Corn, also known as maize or our good old (Bhutta/Makkai/Challi) in Hindi, ‘Mokka Jonnalu‘ in Telugu, ‘Makkacholam‘ in Tamil, ‘Cholam‘ in Malayalam, ‘Musukina Jola’ in Kannada, ‘Makkai‘ in Gujarati, ‘Makai‘ in Marathi and Punjabi and ‘Butta‘ in Bengali. Corn is a large grain plant which is said to have originated in Mexico and Central America. Though viewed as a vegetable, it is actually a food grain. The leafy stalk of the plant produces ears, which contain the grains known as kernels. For every kernel on the cob, there is a strand of silk. The white and yellow kernels are most popular, but today, corn is available in red, brown, blue and purple also. The white and yellow hybrids are known as butter and sugar corn which contain both kinds of kernels. This cereal is known for its pleasant taste and its versatility.
Baby corn is available in cans or jars in the supermarkets and is used in Asian cooking. This grain is generally available in summer and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Sweet corn can be used to garnish the fresh rice or cooked with onion and chillies to make an evening snack. It can even be eaten straight out of the maize ears. In India, vendors are often seen selling corn which is known as ‘bhutta’. The best part is that corn is not just delicious, but rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, thus offering several health benefits.
For simplicity in reading, we have broken down this segment into health benefits of corn followed by the skin and hair benefits.In addition to its delicious sweet taste, corn is high in fiber, low in fat and a great source of essential nutrients offering an array of health benefits given below.
1. Good For Digestion:
Corn is high in dietary fiber which comprises of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps in blocking cholesterol absorption by turning into a gel-like consistency whereas insoluble fiber prevents constipation and intestinal problems by promoting soft and bulky stool that can move easily through the intestines, reducing the chances of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and diarrhea. Thus, it helps prevent digestive problems like constipation and hemorrhoids as well as colon cancer. Though corn contains both types of fiber, it has a higher content of insoluble fiber.
2. Prevents Anemia:
Anemia is caused due to the deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid. Corn contains a significant amount of these as well as iron, which is one of the essential minerals required to form new red blood cells. The deficiency of iron can also cause anemia.
3. Increased Energy:
Corn is considered a starchy vegetable as it contains a high amount of carbohydrates that provide you with short term and long term energy. They also ensure proper functioning of the brain and the nervous system. One cup of corn provides around 29 grams of carbs. This is particularly beneficial for athletes as they require more carbs to optimize exercise performance. Moreover, corn is a complex carb so it gets digested at a slow pace, thus providing you with balanced energy levels that are free of peaks and valleys. It is advisable to eat corn a couple of hours before exercising for lasting energy.
4. Lowers LDL Cholesterol:
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and there are generally two types of cholesterol, HDL or good cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol increases due to the intake of fatty food, thus weakening your heart and causing cardiovascular diseases. Sweet corn is rich in vitamin C, carotenoids and bioflavonoids that keep your heart healthy by controlling the cholesterol levels and increasing the flow of blood. Corn oil has an antiatherogenic effect on the cholesterol levels as it lowers the cholesterol levels by reducing the cholesterol absorption by the body, thus preventing atherosclerosis and scavenging the free radicals throughout the body.
5. Facilitates Weight Gain:
Corn is a great option for underweight people, referred to as ‘hard gainers’. They need to increase their caloric intake so as to put on some pounds on their frames. Corn is calorie dense and rich in carbs which helps to bulk up your body. Thus, it can be a healthy addition to your meals if you are underweight. One cup of corn kernels provides as much as 130 calories.
6. Prevents Diabetes And Hypertension:
Organic fruits and vegetables like corn have proven to be effective in reducing the signs of diabetes. The regular consumption of corn kernels assists in the management of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and protects against hypertension due to the presence of phenolic phytochemicals in whole corn. The phytochemicals regulate the absorption and release of insulin in the body, thus reducing the chances of spikes and drops for diabetic patients and enabling them to maintain a normal lifestyle. Besides, corn is a good source of pantothenic acid. This B vitamin helps in carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism. Hence, it prevents stress by supporting the functioning of the adrenal glands.
7. Stronger Connective Tissue:
Connective tissue is comprised of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage. Corn contains the trace mineral manganese that strengthens the connective tissue. In addition to these, manganese keeps the blood sugar levels stable and breaks down carbs and fat to provide energy. A cup of corn provides about 12 percent of the daily recommended value of manganese. Corn also contains a large proportion of minerals like magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus that are needed for healthy bones. These nutrients prevent your bones from cracking as you grow older.
8. Improves Vision:
The yellow kernels of corn contain substances called carotenoids that reduce the risk of macular degeneration i.e. impairment of vision at the center of your line of sight. Beta-carotene helps in producing vitamin A, thus supporting better vision.
9. Anti-cancer Properties:
Research has proved that the antioxidants found in corn can fight and eliminate cancer-causing free radicals. Moreover, this grain is a good source of the phenolic compound, ferulic acid which is effective in fighting tumors in the breast and liver.
10. Beneficial During Pregnancy:
Being a rich source of folic acid, corn is particularly beneficial for pregnant women. The deficiency of folic acid in pregnant women can cause the birth of underweight infants and also cause neural tube defects at birth. Thus, pregnant women should include corn in their diet as it benefits the health of both the child and the expecting mother. However, in case of high blood pressure or swollen hands or feet, it is advisable to consult the doctor first.
11. Beneficial For Heart:
Corn oil is said to have an antiatherogenic effect on cholesterol levels, thus, protecting against cardiovascular diseases. Corn oil is particularly beneficial for the heart health as it has an optimal fatty acid combination, thus enabling omega-3 fatty acids to remove the damaging bad cholesterol and replace them at the bonding sites. As a result, it prevents the arteries from becoming clogged, reduces the blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
12. Prevents Alzheimer’s disease:
Corn is a good source of thymine, which is an integral participant in enzymatic reactions central to energy production as well as brain cell/cognitive function. It is also needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory and whose deficiency can cause age-related impairment in mental function (senility) and Alzheimer’s disease.
13. Maintenance Of Healthy Skin:
Yellow corn is a rich source of beta-carotene which forms vitamin A that is vital for the maintenance of a healthy skin. Vitamin C and lycopene are potential antioxidants that prevent the UV generated free radicals from damaging the skin and increase the production of collagen that assists in the maintenance of smooth skin. Besides being eaten, corn can also be applied topically as corn oil which is a rich source of linoleic acid.
14. Prevents Skin Problems:
Corn starch is used as an ingredient in many cosmetic products and can even be applied topically to soothe skin rashes and irritation. Carcinogenic petroleum products can be substituted with corn products in cosmetic preparations as skin creams use petroleum jelly as a base material which can block pores and worsen the skin conditions.
15. Combats Hair Loss And Dryness:
Corn oil offers a great combination of fatty acids and nutrients such as vitamin E. Thus, the topical application of this oil helps to keep the hair follicles hydrated, well-nourished and prevents premature aging. The antioxidants prevent cell damage by trapping the free radicals. Hence, it is effective in combating dryness and hair fall due to free radical action. It also contains vitamin K that helps in the absorption of calcium, thus preventing hair loss.
Nutritional Value Of Corn:
Corn does not contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals but does contain a lot of water and is rich in dietary fiber. It has a moderate glycemic Index that enables the body to break it more slowly than other higher glycemic index foods like white bread. It is a great source of vitamin B1, vitamin B5, vitamin C and folate.