Corn is a mis­un­der­stood veg­etable, but it’s loaded with nu­tri­ents and easy to pre­pare

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - NEWS - LES­LIE BECK

Q: I love corn on the cob. But how healthy is it? Does corn count as a veg­etable?

This sum­mer sta­ple – in sea­son July through Septem­ber – of­ten gets a bad rap. Many peo­ple (mis­tak­enly) think that corn is fat­ten­ing and has lit­tle to of­fer on the nutri­tion front. Peo­ple also as­so­ciate corn with in­gre­di­ents that aren’t nu­tri­tious.

Corn is pro­cessed into high fruc­tose corn syrup, corn­starch, mal­todex­trins, dex­trose, poly­dex­trose, mal­tose and sugar al­co­hols, in­gre­di­ents added to baked goods, break­fast ce­re­als, snack foods, salad dress­ings, condi­ments, soups, candy and hun­dreds of other pack­aged foods.

The truth is, un­less you cook all of your foods from scratch, you’re eat­ing plenty of corn year­round.

CORN NUTRI­TION

Back to sum­mer’s sweet corn, which has an im­pres­sive nutri­tion pro­file.

One cup of corn de­liv­ers 143 calo­ries, five grams of pro­tein and 31 g of car­bo­hy­drate. One large ear of corn (eight to nine inches long) yields about one cup of corn ker­nels.

Sweet corn has a low glycemic in­dex value, mean­ing its car­bo­hy­drates don’t spike blood sugar or in­sulin lev­els.

Corn is also a de­cent source of fi­bre, pro­vid­ing 3.5 g in one cup. Re­search has found that the bran in corn pro­motes sati­ety, help­ing you feel full longer.

The fi­bre in corn also acts as a pre­bi­otic, feed­ing and fu­elling the growth of ben­e­fi­cial gut bac­te­ria. There’s more. Sweet corn serves up niacin, fo­late, vi­ta­min C, mag­ne­sium and potas­sium.

Yel­low corn also con­tains lutein and zeax­an­thin, phy­to­chem­i­cals that pro­tect vi­sion by guard­ing against cataract and mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion.

(White corn con­tains very lit­tle lutein and zeax­an­thin.)

Sci­en­tists spec­u­late that con­sum­ing at least six mil­ligrams of lutein a day is op­ti­mal for eye health; one cup of yel­low corn de­liv­ers 22 per cent of that.

VEG­ETABLE, STARCH OR BOTH?

When eaten fresh, sweet corn is con­sid­ered a veg­etable. The ker­nel it­self, though, is ac­tu­ally a whole grain made up of three lay­ers: the outer bran layer, the in­ner nu­tri­ent-rich germ layer and the starchy en­dosperm layer. Dried corn, in­clud­ing pop­corn, is clas­si­fied as a whole grain.

Once corn is milled to re­move the bran and germ, it be­comes a re­fined grain. When buy­ing foods made with corn such as tor­tillas, break­fast ce­re­als and corn­meal, look for “whole corn” or “whole grain corn” on the in­gre­di­ent list.

COOK­ING AND EAT­ING CORN

Fresh sweet corn doesn’t take long to cook – just five min­utes in boil­ing wa­ter.

Don’t add salt to the wa­ter, which will toughen the corn. Or, place shucked ears of corn di­rectly over a medium-hot grill and cook, ro­tat­ing oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til charred and cooked through, about 10 min­utes. You can also wrap shucked corn in alu­minum foil and cook di­rectly on the grill or hot coals.

Nat­u­rally sweet, corn doesn’t need much – or any­thing at all – to make it taste de­li­cious. If you want ex­tra flavour, add a squeeze of lime juice and sprin­kle with chili pow­der or smoked pa­prika.

Or, add chopped fresh herbs such as pars­ley, basil, thyme, cilantro or mint to soft­ened but­ter and brush over corn. Dried herbs work well, too.

Go easy on the but­ter, though. Con­sider that one ta­ble­spoon adds 120 calo­ries and seven g of sat­u­rated fat to your cob of corn.

In­stead of but­ter, you may pre­fer to baste corn with a tea­spoon ex­tra vir­gin olive oil for fewer calo­ries and heart-healthy mo­noun­sat­u­rated fats. There are more ways to en­joy fresh corn this sum­mer than eat­ing it on the cob. Bake cooked corn into savoury muffins, toss into sal­ads, make into sal­sas and stir into soups.

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