make a cheap sweetener. HFCS is a greater threat than table sugar and is a leading cause of obesity and poor health. HFCS is found in many foods and drinks. Read labels.
Make a delicious and visually appealing salad with cooked corn kernels combined with finely chopped tomatoes, green pepper, quinoa, chopped parsley and a hint of mint or rosemary. Dress with olive oil and your favorite vinegar, and add black beans if your like. Add corn kernels to your favorite bean recipe or make black bean and corn salsa with fresh cilantro and garlic.
The sad truth
Almost all of the conventionally grown corn in the U.S. comes from genetically modified seeds. Consuming genetically modified foods has been shown to pose significant risks to health. The only way you can be really sure you are not eating genetically modified corn is to grow it yourself or have a relationship with someone who does, or buy organic corn and corn products. USDA regulations prohibit the use of genetically modified seeds for growing foods to be labeled as organic.
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