From CopperWikioil, cornflake, corn syrup, popcorn, rice corn and corn soap. Even corn whiskey. Corn syrup, which is one of several natural sweeteners derived from corn starch, is used in a wide variety of food products including cookies, crackers, catsups, cereals, flavored yogurts, ice cream, preserved meats, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, beers, and many others.
In recent years corn has been under global focus becasue it is being used to make ethanol. The US has been subsidizing corn production for years to promote conversion to ethanol. Since ethanol will not be derived from fossil fuels, it should considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Why Should I Be Aware Of This?
Corn is a delicious part of many world cuisines. Corn has numerous health benefits, and the fact that it is inexpensive makes it an ideal ingredient on the kitchen shelf. It is good for the overall health of one’s hair and skin, because of the presence of powerful antioxidants like vitamin C and lycopene.
Corn is also an important element in the feed of farm-bred animals (including fish). In fact, many animal rights activists as well as people concerned with public health issues now argue that GM corn, and corn feed enriched with growth hormones is ruining the health of generations of consumers (see the movie Food Inc).
Today, as corn is being increasingly thought of as a fuel crop rather than as a food crop, it is being widely also seen as a symbol of the current global food crisis. While food prices spiral the world over, spurring food riots and starvation, inexpensive corn is being used to produce ethanol instead of fritters.
How does this affect me
The most commonly available corn is the yellow variety which has a high concentration of lutein, a carotenoid. This protects the human body against macular degeneration (age related eye degeneration) and heart disease. For every 100 gram of corn 1.5 milligrams of lutein are found.
Here are some of its nutritional highlights --
- One of the benefits of corn is that it is high in nutrients. Corn is a good source of Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) and the Vitamin C & Vitamin E. It is also a good source of Folic acid and magnesium and phosphorus.
- Corn has low protein content as it contains low levels of the amino acids lysine and tryptophan. It is also an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, fatty acids and fibre.
- Corn is not a nutritionally complete food. People who subsist on corn run the risk of getting Pellagra which is caused by Niacin deficiency.
- An excellent way of counteracting this is to eat it in tortilla form where the corn meal is mixed with limestone potash, allowing the niacin to be available for absorption by the human body.
Health hazards of eating corn
Corn poses an indirect health hazard to humans. In factory farms today producers feed livestock with corn as it is incredibly cheap due to US government subsidies. Grain-fed meat, eggs and dairy are lower in omega-3 fatty acids (the “good” fat), and Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA (CLA’s help to fight against cancer and cardiovascular disease), with higher levels of fat than products from animals raised on grass. The pesticides used to grow these feeds help build-up the fatty tissues of animals, and when these animals are eaten, the pesticide build-up may be transmitted to the consumer. Such exposure to pesticides increases people’s risk of developing cancer, and is also known to have long-term effects on our reproductive, nervous and immune systems.
Here are some other potential fallouts of eating corn --
- Corn allergy The protein in corn triggers the immune system to react by releasing
antibodies and histamines into the blood in an endeavor to neutralize the corn protein. It is wise to check dietary sensitivity to corn before eating it.
- Genetically engineered corn contains an insecticidal protein. This protein is similar to well defined allergens. The side effects of this include severe allergies as well as anaphylactic shock in some cases.
- Another source of worry is that natural corn is easily converted by the pollen of the genetically modified strains. .
- In light of these findings, it is wise to use organic corn and corn products.
- Oxalates: Corn is a well known source of oxalates. People who have kidney stones should avoid this food.
Corn and the Environment
Each bushel of corn that is grown requires the use of as much as one-third of a gallon of oil in energy. Some of the oil used in growing corn evaporates and contributes to acid rain, while some of it seeps into the water supply. Thus, the widespread use of corn has environmental and energy consequences. Pesticides (mostly herbicides in the case of corn production) are currently made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. However, the quantities used are low - generally 2 to 3 kg/hectare of active ingredient - and declining.The same situation exists for fossil fuels. An average of about 53 litres of petroleum-based fuels per hectare are used in field operations to grow corn
All About Corn
- While corn is typically yellow in colour, there are many colour variations that include whitish yellow, red, pink, blue and even black. There are also variations that are spotted, single-coloured or striped.
- Corn is best eaten fresh since it does at this point still retain its juicy flavour. Once the corn has been picked, changes take place in the corn’s moisture content and starch content. Corn quickly loses its sweetness if not eaten fresh.
- Once the corn is dry, it like other grains becomes hard and loses its water content.
- The term “corn” does create some confusion. Corn is most often referred to as “maize” a term derived from its Latin name Zea Mays.
- In many parts of the world the term corn is used to refer to the local grain of the area. The English call wheat “corn”, the Irish call Oats “corn”, and in some parts of Germany, Rye is called “Korn”. This article refers to sweet corn as the Americans know it.
- Common corn products include grits and polenta. Grits are made of ground corn from which the germ and the bran have been removed. It is therefore less nutritious than whole corn though there are products that have added vitamins and are called enriched grits. Polenta is cooked cornmeal. It is an integral part of Italian cuisine and is served wet rather like porridge or set in a tray like a cake. It is also added to some desserts and cakes often in conjunction with citrus zest.
Selection and Storage
- Buy corn that has been stored in a refrigerated or cool environment. The corn undergoes a rapid conversion from sugar to starch after picking.
- Select the least dry and most plump kernels.
- You know that corn is fresh if you pierce a kernel with your nail and a milky fluid flows out.
- Seal the corn tightly in the refrigerator so that moisture loss is minimal. Do not remove the husk until you are ready to cook it.
- Cooked corn can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days and can be frozen.
- How to freeze corn: Blanch whole cobs in boiling water for 7 to 10 minutes (less for small cobs and more for larger ones). Whole ears can be frozen for as much as a year. Alternatively, the cobs can be blanched, the kernels can be cut off and the kernels frozen for two to three months.
- Cornmeal and polenta can be stored in airtight container in the refrigerator for upto 3 months and can be frozen for 6 months.
Tips for Preparation
- Corn on the cob can be cooked in two ways
- Wet: by boiling or steaming. If you are using this method, soak the corn for 5-7 minutes in water. This will ensure that the kernels have adequate water to generate enough steam. Do not add salt to the boiling liquid. Do not overcook the corn when boiling it.
- Dry roasting on a grill of on the open flame.
- Corn Kernels and Niblets are available either in cans, frozen or vacuum packed. This can be used by just following the instructions on the label.
- Corn Grits and Polenta: are two forms of cornmeal that deserve to be mentioned.
Grits are a popular breakfast grain in the USA and polenta is cooked cornmeal used on its own or as a substitute for pasta in Italy.
Quick Serving Ideas
- Corn on the cob is delicious, either boiled of roasted with lemon juice and cayenne pepper or a little bit of organic butter.
- Corn niblets are a great side dish stir-fried in any style. They can also be used as a sandwhich filling.
- Corn are an excellent addition to soup, either whole or pureed.
- Polenta is a great breakfast substitute instead of pancakes crepes or muffins.
The sweet corn is not our only source of corn. Those who are allergic to corn especially need to know this. Corn also has many other uses than as a staple food in some parts of the world. There is more to corn than sweet corn soup or corn chowder!
Recognise Corn derivatives on Labels
It is hard to find an item in the grocery store that does not contain corn. By learning to recognize corn derivatives on labels, one can see its presence in thousands of items. For example
- Monosodium glutamate and xanthan gum additives are made with corn.
- Instant and ready-to-eat foods use cornstarch to keep their textures during freezing, thawing and heating.
- Cornstarch is a basic ingredient for instant pie and pudding fillings.
- High fructose corn syrups add sweetness to non-diet soda pop.
- Corn syrup also can depress freezing to prevent crystal formation in ice cream.
- Corn syrup is found in salad dressing and condiments, in lunchmeat and in hot dogs.
- Paper products use raw starch in manufacturing.
- Dextrose, a corn sugar sweetener, improves the color and texture of breads.
- Dextrose is also used in vinegar and peanut butter.
- Maltodextrin made from corn syrup is sprayed on instant tea and coffee to keep the granules free flowing.
- Maltodextrin is also used in instant oatmeal and soup mixes.
- Cornstarch is used in dry cell batteries.
- Dextrins, made from starch, are used in crayons as a binder, and on match heads.
- Corn oil is used in potato chips.
- Super-absorbent cornstarch is used in some disposable diapers.
- Sorbitol, produced from the corn sugar dextrose, is used in toothpaste and shaving cream as a water-soluble bulking agent.
- An oxidized cornstarch paste is spread in a thin layer over aspirin.
Corn as an Industrial Raw Material
There are several primary and additional products that are produced from corn.
- Primary Products
- Corn Syrups
- Additional Products Made From Corn
- Protein & Fiber
Corn starch can be used directly as an industrial ingredient, and can also be converted into corn syrup or dextrose and then further employed in industry.
- Industrial uses of corn starch include application in adhesives, batteries, bookbinding, household cleaners, detergents, textile printing, dyes, crayons and chalk, cardboard, paints, wallboard and wallpaper,moulded plastics, rubber, tyres, oil refining, ore refining and surgical dressing textiles.
- Corn starch is also used in the food industry. Items that include cornstarch often are baby food, baking products, beer & ale, canned vegetables, chewing gum, confectionery, powdered sugar pancake & waffle mixes flours, mustard, puddings and custards, salad dressings, soups, pet foods, sauces & gravies.
- Drugs and Cosmetics also include corn starch. Corn starch is added to antibiotics, aspirin, body lotion,drug coatings, lipstick, facial makeup, facial masks and cleansers, pharmaceuticals, soaps and cleansers.
Dextrose is a derivative of corn starch as a result of enzyme action. It is pure, crystalline and less sweet than sugar and has several uses in pharmaceuticals and in industry.
- Industrial Uses of Dextrose: acetic & amino Acids, adhesives dyes, electroplating and galvanizing enzymes, biodegradable plastics, leather, tanning, other sugars like Mannitol(a 6-carbon sugar alcohol formed by reduction of mannose or fructose and widely distributed in plants and fungi), paper, rubber and textiles .
- Uses of Dextrose in the Food Industry: Products that use corn derived dextrose are bakery products, beer & ale, canned & frozen berries,carbonated beverages, caramel colour, catsup, chocolate, citric acid, citrus juices, condensed milk cordials, liqueurs and brandy, doughnuts,flavorings and extracts, fruit juices, gelatin, ice cream, jams, Pet Foods.
- Uses of Dextrose in Drugs and Pharmaceuticals: Antibiotics, gelatin for Drug and Vitamin Capsules, Intravenous Injections, Sorbitol Coatings for pills, Medicinal Syrups are all made of corn derived dextrose.
Corn is steeped in water during the process of milling the grain. This water is further used to create "solubles". This water is used to produce a variety of products including anti-biotics, chemicals, medicines and yeasts.
- Industrial uses include chemicals, insecticides,paint and varnish, rubber substitutes, textiles and livestock feed.
- Food products include cooking oil,margarine and mayonnaise
- Pharma products include antibiotics, soap, vitamins, and intravenous solutions.
Protein and Fibre
The gluten or protein in the corn is used as an animal feed.
The germ contains the corn oil in the corn and two main products are derived from this, namely corn oil and pressed oil cake for cattle feed.
- The use of corn dates back to 5000 BC in the areas of modern Central America and Mexico.
- The Native Americans treated Pellagra, a disease caused by the deficiency of Vitamin B3 or Niacin by adding a little limestone ash into corn dishes. A preponderance of corn in the diet caused this disease since corn cannot release the niacin in the body without the potash.
- Corn was taken to China in the 1550s and became extremely popular in areas that rice could not be cultivated. Corn was therefore a significant factor in the growth of the population in the 1700s.
- Cornflakes was first introduced in 1907.
- The largest modern day producers of corn are USA, China, The Russian Federation, Brazil and Mexico.
- These days, corn is used to produce products as diverse as ethanol, a bio-fuel and textiles like PLA. See also, Eco Fibres.
Acne cure with corn water
The fiber in corn can remove toxins from you by improving your bowel movement.
Corn water helps reduce the 'hotness' in your body which causes acne. Based on Chinese medicine theory, corn water, which has a little natural sweet taste, helps re-balance the insides of your body and relieves acne problem.
As water and fiber are important for all, ensure intake of 8 glasses of water and some amount of fiber everyday. Corn and corn water are ideal for this. Also if you exercise your acne goes away faster.
- The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods: Dr. Michael Murray and Dr. Joseph Pizzorno with Lara Pizzorno, MA, LMT. Time Warner Books, 2005.
- It Begins With a Kernel
- Frequently Asked Questions about Corn in Iowa
- National Corn Growers Association