There is a ton of information available about corn, but many people are still confused as to what actually corn is. Is corn a starch, and weren’t starchy foods a big no-no? The point is that most of the answers to these questions are not as simple as one would expect. In fact, defining corn is a bit more complicated than it seems. Is corn a fruit? Well, first things first.
Corn is staple food for many people around the globe. It is used in casseroles, side dishes, salads, and in almost all processed foods. And let’s not forget all those bowls filled with popped corn kernels a movie night cannot go without.
But despite its frequent use in our everyday lives, we may know less about corn than we might actually think. Is corn a fruit? Or is it a vegetable or starch? What on Earth is this mysterious food, and what do you need to know about its nutritional properties?
What is corn?
Fresh corn, like the one we eat on the cob, is considered a vegetable. So is sweet corn, which is basically the same. It is corn picked at an immature stage, also known as milk stage. People often think that corn is not a vegetable, but the classification is spot on.
So wait a minute – is corn a vegetable or a starch?
Well, the individual corn kernel, better known as popcorn, is actually considered a grain. At its essence it is wholegrain, as it contains the three edible parts – the bran, germ and endosperm. And it is the endosperm of the corn kernel that is used to make starch. So, when we use starch, we use corn as a whole grain.
But, let`s complicate things a bit more. As the corn kernel contains seeds, the definition changes again, making popcorn a fruit. A fruit is any edible part of a plant that comes from (and contains) a seed or a matured form of a flower.
So, let`s take what we’ve learned so far and go back to the original question.
Is corn a fruit?
Yes, corn is fruit. But it is also a vegetable and a wholegrain. And while it is good to know that corn can be all three of the above, it is even more important to consume it in all its forms in order to reap all the benefits of this healthy food.
And despite the common conceptions that corn, being a starchy food with a high glycemic load, is not quite the healthiest food on earth, you might be surprised by the nutritional and health benefits this food can provide as part of a balanced diet. So let’s start debunking this myth once and for all.
The nutritional profile of corn
Corn, depending on whether we are talking about white or yellow, has different nutritional properties. The differences are not something to wrap your mind around, since there is more attention to be paid on how you prepare the cob.
Corn contains 86 calories per 100 grams of weight, and very low almost negligible amount of fat – 1.2 grams. It also contains sodium and potassium, and a fair amount of dietary fiber.
There are also 19 grams of carbohydrates of which 3.2 are sugar, and 3.2 grams of protein.
As per vitamins and minerals, you’ll find B-6, Vitamin C, Iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and copper, and even Vitamin A. This profile will look different for regular corn and then again sweet corn.
I’ve experimented with corn in the past, by adding 50 grams to a couple of meals, during my hard boiled egg diet. The results were great since corn perfectly added the elements that those eggs were missing. But more on these weight loss dilemmas below.
Is corn bad for you?
Well, before I answer this, let’s first focus on the reasons why corn got its bad reputation. Many misconceptions are floating around forums and the internet in general, so it’s time to dispel some of them for good.
Corn provides plenty of carbohydrates, of which same diets are highly restrictive. This depends on context, quantity, methods of cooking and your overall diet and lifestyle habits. To forget about corn just because it is high in carbs is borderline ridiculous.
The carbs found in corn are mostly starch, and many people believe that starchy foods should be avoided. Again, this is not a thing to be afraid of! Many foods come with their flaws, but if we tend to focus on the flaws exclusively and forget about the whole picture, we miss on all the good stuff.
Statistics show that 92% of the corn grown in USA is GMO. However, to put your mind at ease, the GM corn is mostly used for animal feed and bio-fuels, as well as an ingredient for corn syrup, corn starch, corn oil and others, while only a small percentage of the commercially available sweet corn is genetically modified.
Corn is used to make high fructose corn syrup which is far from natural and healthy food. So what? Just avoid the overly processed variety, and there is no harm whatsoever.
Although corn is gluten-free, it can still cause problems to the digestive system and in some cases stomachache. Especially in people suffering from IBS or a leaky-gut syndrome. This is generally true, but again, much depends on the overall context.
On a lighter note, feel free to use corn when you are on a gluten-free diet. Monika, who is one of our regular contributors, wrote in length about gluten sensitivity, so you might want to check that. You’ll see that corn is nowhere to be found on the list of foods to avoid.
Benefits of corn
Now that we have seen some of the” bad” and “ugly” sides of corn, let`s dive into the good. Forget, even for a moment, about the classification of corn. Corn – fruit or vegetable, is good for you. Here are the benefits of corn:
- Corn is pretty high in fiber. Fiber helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels, stimulating digestion and fighting high cholesterol.
- Corn is a source of protein. Although it is not a high-protein food per se, it can take up a decent portion of the recommended daily intake. And protein is essential for repairing cells and building muscles.
- Corn is a source of complex carbohydrates. It is high in starch, which is a type of carbohydrate that sustains steady energy levels, but it is lower in fat, sugar and sodium than the other starchy foods, which makes it perfect for a low-fat diet regimes and weight loss.
- Corn is a good source of minerals and vitamins. However, the amount varies depending on the type of corn. In general, popcorn is rich in minerals, such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and copper. Sweetcorn, on the other hand, is a source of the vitamins pantothenic acid, folate, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, and Vitamin A.
- Corn contains antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which help the body fight free radicals and prevent chronic disease.
- Corn contains Vitamin C, which can boost your immune system and fight off scurvy.
When you consider these benefits of corn, the question of is corn a fruit or a grain or a vegetable suddenly seems ridiculous. Regardless of the classification, corn will perfectly fit into your diet.
Which types of corn to consume?
Corn is so versatile that it can be incorporated in almost every meal during the day. You can use fresh corn with your quinoa or scrambled eggs for breakfast, or put it in your chicken fajitas for lunch or in your mac-and-cheese for dinner. It is perfect for side dishes and salads, or to add texture to soups and casseroles.
However, in order to fully reap all the benefits of corn, stick to unprocessed corn, especially if you are paying attention to your weight. Make sure to follow cooking methods that don`t require additional fats and oils. Steaming, boiling or grilling will work just fine.
Taking all the impressive benefits of corn into account, the answer to the question is corn a fruit or vegetable seems less important. Considering that this food provides all that we expect form a fruit or a vegetable in terms of their health benefits and nutritional value, the classification is irrelevant. In whichever form you decide to consume corn, never strike this mighty wholegrain off your list. Corn is always a welcomed addition to your diet.
Conclusion – is corn a fruit or vegetable?
Well, let me pose these questions again, and give you the answer once and for all – is corn a fruit or a vegetable? Is corn a fruit or a grain? Or perhaps, is corn a starch? Depending on which edible part of the corn you decide to analyze, and how you like to prepare the kernel, you’ll get different answers to each of these questions.
If you are the perfectionist and want to label everything into a different bracket, make sure to bookmark this article and give it a glimpse whenever unsure. Until then, Bon Appétit !