Ahh -- there's nothing quite like a crisp cob of sweet corn in the summer. But even though there's no contesting the deliciousness of corn -- just off the grill is our preference, but also great from the oven or even microwaved -- there seem to be a few myths that persist about the healthfulness of the vegetable. After all, something so sweet and delicious surely has to have a downside, right?
Not so. We talked to registered dietitian Jennifer McDaniel, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to clear up some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding sweet corn.
Myth: Corn is unhealthy.
No! Corn is a vegetable that contains nutrients, and an ear definitely counts as one of your daily servings of veggies, McDaniel says. The idea that corn is unhealthy likely came about because corn is high in starch, which is a carbohydrate. And "with the carb-phobia phase we went through over the last few years, that's probably where corn got a bad rap, along with the beloved potato," she explains.
Myth: Your body cannot digest corn -- and that's a bad thing.
While it's true that corn has high amounts of insoluble fiber -- meaning, the kind of fiber that goes through the body intact and gets those bowel movements going -- this is not a bad thing, McDaniel says. Sure, if you eat a lot of corn, you might see some of it in your stool, but insoluble fiber has been shown in research to help feed the "good" bacteria in our gut. "If we're looking at getting lots of good fiber in our diet, it's good that [corn] has a higher ratio of insoluble to soluble fiber because it feeds the good gut bacteria in our body," she explains.
Myth: Corn isn't a good source of any nutrients.
Vegetables like kale and spinach may have better reputations as nutrition all-stars, but corn has something to contribute, too. Corn contains certain B vitamins and vitamin C, as well as magnesium and potassium. Yellow corn is also a good source of two antioxidants, zeaxanthin and lutein, which are good for eye health, McDaniel says.
Myth: The corn you buy at the grocery store is genetically modified.
Nope. In fact, most sweet corn available in your grocery store's produce section is not GMO corn, McDaniel says. Field corn, which is harvested later than sweet corn and is processed to be turned into oil, high-fructose corn syrup or other products, is the corn that's typically genetically modified.
That's not to say that genetically engineered sweet corn doesn't exist -- but it is rare. Even though Monsanto has developed and sold seeds for genetically engineered sweet corn, grassroots organization Friends of the Earth tested 71 samples of sweet corn (fresh, frozen and canned) from eight areas around the U.S. to find that only 2.4 percent of the samples had been genetically engineered.
If you're still worried about eating genetically modified sweet corn, McDaniel recommends purchasing organic, as genetic engineering is prohibited in any USDA organic products. ("This means an organic farmer can't plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can't eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can't use any GMO ingredients," the USDA notes on its website.)
Myth: You shouldn't eat corn because it's really high in sugar.
You don't steer clear of bananas because you think they're high in sugar, do you? Then why should you do the same for corn? A banana contains about the same amount of calories as an ear of corn -- around 110 -- yet it has two to three times the amount of sugar. A cob of corn has around 6 to 8 grams of sugar, while a banana has about 15.
(Note: This article only addresses myths about sweet corn in its form as a vegetable. For information about corn as a grain, visit the United States Department of Agriculture.)