Sweet corn is one of summer’s simplest, purest pleasures. But just how healthy is it? Here’s the sweet truth.
Few things say “summer” like a freshly picked ear of sweet corn, grilled to perfection and served up with a light smear of butter and sprinkle of salt. Yet somehow over the years, people began to question if corn was healthy. Rumors have sprung up about everything from how corn is grown to its nutrient content. Just in time for summer, here are five common corn myths, busted. Get ready to fire up the grill.
Myth #1: Most sweet corn is genetically modified.
Fact: Only a small percentage of sweet corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, according to the USDA. Most GMO corn is used in processed foods like corn chips, breakfast cereals, high-fructose corn syrup and corn oil, or turned into livestock feed and ethanol.
If you’re concerned, choose USDA-certified organic corn, or ask the vendors at your local farmers’ market how their corn is grown. GMO crops are banned under organic standards. (By the way, it may help to know that sweet corn made the Environmental Working Group’s 2018 “Clean Fifteen” list of foods least likely to have pesticide residue.)
Myth #2: Eating corn will make you gain weight.
Fact: Sure, you can load up that juicy corn on the cob with butter and other high-calorie toppings. But one plain ear of corn has about 100 calories, similar to an apple. And with nearly 3 grams of fiber per serving, corn can help you feel full longer, so you’re less likely to overeat and pack on the pounds. Then there’s its resistant starch, a slow-to-digest type of carb that’s been shown to help with weight control.
Myth #3: Sweet corn is high in sugar.
Fact: Yes, corn is sweet for a vegetable—but there are only 6 grams of natural sugar in a medium-size ear of corn. An ear of sweet corn has less than half the sugar of a banana and only about one-third the sugar of an apple. Even beets have more grams of sugar per serving than corn.
The high-sugar corn myth may be partly due to some long-standing confusion over corn varieties. High-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose and other sweeteners are derived from field corn, the virtually inedible commodity crop used to make everything from livestock feed to ethanol. Those highly processed sweeteners are nothing like the natural sugars found in sweet corn, the vegetable you eat. Ditch the stuff with the chemical-sounding names, and stick to the real thing instead.
Myth #4: Corn has no health benefits.
Fact: For starters, sweet corn is loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that promote healthy vision. Besides helping with weight loss, the insoluble fiber in corn feeds good bacteria in your gut, which aids in digestion and helps keep you regular. Throw in a healthy amount of B vitamins, plus iron, protein and potassium, and you’ve got one sweet package.
Myth #5: The cooking process robs corn of its nutrients.
Fact: Cooking sweet corn actually boosts its benefits. In a Cornell study, researchers found that while sweet corn loses vitamin C during cooking, its antioxidant activity increases. Studies show eating foods high in antioxidants can help lower your risk of heart disease as well as Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts and other health problems linked to aging. Cooked sweet corn also has a surprising amount of ferulic acid, a type of compound that helps fight cancer. Crank up the cooking temp and you’ll increase the benefit even more.