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Mission: Nutrition

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Simple Sweet & A-MAIZE-ing

Posted by Lisa Peterson -

In the last few weeks there has been a booming increase of sweet corn at farmers markets, roadside stands, and even generous members of the community dropping off bags to the local health departments and extension offices. Availability of sweet corn in Illinois typically begins in late July through late September. Illinois is the second leading producer of corn in the United States, and the United States produces 40% of the world's corn production. Keep in mind most of the corn grown in the U.S. is field corn and only 1% of corn grown is sweet corn. The average ear of corn has 800 kernels arranged in 16 rows with one piece of silk per kernel. Believe it or not, corn is actually a grain, vegetable, and a fruit, but usually typically found in the vegetable food group. Corn is a grain because it's a dry seed of the grass species, a vegetable because it is harvested for eating, and a fruit based on the botanical definition. Despite the negative connotation that comes with its "sweet" name, sweet corn is a healthy summer vegetable choice!

Nutritionally Speaking

One ear of sweet corn (102 g.) has 90 calories, 1.5 grams total fat, 15 milligrams sodium, 19 grams total carbohydrates with 2 grams dietary fiber, and 3 grams protein. Half a cup of raw corn, one ear, counts as half a cup of vegetables. The daily recommended amount of vegetables per day, for a 2,000 calorie diet, is 2 ½ cups. One ear of corn meets 20% of the recommended daily vegetable need and 10% of the daily recommendation for fiber.

Aside from being low in calories and a good choice for meeting fiber needs, yellow corn also contains carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin which are especially beneficial for eye health. Carotenoids turn into a form of vitamin A; another reason corn is a good source of vitamin A. Despite the idea processing foods can destroy some of the nutritional integrity of fruits and vegetables, research at Cornell University found processing or heating sweet corn actually increases its antioxidant activity. Sweet corn also contains thiamin, pantothenic acid, folate, vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese. Even though corn is considered a grain, it does not contain wheat, rye, or barley thus is a naturally gluten-free food.

Food Preservation

Enjoying fresh sweet corn shouldn't be limited to just the summer and early fall. Corn can be pressure-canned, but a quicker method to seal in freshness is freezing. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

Corn-on-the-Cob should be blanched between 7-11 minutes, depending on the size of ears, cooled to prevent "cobby" taste, and drained, packaged, and sealed in freezer bags. Whole kernel corn should be blanched for 4 minutes, cooled, drained, and cut at a 2/3rd depth from the cob. When packaging whole kernel corn, and cream style corn, leave ½ inch of headspace. Remember to always label what the product is and date it with either the day it goes into the freezer or when to toss the item. Cream style corn should be blanched for 4 minutes, cooled, and drained. When packaging cream style corn, cut kernel tips, and scrap the cob with the back of knife, removing the juice and heart of the kernel.

Whole kernel and cream style corn will maintain optimum quality for 9 months in the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Corn-on-the-cob will maintain best quality for 8 months frozen and 1-2 days refrigerated.

For more information visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/corn.html

Getting the Most out of Sweet Corn

The most common way to enjoy sweet corn in the summer is right from the cob grilled, boiled, or microwaved, but not the only way. Corn is a versatile vegetable that can be consumed by itself or in a dish. Check out a few ideas below:

  • Put corn in salsa or guacamole for an extra crunch and nutritional kick!
  • Casseroles, soups, stews, chili, chowder, the options are endless.
  • Sauté or Stir-Fry. There is no rule corn cannot be added to a favorite stir-fry. Add a little olive oil and peppers with some herbs and spices to make a flavorful dish.
  • Revert back to the classic corn bread or corn muffins for a side dish or snack.
  • Add corn to a favorite salad. Sweet corn can give salads extra color and a sweet flavor.

Find creative ways to incorporate sweet corn into entrees, there is no wrong way to eat sweet corn. Below is a Sweet & Spicy Gluten-Free Corn and Chives Cakes recipe. These cakes work well as a side dish! Make it a meal with grilled chicken breast, and a few slices of watermelon.

Sweet & Spicy Gluten-Free Corn & Chives Cakes

Servings: 8 cakes

½ cup gluten-free all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

½ cup fat-free milk

¼ teaspoon chili powder

2 eggs

½ teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 cups fresh corn (3 medium ears)

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup chives

Directions

  1. Combine flour, milk, eggs, 1 tablespoon canola oil, baking powder, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Add corn and chives. Using a non-stick skillet, drizzle remaining canola oil on pan over medium heat. Measure about ¼ cup of batter per cake-cooking two at a time. Flip once edges dry. Flip and cook other side until a golden brown.
  3. Serve hot.

Nutrition Facts (1 cake per serving, 8 servings): 113.8 calories, 5.4 grams total fat, 61.4 mg. sodium, 14 g. carbohydrates, 1.9 g. dietary fiber, 4.2 g. protein.

Sources:

"Corn – October Grain of the Month." Corn – October Grain of the Month. Whole Grain Council, 2013.<http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/corn-october-grain-of-the-month>.

"Please Settle a Dispute. Is Sweet Corn a Vegetable or a Grain? What Is the Difference? How about Field Corn? - EXtension." EXtension. 2009. 2015  <http://www.extension.org/pages/36971/please-settle-a-dispute-is-sweet-corn-a-vegetable-or-a-grain-what-is-the-difference-how-about-field-#.VcUERvlVhBc>

"Freezing Corn." National Center for Home Food Preservation. University of Georgia, 2006. 2015. http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/corn.html

"Corn, Fresh." United States Department of Agriculture (2012): Household USDA Foods Fact Sheet. Web. 2015. http://www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/factsheets/HHFS_CORN_FRESH_900210Dec2012.pdf

"Processed Sweet Corn Has Higher Antioxidant Activity." Veronica Dewanto, Xianzhong Wu,† and andRui Hai Liu*, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry200250(17), 4959-4964 DOI: 10.1021/jf0255937

"Corn: Nutrition. Selection. Storage." Fruits & Veggies. More Matters. Produce for Better Health Foundation, 2008. Web. 2015. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/sweet-corn

"Illinois Agriculture." USDA-FSA-APFO Aerial Photography 2004: USDA, NASS, Illinois Field Office, 1 Apr. 2011. Web. 2015. http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Illinois/Publications/Farmfacts/farmfact.pdf


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