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Corn on the Cob Is Healthier Than You Think

Nothing says summer like grilled corn on the cob.

07/10/2017 14:24 EDT | Updated 07/10/2017 14:24 EDT
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Corn has an undeserved reputation as a fattening, carb-laden, genetically altered food. Add to that its association with high-fructose corn syrup and you may find yourself wondering if corn on the cob deserves a place at your picnics this summer. The truth is, older adults can — and should — indulge in this seasonal favourite guilt-free.

Why Corn on the Cob Is Good For You

1. Corn is low in calories — yet filling.

A medium-sized ear of corn clocks in at only about 77 calories. But don't let its 17 grams of carbs scare you. While you want to avoid simple carbs such as white rice, complex carbs — including whole grain foods like corn — provide our primary source of fuel. And although it tastes sweet, an ear of corn has only about three grams of sugar, compared to an apple's 19. Bonus: Corn is a good source of protein and fiber, which keeps you feeling satiated.

2. Corn is good for diabetics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 40 per cent of Americans will develop Type-2 diabetes in their lifetimes, with middle-aged and older adults at highest risk. While corn is often considered a food type that diabetics should avoid, research demonstrates that corn branhelps control the disease.

3. Corn helps prevent eye diseases.

Research shows that corn's high level of carotenoids is strongly associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. One study found a 43 per cent reduction in these diseases among participants who'd consumed the highest amounts of carotenoid-rich foods.

4. Corn promotes colon health.

Corn is a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which keeps your digestive system humming. Research shows that fiber plays a role in preventing colon cancer and increases good gut bacteria. For many years, eating foods like nuts, corn and popcorn was incorrectly assumed to cause diverticular disease, a painful condition involving infected pouches in the intestine. But a Health Professionals Follow-Up Study that followed a large cohort of men for 18 years found no association.

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5. Whole grain foods like corn protect against cardiovascular disease.

Laboratory tests show that the aleurone and germ, both present in corn, can help prevent atherosclerosis by reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol while not affecting HDL (good) cholesterol. Corn also contains vitamin C and B6, as well as potassium and magnesium, which prevent heart disease.

6. Corn's antioxidants help prevent cancers.

A Cornell University study analyzed the phytochemical composition of corn and found it to have the highest antioxidant levels of all grains tested — more than wheat, oats and rice. Corn also had the highest phenolic content, including an extraordinary quantity of ferulic acid, which helps prevent colon, breast and prostate cancers.

7. Corn is safe to eat.

Friends of the Earth tested many varieties of corn and found that only 2.4 per cent of the samples were genetically modified. GMO corn is typically used to make high-fructose corn syrup, a substance known to contribute to health problems. (Still, if you want to make absolutely sure you're not purchasing GMO corn, choose organic.)

How to Grill Corn on the Cob

Nothing says summer like grilled corn on the cob. Succulent, sweet, juicy and piping hot, no wonder it's a family gathering favourite. Broil it with husks on, or shuck it, add spices and wrap in aluminum foil. Cook on a medium-hot grill for about 15-20 minutes, turning a few times to prevent burning. If you enjoy your corn buttered, go for it. If you want to be more adventurous and save some calories at the same time, flavour it with fresh lime juice, curry powder, mesquite, hot sauce, cayenne pepper or smoked paprika.

Of course, there's more than one way to cook a cob. Never boil corn because you'll discard many of its healthy nutrients with the cooking water. Instead, leave it in the husk and cook for three to four minutes per ear in the microwave. Then let cool four to five minutes before husking and removing the silk. Or roast corn in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350°F. Place the husks on a cookie sheet or place the corn directly on the rack.

Lorie Eber is a Certified Nutritionist and Gerontology Instructor who provides one-on-one weight loss coaching. She's also certified by the Mayo Clinic as a Wellness Coach and a NASM Personal Trainer. She's the author of 40 Ways to Leave Your Lover: That Would be Junk Food and How to Stay Healthy in A World Designed to Make Us Fat and Lazy.

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