Friday, August 26, 2011

Corn is in Season

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
Full time faculty
School of Health Sciences

Corn is in season and whether fresh off the cob, frozen, or canned, corn often gets overlooked as a nutritious part of a healthy diet. I have often heard people say they avoid it since it is so “starchy”, but it is this starch, which is actually a complex carbohydrate, that makes corn a great diet addition to fuel an active lifestyle. 

Health benefits of corn
Corn is a rich source of phytochemicals and it is the various flavonoids and carotenoids in corn that are responsible for the distinctive colors of its different varieties. The colors valued by Native Americans include pink, blue, black, and red, although the most common forms in the US are white and yellow. The yellow of sweet corn comes from lutein which is good for healthy vision and decreasing the risk for macular degeneration. Corn is also high in vitamin C and the B vitamins including folic acid which aids in the prevention of neural tube defects. High intakes of lutein and folic acid also lower the risk for heart disease. A small ear of corn (7”) contains about 250 mg of potassium, a mineral lost in sweat, making it a good source of this nutrient. In comparison a medium banana contains about 350 mg of potassium.

This nutritious vegetable is notoriously hard to digest because of its high fiber content, although most Americans could use more fiber in their diets. The type of fiber in corn is called insoluble fiber which is needed to prevent constipation and diverticulitis. It is the high fiber content of corn that qualifies this starchy vegetable to count as a complex carbohydrate. 

So what should you look for when buying corn?
Look for bright green husks with silk that is dark and moist. After purchasing make sure to refrigerate it immediately when you get home to help the corn stay sweet. Then for the best flavor eat it within two to three days. One of my favorite ways to cook corn is to soak the corn in its husk in a sink full of water and then roast it in the husk on the grill. Another great and easy way to cook corn in minutes is to wrap an ear in wet paper towels or wax paper and microwave for 2-3 minutes turning once. 

If you are watching your calories, have a gluten or wheat intolerance, or are limiting your grains, then consider adding corn to your diet as a source of complex carbohydrates. A small ear (7”) has just about 80-90 calories, is high in vitamin C, the B vitamins, potassium, fiber and phytochemicals like lutein and carotene, all of which contribute to a healthy heart and balanced diet.

Try this healthy high complex carbohydrate popcorn recipe:

Popcorn Delight
Makes 1 serving
3 cups popped fat-free unsalted popcorn
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
2 tablespoons raisins or other dried fruit such as cranberries, apricots or dates
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients and toss well.
Nutrition Facts per Serving:
Calories: 230
Fat: 7 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Carbohydrates: 39 g
Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 6 g
Sodium: 274 mg

Recipe provided courtesy of John Wiley & Sons, from Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During & After Pregnancy by American Dietetic Association ©2009, John Wiley & Sons.


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