By Chelsea Fisher
Many consider corn a vegetable, but it’s actually a whole grain. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, whole grains such as corn have more vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber than processed grains. Fiber has been linked to a lower risk of cancer, largely due to the elimination of waste in the body.
Corn is a staple worldwide. There’s polenta in Italy, mote from Chile and Peru, Mexican corn flour tortillas and nachos, and, of course the buttery corn on the cob, popcorn, grits and cornbread we love to eat here in the USA. What we don’t fully realize is the extent corn has become a hidden component of processed foods, notably in our morning cereals, and in the use of the ubiquitous High Fructose Corn Syrup. Sadly, by the time corn gets to your table in these forms, it’s been super refined and stripped of most of its vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C, thiamin, folate, and magnesium are lost, along with the other vitamins and minerals that corn kernels are rich in. Corn flakes may have had their hay day, but studies now show that a high fiber, high protein breakfast will be more satisfying and keep you feeling full longer than refined cereals, leading to less calorie consumption throughout the day.
Corn is the world’s most widely produced crop. It comes in many colors, all of which are delicious and provide different antioxidants and phytochemicals. In the summer, ripe, yellow sweet corn cobs are hard to resist. When choosing fresh corn, make sure the husks are bright green and still feel a little damp. If the husks are dry, then the corn is likely old. Peel down the top silks and husk a little to make sure the kernels inside look plump and yellow. You should also be able to feel the large individual kernels underneath the husk. Corn loses its sweetness and turns starchy tasting relatively quickly so eat it as soon as you can after purchasing. If you can’t, strip off the kernels with a sharp knife and bag and freeze the kernels for another day.
In the summer when corn is available fresh at the farmers’ market try using it in our Corn Chowder, and Corn and Tomato Salad. Corn is also a staple year round. Frozen and canned corn provide the same health benefits as fresh and are a little easier to use. Corn tortillas are a great substitute for flour tortillas in our Goat Cheese and Chard Quesadillas. They are lower in calories, higher in fiber and provide a great gluten-free option if you require it. And with that chili, try our spicy Jalapeno Corn Bread.