Why Corn Is a Smart Carb

Grilled corn on the cob

Is corn a carb? Is it a vegetable? Is it healthy? People are very concerned about carbohydrates these days, and recently, corn has gotten a bad rap. It’s associated with mass production, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and highly processed foods, like high-fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, and corn oil. But there’s a big difference between those ultra-processed ingredients and fresh, sweet corn plucked from a field or stand! Closer to its natural state, the humble kernel can be a healthy addition to any plate.

Is Corn a Vegetable?

Technically, corn is a grain. Nutritionally, it’s more like a starchy vegetable. It can get a little cloudy, because the USDA counts corn on the cob and corn kernels as a vegetable, but products made from corn, like popcorn and corn tortillas, are considered a grain. A little confusing, yes, but just know that corn is a healthy choice, so long as it’s minimally processed. Enjoy it fresh as a vegetable (canned and frozen count, too!), or as a whole grain, in the form of dried kernels or ground flours.

What Makes Corn a Smart Carb?

Part veggie and part grain, fresh corn is a smart choice. You can think of it as a smart carb, one that’s easy on your blood sugar levels, and comes packaged with phytonutrients, fiber, and a little bit of protein, too. Here are five surprising facts you might not know about corn.

1. Corn Is Low in Calories and Fat

Similar to other starchy vegetables, like sweet potato, corn contains more carbs than light veggies, like broccoli or Brussels sprouts. But one medium ear of corn (about ½ cup kernels) delivers less than 100 calories. It’s also virtually fat free (only 1 gram) and a good source of fiber (2 grams). 

2. Corn Is the Good Kind of Carbs

For the carb conscious: Corn has a low glycemic index. It releases slowly into your bloodstream, so it won’t spike your blood sugar levels, but rather delivers long-lasting energy and feelings of fullness.

3. Corn Is High in Antioxidants

The many colors of corn, including yellow, red, pink, black, purple, multicolored, and even blue, hint toward high antioxidant levels—nearly twice that found in apples. And more antioxidants means happy, healthy cells protected from damaging free radicals.

4. Corn Tops the Clean 15 List

Corn is a clean choice, even if you can’t afford to shop organic. The Environmental Working Group features corn as one of the least likely fruits or vegetables to be contaminated with pesticide residues.

5. Not All Corn Is Genetically Modified

Although science says GMOs are safe to eat, it’s still a concern for some. But organic farmers are prohibited from using any genetically engineered ingredients, so you don’t have to worry when munching on an organic cob.

Corn is incredibly affordable, easy, and delicious! It’s a frugal choice for shoppers, especially during summer when it’s in season, and anyone who can boil a pot of water or fire up a grill can cook a fresh cob or two. Add color to your tacos, stir it through your pancake batter, sprinkle it into a salad, or simply serve it as a tasty side dish at your next summer barbecue (just go easy on the salt and butter!). You won’t be disappointed with the texture and flavor this smart carb adds, not to mention the nutritious goodness!

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1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Hi Tracy,
    thank you for sharing the good information about corn. I love corn, being raised in the “Wes Transvaal” myself I ate many breakfasts of “mielie-pap” in my younger days. I still have “pap” with “braaivleis”. I now live in Adelaide SA, and have taken up bread baking. I use Laucke Bread Mix and bake a awesome white and full grain bread. I have also ordered Professor Dr Robert Lustig’s cook book “Fat Cahance” and trust that I’ll be guided to meeting my goal weight of 85kG….60kG to go!

    I keep you posted.


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