Most corn sold today is known as sweet corn and has high starch and sugar content.
Dark colored ears of corn contain higher levels of protein and beta-carotene.
People with diabetes and high blood sugar should limit their corn intake.
Did you know corn is the largest and most important crop in the United States? While most (more than 95 percent) is used to feed livestock, there is still plenty for movie theaters and dinner tables across the country. In fact, every American consumes about 56 pounds of corn each year. Corn comes in many different colors ranging from blue, brown and red to white and yellow; most American’s consume yellow or white varieties—but are these the healthiest choices?
Shucking the health benefits of corn
Though yellow and white varieties are more pleasing to your palate because of their high sugar content, black, red and blue corn kernels are higher in anthocyanins—powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. Research suggests dark-colored corn varieties have a higher potential for boosting your cognitive function, keeping your liver healthy, preventing cancer, reducing high cholesterol, fighting obesity, improving your vision and protecting your heart.
Since the 19th century, farmers have been scientifically altering yellow corn to be sweeter, more delicious and lighter in color. This process reduces the levels of anthocyanin, beta-carotenes and protein while increasing the levels of starch and sugar. Healthier, less sweet corn can still be found at your local grocery store, but you’ll need to look for ears with deep yellow kernels, because they contain nearly 60 times more beta-carotene than white corn. This is significant because beta-carotene converts into Vitamin A during digestion, which is essential for a healthy immune system and clear vision.
Who should not eat corn?
While pale yellow and white varieties of corn still contain plenty of nutrients like iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and selenium, the sweetest varieties are nearly 40 percent sugar. People with diabetes or high blood pressure should eat corn in moderation (or as otherwise instructed by their doctor) and look for darker hues like blue or purple. According to a report in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, blue corn had a lower glycemic index, less starch, more protein antioxidants and fat than yellow or white varieties. If you do choose to eat sweeter varieties, be sure to eat it along with foods that are rich in protein and unsaturated fat, and limit your serving size to one ear of corn or one-half cup of kernels.
Healthy summer corn recipes
Try these tasty corn recipes for your summer festivities, one with blue cornmeal and one with traditional sweet kernels:
Vegan Blue Cornmeal Pancakes (courtesy SheKnows)
- 1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup blue cornmeal
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons ground flax
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups soymilk
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted (plus more for serving)
- 1 cup fresh blueberries, plus more for garnish (optional)
- 2 to 3 bananas, peeled and sliced (optional)
- Maple syrup to taste
- Preheat a nonstick griddle to medium-high. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and flax.
- Add 1 ½ cups of the soymilk and two tablespoons butter to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add more milk if the mixture seems too thick. (The mixture should be pourable.)
- Ladle approximately ¼ cup of the batter onto the griddle for each pancake.
- Immediately drop a few blueberries on top of each pancake.
- Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the bottom is light golden brown. Flip and continue cooking until the second side is brown.
- Transfer to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.
- Serve with extra butter, banana slices, and maple syrup.
Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Corn Lasagna (Gluten Free) (courtesy Teenie Cakes)
- 3 ½ pounds green or yellow zucchini or both (10 medium), ends trimmed, thinly sliced lengthwise
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 4-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided + more to season pan
- ½ cup shallots, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 cups raw sweet corn kernels (from 2-3 ears corn or uncooked frozen)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 15 ounces part-skim/low fat ricotta cheese
- 1 ¼ cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ¼ cup fresh chopped basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
- Line six rimmed baking sheets with paper towels and arrange zucchini/yellow squash in a single layer on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat a seasoned grill or seasoned grill pan to medium-high.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring until beginning to brown, about two minutes. Add corn and thyme and cook until corn is just hot, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Stir in ricotta, half of the Parmesan, the egg, basil, chives, and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 375°. Press water out of sliced squash with paper towels and remove all paper towels from baking sheets. Lightly brush zucchini/squash slices both front and back all with remaining olive oil. Grill zucchini/yellow squash, turning once, until grill marks appear, 2-4 minutes; transfer to rimmed baking sheets as cooked.
- Lightly oil the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with olive oil. Arrange a quarter of zucchini/yellow squash ribbons crosswise in the bottom of the dish, overlapping slightly. Evenly spread a third of corn-ricotta mixture over zucchini. Repeat process two more times, ending with zucchini. Dot with butter and evenly sprinkle and distribute remaining Parmesan on top.
- Bake until lasagna turns golden brown, about 45 minutes, rotating dish halfway through for even browning. Allow to rest and set at least 20 minutes before serving.
If you have a delicious recipe that uses dark-colored corn, we’d love to hear about it. Please share it in the comments below.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.