Healthy Eating

Jul 22, 2006

Corn Is Technically a Grain, But Look Out For the Sugar

Native Americans taught the European settlers how to grow and prepare corn, which they ate as a breakfast cereal with milk and maple syrup. Corn is not a vegetable, it is technically a grain. It is the seed of a grass, like wheat. It therefore counts toward the recommended daily servings of whole grain. However, corn is very sweet and used as animal feed, corn syrup, cornstarch, corn oil, ethanol fuel and in the making of plastics and other non-food products. The corn we eat is "sweet corn" (white, yellow, or bi-colored), which has become even sweeter since scientists began breeding varieties with more sugar. Some "supersweet" corn also convert its sugars to starch more slowly after it is cut from the stalk, so it stays sweet longer. Baby corn is sweet corn that’s been harvested early and can be eaten cob and all. Popcorn is a special variety of field corn that contains a small amount of water inside a thick-walled casing; when heated, steam builds up until the kernel explodes – producing the popped corn we have all come to love while watching sporting events.
Corn is a high-carbohydrate food with lots of fiber (nearly 5 grams per cup of cooked kernels), some protein, B vitamins (notably thiamin and folate), a little vitamin C, and a handful of minerals (such as potassium, iron, and magnesium). Treating corn with lime (as is done with tortillas) make certain amino acids and the B vitamin, niacin more available to the body. But as a starchy vegetable (not), corn contains more than most other vegetables—about 110 calories in a medium–sized ear, or 175 calories in a cup of cooked kernels.
Yellow and white corn are similar nutritionally, except that yellow corn is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin—carotenoids that may help keep eyes healthy and possibly protect against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Yellow corn also contains some beta carotene; white has none.
Corn should be kept cool and eaten as soon as possible—the sugar in starch gets converted to starch more quickly at warm temperatures. Boil, grill or steam corn. Don’t add salt to the boiling water, because salt toughens the kernels. Instead of butter, try rubbing with wedges of lemon or lime. Instead of salt, sprinkle with cayenne, dill or other spices and herbs.
Corn sweeteners, widely found in soft drinks and other processed foods are another source of sugar. High-fructose corn syrup, in particular, may raise triglycerides and have other negative health effects. Much of my research points to the development of HFCS as the trigger that set this country on a path leading to obesity and type 2 diabetes—back in the late 60s. Today you would be hard-pressed to find baked goods, candy, gum, bread and even pickled herring without reading high-fructose corn syrup in the ingredients. Some products only indicate corn syrup, but it is not the friend of those with diabetes or weight problems. When you go to a restaurant, you may want to ask for a substitute for corn - in the form of peas, green beans or mixed vegetables. Mediterranean vegetables are preferable to eating corn. I always get the substitute and appreciate the Greek restaurant owner’s willingness to allow for a healthier choice. Even the natural sugar alcohol called Xylitol is now being made from corn sources. You may need to bring a small magnifier to read these ingredients and then look out for the hidden sources of sugar.
Sugar is a major enemy to the health of young people and those already losing limbs, eyesight and suffering immune problems.
Those schools removing their vending machines are finding fewer discipline problems, more focused students and their parents are not filling prescriptions for Ritalin. Over active children do not need mega doses of processed sugar—they are usually very active without any chemical additives.
Producing a healthier environment will take a massive effort on the part of the public and food producers. Taste is not the most important source of choosing healthy foods. Triglycerides came down when I used more cinnamon and ate more Omega-3 foods. I dropped my triglycerides from 1374 to 76 in two months. Living longer and healthier will not come easy to Americans addicted to parties with french fries, pizza, pop, candy and cake. Plan your picnics around fruits, vegetables, nuts, dark green salads, extra-virgin olive oil and apple-cider vinegar. Lemonade made with fresh lemons is the best beverage for preventing short-term memory loss. Try smoothies with cherries, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries and plain yogurt with a little cinnamon and vanilla extract and you will be headed in the right direction.


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