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Corn is one of the most economical crops in the world which is enjoyed by people of all ages, especially during winters and monsoons, Also known as maize, it was the very first cereal plant grown by the ancient tribes of Central America. Today, it holds high industrial, culinary, and pharmaceutical importance, serving as a basic raw material for a number of products such as oil, starch, gum, alcoholic beverages, cereals, food sweeteners, corn flour, corn meals etc.

An ear of corn consists of a central cob which bears the corn kernels (the shiny yellow corn pieces that you eat) and the whole thing is wrapped by a layer of thick leaves which is known as husk. Apart from that corn ear also has something called corn silk which are shiny hair like threads coming out of the cob.

Corn is cultivated all around the world, throughout the year. Being a rain-fed crop in India, it is usually grown in regions with warm temperatures varying from 22 degrees to 35 degrees Celsius. The different types of corn include flint corn, popcorn, dent corn, and sweet corn.

As a food, corn is extensively used in Indian, Italian and Mexican cuisines. A lot of diet plans include the intake of corn because of its low fat and high carbohydrate content along with the delicious taste. It is loaded with polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins which are useful in preventing diseases and in maintaining the overall health of the body.

Some basic facts about Corn:

  • Scientific name: Zea Mays
  • Family: Poaceae
  • Common name: Corn, makai
  • Sanskrit name: स्तम्बकर ि; Stambkari
  • Parts used: Corn kernel, skin, corn silk
  • Native Region and geographical distribution: Scientists believe that corn was first grown in Mexico at least 7,000 years ago. From here, it spread to America and eventually to European and Asian countries. Today, maize has become a staple food in many cuisines. The United States grows over 40% of the total world’s harvest. In India, it is an annually growing plant and is cultivated on large scale in north India. Major corn-growing states are Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Jammu & Kashmir. In south India, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are the major producers.
  • Some interesting facts about corn: Except for Antarctica, corn is grown in every continent of the world. The cornflakes that we eat as breakfast, contain only 8% corn.
  1. Corn nutrition facts
  2. Corn health benefits
  3. Corn use
  4. Corn side effects
  5. Takeaway

Despite several myths, corn remains one of the most consumed grain in the world. It is actually blessed with high nutritional values and a negligible cholesterol. Corn is rich in minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium and it contains fair amounts of vitamin A, B1, B2, and vitamin B3. 

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of corn contains the following values:

Nutrients Value per 100 g
Water 10.37 g
Energy 365 kcal
Carbohydrate 74.26 g
Sugars 0.64 g
Fibre 7.3 g
Fats 4.74 g
Protein 9.42 g

 

Minerals Value per 100 g
Calcium 7 mg
Iron 2.71 mg
Magnesium 127 mg
Phosphorus 210 mg
Potassium 287 mg
Sodium 35 mg
Zinc 2.21 mg

 

Vitamins Value per 100 g
Vitamin A 11 µg
Vitamin B1 0.385 mg
Vitamin B2 0.201 mg
Vitamin B3 3.627 mg
Vitamin B6 0.622 mg
Vitamin B9 19 µg
Vitamin E 0.49 mg
Vitamin K 0.3 µg

 

Fats/Fatty Acids Value per 100 g
Saturated 0.667 g
Monounsaturated 1.251 g
Polyunsaturated 2.163 g

Corn for weight loss

Obesity is growing at a rapid rate all around the world. Being obese invites the risk of various health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. Losing those extra kilos would not only help in avoiding such diseases but also leads us to a fitter self. However, there is no shortcut to weight loss and starving is definitely not a good way to lose weight. A balanced diet goes a long way in managing weight issues. Corn is a low calorie, high carbohydrate food which helps maintain energy levels during dieting. Also, it is rich in fibre which makes the stomach feels full for a good period of time thus reducing appetite and unnecessary munching.

Other than this, many controlled trials and studies demonstrate the successful effects of whole grain consumption, including corn, on weight loss.

Hence, corn is a perfect snack and dietary food for losing weight.

(Read more: Diet chart for weight loss)

Corn benefits for skin

A preclinical study showed corn oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can help in the treatment of various skin defects. Corn oil is a rich source of linoleic acid which is an essential fatty acid. This means that linolenic acid cannot be naturally synthesized by the body. Therefore it is important to obtain these fatty acids from an outside source. Linoleic acid plays a vital role in maintaining various functions in the body. 

Research shows that both oral consumption and external application of oils rich in EFAs can be beneficial for the skin. Linoleic acid helps in building ceramides, which are important moisturizing agents for the skin cells, hence keeping our skin cells healthy.

Additionally, corn oil Oils is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which can help reduce signs of skin aging and inflammatory skin diseases.

Corn boost energy

Being rich in starch, corn is an excellent source of energy. In fact, starch consists of at least 70% of the kernel weight in corn. Besides, it consists of simple carbohydrates (sugars) in the form of glucose, fructose, and sucrose. These sugars are easily digestible and they break down quickly to give instant energy.

The complex carbohydrate present in corn is digested at a slower pace, maintaining a constant flow of energy to the body throughout the day.

Also, corn is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which are helpful in improving stamina.

Corn exhibits anti-inflammatory properties

Inflammation is a physical condition which is caused as a reaction to an infection or injury. It is generally associated with swelling, redness, pain, and discomfort in the affected area. Studies suggest that the extracts from the husk of corn exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. It was reported that corn husk extracts can slow down the action of certain cytokines which are responsible for signaling the expression of i-NOS genes. .These genes are otherwise responsible for initiating an inflammatory response in the body. Thus corn can be used as a soothing agent in the treatment of various inflammatory diseases.

(Read more: Inflammatory disease treatment)

Corn for high cholesterol

Increased cholesterol levels can give rise to numerous conditions including heart disease and obesity. Corn silk, the golden-yellow threads in corn cobs can help maintain the cholesterol levels in the body. The extracts of corn silk contain a  flavonoid known as maysin, which is an extremely beneficial plant pigment. In an animal study, it was found that the supplementation of this extract along with a high-fat diet, improves the levels of adipocytokine which regulates fat metabolism in the body. It also decreases the harmful hepatic cholesterol levels in the blood.

(Read more: High cholesterol treatment)

Corn for diabetes

Diabetes is an endocrine disorder which is quickly catching hold of every generation, all over the world. It is marked by increased blood glucose levels due to an inability of the body to produce or regulate the secretion of insulin.

Corn silk, which is a thread like substances present in a corn cob, has been widely studied for its hypoglycemic (lowering blood sugar levels) effects. Studies suggest that corn silk has some polysaccharides (complex sugars) which can help in decreasing blood sugar levels. In an animal experiment, corn silk extracts significantly reduced hyperglycemia by boosting up the insulin levels along with recovering injured β-cells (cells that produce insulin).

Corn for urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections are quite common among women. It is caused by the invasion of harmful bacteria in the urinary tract. Few symptoms of UTIs include being itching, burning sensation and the urge to urinate frequently. Medicinal herbs have long since been used for the treatment of UTIs.. Several reports suggest that corn silk can be used effectively for the treatment of urinary tract infections. In a clinical study, corn silk tea was given to UTI patients in small doses throughout the day. Marked reduction in symptoms was observed after 15-20 days of this treatment. It was further reported that corn silk extracts stop the growth of harmful bacteria in the urinary tract due to the presence of certain antimicrobial compounds like tannins and flavonoids.

Corn for kidneys

Kidneys are responsible for disposing off the toxic waste from the body. Any kind of damage to the kidney would thus lead to waste accumulation and toxicity. The toxicity caused by kidney damage is known as nephrotoxicity which is responsible for problems like chronic kidney disease and kidney failure. Kidney failure happens whenever the kidney is damaged and unable to function properly in excreting the waste in the body.   Preclinical studies suggest that corn silk along with extracts of binahong leaves can be used for the treatment of nephrotoxicity. Also, it has been reported that the use of this combination improves kidney function.

(Read more: Acute kidney failure treatment)

Corn for HIV infection

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which slowly deteriorates the immune system of the body, leaving the person susceptible to various diseases. Maize contains a specific type of protein known as Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA) lectin which is suggested to have anti-HIV effects. It can inhibit viral infection by binding to certain sugar molecules present on the cell membrane thus inhibiting the entry of HIV into the normal cells.

Corn inhibits cancer growth

Several studies have been done to test the anticancer potential of corn. Lab-studies suggest that maize has small peptides (short chain amino acids) which can induce cell death in cancer cells. In vivo (animal-based studies) also confirm the apoptotic (causing cell death in cancer cells) effects of maize.

 According to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, sweet corn substantially reduces the risk of cancer in a human body. Sweet corn is loaded with antioxidants which have the ability to bind with free radicals and help in battling cancer. Apart from this, sweet corn contains an abundant amount of ferulic acid in it which performs an anti-tumor activity and induces apoptosis, a programmed death of cancer cells. In fact,  corn is one of the richest sources of ferulic acid in the plant kingdom. This is suggestive of anticancer properties of corn.

Corn can either be eaten boiled or roasted to enjoy the crispy crunch of the corn kernels. Popcorn, which is prepared from corn kernels, is a widely loved snack.

Not only corn pods, but every part of corn can be used in one or the other way. After the extraction of corn pods, corn germs can be used for making industrial glue, corn silk is used for the production of various medicines. Corn is also used as a biofuel for making corn ethanol.

  • Corn might cause an allergic reaction:
    Some people are naturally allergic to maize. Clinical trials suggest that the primary allergen present in corn is lipid transfer protein which remains stable even after cooking. It was further suggested that corn mediates an allergic response by stimulating the IgE antibody production. causing irritation in lungs, throat or even causing a rash on the skin.
  • Corn may cause breast cancer and prostate tumour cells
    A preclinical study shows that high consumption of corn oil may result in breast cancer and speed up the growth of prostate cancer cells.
  • Corn can be dangerous for a diabetic patient
    Corn is rich in carbohydrates which breaks down into sugar and increase the blood sugar level. Therefore, it is advisable that it should not be consumed by a diabetic patient in large amounts.

Corn is one of the most important cereal plants which is consumed all around the world. It is not only used in the form of edible grain but is also widely used for extraction of other dietary supplements such as corn flour, corn oil, corn silk etc. Corn has plenty of health benefits. It is used to lower cholesterol, and to treat urinary tract infections Also, it has anti-inflammatory properties and it is used for alleviating kidney problems. However, some people can be allergic to corn and overconsumption may be harmful to the health

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References

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