A friend recently revealed to me that she doesn’t eat corn because she believes it’s fattening. This same friend also makes the same claim about bananas. Well, I say nonsense! I simply refuse to eliminate any fruit or vegetable from my mostly plant-based diet. The bad reputation comes from the starchy carbs and the high (natural) sugar content. Low-carb, high-protein diets steer you away from starchy vegetables like corn, carrots, peas, potatoes and beets. But these are some of my favorite foods! So, rather than eliminate them, limit them and prepare them in a healthful way. If incorporated the right way, there is a place for these incredible gifts from nature in your diet. In full disclosure, I eat a banana every morning and have no intention on stopping this practice!
Let’s take corn as an example; it is not the ear of corn that is the villain…it’s the lye soaked corn product derived from corn that is used to make snack food. It’s the high fructose corn syrup that is processed out of cornstarch (don’t get me started!) that is in everything like baby food, yogurt, bread, crackers and a million other products on the market. I could go on and on about this particularly nasty villain. Let’s just say it should be avoided at all costs and leave it at that. The snack/junk food industry is a $374 billion dollar a year business worldwide, and most of these snacks are derived from corn. Doritos, Fritos, Tostitos (yes, even the blue ones!) and countless others are all made from unhealthy derivatives of corn. Scientific research has shown that microwave popcorn is carcinogenic and one of the top ten most dangerous foods to feed your kids. Many corn dishes, especially in the South, are also on the no-no list; corn chowder thickened with white flour, sugar and oil laden cornbread, and creamed corn dishes loaded with unhealthy fats. Last but certainly not least, there is also the fact that 85% of the seeds used to grow corn crops in the United States are GMO round-up ready, and the crops are further saturated with additional pesticides. Sounds yummy.
Here comes the (whew!) good news. With a little research and know-how you can incorporate this starchy vegetable into a healthy diet. Organic corn is actually a nutritional powerhouse. Packed with Folate, B vitamins, Magnesium, Potassium and Zinc to name a few of it’s cancer fighting, heart-healthy properties. It’s also a whole grain that is full of fiber, which makes it filling and satisfying. My favorite thing about corn is that it is versatile, colorful and fun to eat!
When thinking about corn recipes, keep in mind that it’s a great place to stash some heat, like jalapeno peppers. The little burst of moisture in each kernel has a cooling effect. That might be why it’s so prevalent in Mexican cooking.
The bottom line is….go organic, keep the fat, sugar and salt to a minimum, and dump the processed, packaged junkie stuff. You can have your corn and eat it too!