Desi cooking has been dominated by two nourishing cereal grains - rice and wheat, since ancient times. And although not cooked as frequently as the common chawal or atta, the ubiquitously grown, rather minute-sized and equally healthy corn, features prominently in the list of all the staple ingredients in Indian kitchens, amid other whole grains, pulses and legumes.
Yet another cereal grain, corn is an age-old harvest crop, that was first grown by the natives of Mexico thousands of years ago and has been cultivated in many countries since the past several centuries. Known commonly as maize and bearing the scientific name Zea mays, the tiny kernels or seeds of corn, which are technically the fruits, occur in large clusters encompassed within elongated inflorescences termed as ears.
Commonly referred to as maize or corn, this nutrient-dense plant produce has several local names within the Indian subcontinent. Popular as spicy evening snacks in the form of namkeen, corn flakes mixture as well as boiled, seasoned with salt, pepper and eaten as corn on the cob, it is termed as “Makka” in Hindi, “Mokkajonna” in Telugu, “Cholam” in Tamil, “Bhutta” in Bengali. The semi-soft texture, roughly round shape and versatility of corn makes it ideal to be eaten as such, as well as processed and cooked in different ways like light-weight fluffy popcorn, crunchy savoury snacks, flattened breakfast cereals, fine powdered corn flour or corn starch.
Also Read: Corn Kernels: 2 Nutrition-Rich Recipes You Can Make in Less Than 30 Minutes
Moreover, the rather tiny corn pods are imbued with vast reserves of beneficial substances including vitamins B1, B9, C, minerals magnesium, potassium, antioxidants, besides the basic nourishment of calories, carbs, fibers, proteins and fats. A powerhouse of nutrition, adding corn to the regular diet confers myriad health benefits such as supplying ample energy, promoting weight gain, managing diabetes symptoms and preserving optimal eyesight. Read on, to find out the numerous merits for wellbeing, as well as therapeutic uses, of adding the tiny, humble corn kernels to the regular diet.
The Corn Or Maize Plant:
Corn is a tall grass with a height of up to 3 meters, that thrives in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including countries of Mexico, India, Australia and warmer locations of USA. Normally it flourishes in well-drained, well-aerated, deep soils that contain sufficient organic matter and nutrients. The corn plant has a single erect stem made up of branches - nodes and internodes. Leaves are alternate, with broad, sword-shaped blades. Even though it is widely considered a vegetable, corn is actually a food grain. The leafy stalk of the plant provides ears, which house the grains/fruits known as corn kernels.
Nutritional Values Of Corn:
Corn displays a rather impressive nutritional profile, encompassing all the essential macronutrients - carbohydrates, fibers, fats and proteins, along with noteworthy levels of key micronutrients - vitamins and minerals. It has negligible levels of cholesterol and sodium, to promote heart wellness. In addition, corn contains considerable quantities of vitamins C and E, to boost immune, skin and hair health.
Add To Cart Our Top-Selling Vitamin And Mineral Supplements For Enhanced Overall Health!
The B complex vitamins - thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, as well as calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous, are also found in ample amounts in corn kernels and cornflour, with the grain being nothing short of a superfood.
The nutrition values in a 100 g serving of corn, according to the nutrient database of the U.S.D.A (United States Department Of Agriculture) are as follows:
Calories - 385
Total Fat 7%
Saturated Fat 3%
Polyunsaturated Fat 5%
Monounsaturated Fat 2%
Total Carbohydrates 25%
Dietary Fiber 14%
Folic Acid 3%
Vitamin C 7%
Vitamin E 4.6%
Being imbued with carotenoid antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as flavonoids, sterols and tannins, corn significantly boosts overall health. Moreover, corn is a very rich plant source of crucial essential amino acids namely isoleucine, tryptophan, valine, methionine and threonine, thus complementing both vegetarian and vegan diets.
Also Read: Top 3 Vegan Probiotic Foods To Boost Your Overall Health
Corn/Maize Health Benefits:
Augments Eye Health
Corn comprises a vast array of key antioxidants, namely carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These scavenge harmful free radicals from optic tissues and enhance eyesight. In addition, they protect the delicate organelles of the eye from damage, preventing vision disorders like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration.
Supplies Essential Amino Acids
Corn is composed of certain key amino acids, making it a unique plant-based source of high-quality proteins. It offers methionine, a sulphur-based amino acid to revive skin and hair health, valine and isoleucine which repair injured muscle tissues and threonine, to enable the proper formation of teeth and enamel.
Supports A Gluten-Free Diet
A significant number of young adults and older people tend to develop intolerance towards the gluten proteins in cereals like wheat, that, unfortunately, is a regular ingredient in Indian dishes. Corn, being organically gluten-free, can easily be substituted for wheat, to prepare chapatis, dosas and sweets or mithais, and is often recommended for patients with celiac disease.
Fortifies Bone Density
Corn being a fantastic source of natural calcium, strengthens bones in growing children. It also restores optimum bone density in older people, assisting in alleviating osteoporosis symptoms. While younger people can consume corn daily, middle-aged and older adults need to eat measured servings of corn, to augment bone health, while steering clear of gastrointestinal and kidney disorders.
Keeps Blood Sugar Levels In Check
Corn, although being high in calories and carbohydrates for instant energy, also comprises a plethora of phytates, tannins, polyphenols – plant chemicals that slow down the digestion process. This lowers high blood sugar in those with diabetes mellitus. Also, owing to its low digestibility and rich fiber content, corn is indeed a healthy option for accelerating weight loss and managing other lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity.
Iron deficiency anaemia affects countless Indian men, women and children every year, leading to excessive fatigue and low productivity levels. Corn is a powerhouse of iron, serving as a boon for people who experience low haemoglobin levels in the blood, thus effectively treating anaemia.
Also Read: Anemia: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Boosts Nervous System Function
Eating corn in controlled portions on a daily basis assists in enhancing nerve impulse conduction, activating memory centres in the brain and relaxing the mind, due to elevated levels of the amino acid tryptophan. As the tryptophan brings about an equilibrium in the levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter, corn helps in treating anxiety and insomnia, by maintaining good moods and promoting sound sleep.
Augments Heart Health
Corn is completely devoid of cholesterol and sodium, so recipes made with cornflour can safely be consumed by those with heart ailments. Furthermore, the abundance of dietary fibers and vitamin B3 or niacin helps to enhance good HDL levels and diminish bad LDL levels. This averts plaque and fatty deposits in heart vessels, easing cardiac muscle function and improving heart health.
Ensures Healthy Pregnancy
Consuming measured portions of corn has massive benefits for the health of pregnant and lactating women. Due to the immense iron and calcium content in corn, it is ideal to stimulate milk production and balance hormonal activities in expecting women and young mothers.
Contributes To Healthy Weight Gain
The comprehensive nutritional content in corn makes it a perfect food for meeting a growing child’s ever-expanding nutrient requirements. Corn on the cob is often served as a snack after intense physical activities, to young kids, to facilitate optimal growth and development. Owing to its starchy content, corn influences healthy weight gain in young children, assisting in their routine development.