It’s that perfect time of summer for state fairs and that unmistakable smell of nutritious, mouthwatering sweet corn—roasted on the grill, splashed with a bit of butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Although corn may have taken a beating with the popularity of the glycemic index, it is a surprising source of many nutrients and deserves a place on any healthy table.
Whether you’re popping it, making chowder or bisque, hominy, grits, tortillas or tamales, corn is one of the most versatile and nutritious grains available. Sweet corn is picked when immature, so it is eaten as a vegetable.
Corn calories and Nutrition Facts
One medium ear of corn has only 70 calories, 1.1 grams of fat, 17 grams carbohydrate, 2.5 grams of fiber, 2.9 grams of protein, and is cholesterol free.
Corn Health Benefits
- The Vitamin B12 and folic acid present in corn can help prevent anaemia.
- Sweet corn also improves memory power as it contains plenty of thiamine and vitamin B1. This nutrient nurtures brain cells and improves cognitive function, and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Corn is rich in beta carotene, folate and the antioxidant zeaxanthin. All these nutrients protect against eye ailments like macular degeneration.
- Another health benefit of sweet corn is that it prevents lung cancer. This is because sweet corn contains a chemical called beta cryptoxanthin, which reduces the risk of contracting lung cancer. Existing smokers can benefit by eating sweet corn regularly as it lowers the risk of lung cancer by 37%.
- At 4.6 grams of fiber per cup, corn is a good fiber source, and in research studies, corn intake is often associated with good overall fiber intake.
How to select and store Corn
Start by looking at the husks, which should be bright leafy green and feel slightly damp. If they are dry or losing color, the corn is old. At the same time, look at the stem end, where it was cut. The cut should be clean and moist. If it is turning brown that is another sign that the corn is was picked some time ago.
Peel back the husk on one side to see the tassel or cornsilk and the kernels. The tassel shouldn’t show any signs of rot. It should be soft and a golden yellow to light brown color. Be gentle, and just take a little peak, instead of pulling it forcefully and then throwing it back on the table.
Store sweet corn in the refrigerator. Keep the corn in the husks, and place them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. It not only goes bad quickly, but it also loses its sweetness over time. For these reasons, use refrigerated corn within two days.
Although we often associate corn with the color yellow, it actually comes in host of different varieties featuring an array of different colors, including red, pink, black, purple, and blue.
Recent studies suggest you can get different kinds of antioxidant benefits from the different colors. Yellow corn is high in the carotenoids with high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin (good for your eyes). In blue corn it’s the anthocyanims, just like blueberries. So try different varieties and have fun experimenting with it.
How to Grill Corn
- 8 large ears sweet corn in husk
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Carefully peel back husks from corn to within 1 in. of bottom; remove silk. Combine remaining ingredients; spread over corn. Rewrap corn in husks and secure with kitchen string. Place in a large kettle; cover with cold water. Soak for 20 minutes; drain.
- Grill corn, covered, over medium heat, for 25-30 minutes or until tender, turning often. Yield: 8 servings.
Warning—although corn has many healthy benefits we do have to be a bit careful about what we top it with. Go light on the butter or try misting with olive oil. Season it up with basil, Cajun, cumin, curry, paprika, or chili powder and lime. Try some grated parmesan– A little bit of spice provides a ton of flavor.
I love trying recipes made with grilled corn—salsa, cheddar dips, and this hearty recipe with black beans, red peppers, and lime. It’s my go-to potluck dish that is always a crowd pleaser.