Corny But True: The Health Benefits of Corn
If you like to read about food and nutrition, you’ve probably heard a lot about corn and corn-derived products lately. Remember that documentary King Corn about American corn production and consumption? Have you heard about the evils of corn syrup ad nauseam over the past few years?
It’s true that corn is a caloric food. One cup of corn contains about 600 calories, which is especially high for a vegetable. Well that’s actually because it’s more like wheat because of the high starch content and less like a vegetable.
It’s also true that Americans consume an incredible amount of corn: at least 56 lbs per person per year of corn products!
But what about the benefits of corn? And when was the last time you ate fresh, unprocessed corn and not a corn syrup sweetener, a corn-based sugary cereal, or some corn chips with nacho cheese?
In our 99 Smoothie Mix-Ins post, we talked about how corn is amazing for your eye health and eyesight because of its super high beta carotene content. But whole, fresh corn can actually be worth the calories in many other ways. Here’s how.
We don’t often think of vegetables when we think of protein, but corn is packed with 16 grams of protein per cup! Think about it: one egg, considered a good source of protein, only contains 6.5 grams. A serving of corn is actually richer in protein than a couple of eggs!
And protein supports the health of your entire body. It’s what your body uses to build new tissues including healthy lean muscle, and uses protein to repair existing tissues when they’re damaged in any way, including from healthy exercise! If you’re trying to lose weight and get toned, protein is an absolute must, and you might not be getting as much as you need in your daily diet.
A lack of protein is one of the issues that a meal replacement shake can solve, and one of the reasons why we recommend corn as an occasional smoothie mix-in. One IdealShake packs 11g of protein, and combined with a protein-rich mix-in like corn, you’re getting what your body needs to create lean muscle and help burn fat.
Magnesium is one of 7 essential macrominerals that your body needs to stay healthy. Just like macronutrients (like fat, carbohydrates, and protein), macrominerals tend to be needed in larger quantities than other minerals that play a smaller role in maintaining your body. You need at least 100mg of magnesium every day, and corn supplies you with a whopping 52% of that amount!
The primary role of magnesium is in keeping your bones strong and healthy. It helps your body break down vitamin D and calcium, which you need to assimilate in order to build and maintain your whole skeleton. Women who get adequate magnesium, in conjunction with calcium and vitamin D in their diets, have a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis.
And like potassium, magnesium helps your body regulate the electrical signals it sends between body and brain. This is what keeps your heart beating, your lungs breathing, and supports all of your body’s other unconscious processes.
It can be difficult to get enough iron in your daily diet. Anemia, or iron deficiency, is one of the most common health problems in America! It can cause fatigue, physical weakness, and other symptoms, but it’s easily cured with a corrected diet or an iron supplement. Corn is a great choice, containing 25% of the iron you need in your daily diet. Since red meat is often touted as a primary source of iron, corn is a great choice if you prefer something vegetarian (and lower in cholesterol!).
Iron helps your blood carry oxygen throughout your body. Without enough iron, your body isn’t given enough oxygen, causing the symptoms of anemia. When you’re getting plenty of iron, it’s easy for your body to oxygenate and transport your blood efficiently. You feel energized and don’t need a million naps.
Believe it or not, iron can also help prevent the annoying disorder known as restless leg syndrome. This is probably because iron supplies our bodies with oxygen, which in turn regulates muscle contraction. Low iron can lead to irritating muscle spasms and restless leg syndrome, which can become severe in serious cases of anemia.
Incorporating Fresh Corn into Your Diet
Corn isn’t only a great smoothie mix-in, it’s also an awesome ingredient in lots of delicious dishes. If you’re only snacking on processed corn products right now, try some of these ways to get fresh, nutritious corn into your diet and take advantage of the iron, magnesium, and protein it provides! We’ve got 3 amazing corn-based snacks for you right here:
- Corn Salsa: Sure, tomato salsa can be nutritious. But corn salsa is a nice change and it adds so much protein to this simple snack! With just a little chopping and dicing, this salsa is ready in minutes. Serve with corn chips… or if that seems like overkill, try some interesting veggie chips or even a whole-grain cracker.
- Mexican-Style Grilled Corn: Here’s a new one for the grill this summer. Whole ears of shucked corn are grilled until hot and seared, then rolled in butter, lime, chili powder, and salty cotija cheese. Feel free to substitute parmesan if you can’t find cotija, a crumbly Mexican cheese from Michoacan. Go as easy or as heavy on the chili powder as you like!
- Fresh Corn Salad: There are lots of recipes for salads with fresh corn, but this one really hits the spot. It’s got salty feta cheese, spicy jalapenos, tangy lime juice, and sweet corn. Whip this up in just a few minutes for a healthy mid-day snack or as a fresh and crunchy side dish when you’re grilling this summer.
- Sweet Corn Relish: This super healthy corn relish is packed with superfood spices and vegetables like cabbage, peppers, and shallots. It keeps in the fridge for up to six weeks, and tastes amazing with cheese and crackers, barbecue, or as a salad topping. Your guests will be impressed with this unusual snack option, and so will you.
Let’s Wrap It Up
If you need more healthy snack ideas, take a look at IdealBars. These yummy little snack bars contain 24 healthy vitamins and minerals, plus lots of fiber and protein to fuel your body, keep you feeling full, and help you drop some weight. And there’s even more hunger-blocking power in Slendesta, a potato protein extract that we added to block your hunger for up to 3 full hours.