Desi cooking has been dominated by two nourishing cereal grains - rice and wheat, since ancient times. And although not cooked as frequently as the common chawal or atta, the ubiquitously grown, rather minute-sized and equally healthy corn, features prominently in the list of all the staple ingredients in Indian kitchens, amid other whole grains, pulses and legumes.
Yet another cereal grain, corn is an age-old harvest crop, that was first grown by the natives of Mexico thousands of years ago and has been cultivated in many countries since the past several centuries. Known commonly as maize and bearing the scientific name Zea mays, the tiny kernels or seeds of corn, which are technically the fruits, occur in large clusters encompassed within elongated inflorescences termed as ears.
Commonly referred to as maize or corn, this nutrient-dense plant produce has several local names within the Indian subcontinent. Popular as spicy evening snacks in the form of namkeen, corn flakes mixture as well as boiled, seasoned with salt, pepper and eaten as corn on the cob, it is termed as “Makka” in Hindi, “Mokkajonna” in Telugu, “Cholam” in Tamil, “Bhutta” in Bengali. The semi-soft texture, roughly round shape and versatility of corn makes it ideal to be eaten as such, as well as processed and cooked in different ways like light-weight fluffy popcorn, crunchy savoury snacks, flattened breakfast cereals, fine powdered corn flour or corn starch.
Moreover, the rather tiny corn pods are imbued with vast reserves of beneficial substances including vitamins B1, B9, C, minerals magnesium, potassium, antioxidants, besides the basic nourishment of calories, carbs, fibers, proteins and fats. A powerhouse of nutrition, adding corn to the regular diet confers myriad health benefits such as supplying ample energy, promoting weight gain, managing diabetes symptoms and preserving optimal eyesight. Read on, to find out the numerous merits for wellbeing, as well as therapeutic uses, of adding the tiny, humble corn kernels to the regular diet.
The Corn Or Maize Plant:
Corn is a tall grass with a height of up to 3 meters, that thrives in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including countries of Mexico, India, Australia and warmer locations of USA. Normally it flourishes in well-drained, well-aerated, deep soils that contain sufficient organic matter and nutrients. The corn plant has a single erect stem made up of branches - nodes and internodes. Leaves are alternate, with broad, sword-shaped blades. Even though it is widely considered a vegetable, corn is actually a food grain. The leafy stalk of the plant provides ears, which house the grains/fruits known as corn kernels.
Nutritional Values Of Corn:
Corn displays a rather impressive nutritional profile, encompassing all the essential macronutrients - carbohydrates, fibers, fats and proteins, along with noteworthy levels of key micronutrients - vitamins and minerals. It has negligible levels of cholesterol and sodium, to promote heart wellness. In addition, corn contains considerable quantities of vitamins C and E, to boost immune, skin and hair health.
The B complex vitamins - thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, as well as calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous, are also found in ample amounts in corn kernels and cornflour, with the grain being nothing short of a superfood.
The nutrition values in a 100 g serving of corn, according to the nutrient database of the U.S.D.A (United States Department Of Agriculture) are as follows:
Calories - 385
Total Fat 7%
Saturated Fat 3%
Polyunsaturated Fat 5%
Monounsaturated Fat 2%
Total Carbohydrates 25%
Dietary Fiber 14%
Folic Acid 3%
Vitamin C 7%
Vitamin E 4.6%
Being imbued with carotenoid antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as flavonoids, sterols and tannins, corn significantly boosts overall health. Moreover, corn is a very rich plant source of crucial essential amino acids namely isoleucine, tryptophan, valine, methionine and threonine, thus complementing both vegetarian and vegan diets.
Corn/Maize Health Benefits:
Augments Eye Health
Corn comprises a vast array of key antioxidants, namely carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These scavenge harmful free radicals from optic tissues and enhance eyesight. In addition, they protect the delicate organelles of the eye from damage, preventing vision disorders like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration.
Supplies Essential Amino Acids
Corn is composed of certain key amino acids, making it a unique plant-based source of high-quality proteins. It offers methionine, a sulphur-based amino acid to revive skin and hair health, valine and isoleucine which repair injured muscle tissues and threonine, to enable the proper formation of teeth and enamel.
Supports A Gluten-Free Diet
A significant number of young adults and older people tend to develop intolerance towards the gluten proteins in cereals like wheat, that, unfortunately, is a regular ingredient in Indian dishes. Corn, being organically gluten-free, can easily be substituted for wheat, to prepare chapatis, dosas and sweets or mithais, and is often recommended for patients with celiac disease.
Fortifies Bone Density
Corn being a fantastic source of natural calcium, strengthens bones in growing children. It also restores optimum bone density in older people, assisting in alleviating osteoporosis symptoms. While younger people can consume corn daily, middle-aged and older adults need to eat measured servings of corn, to augment bone health, while steering clear of gastrointestinal and kidney disorders.
Keeps Blood Sugar Levels In Check
Corn, although being high in calories and carbohydrates for instant energy, also comprises a plethora of phytates, tannins, polyphenols – plant chemicals that slow down the digestion process. This lowers high blood sugar in those with diabetes mellitus. Also, owing to its low digestibility and rich fiber content, corn is indeed a healthy option for accelerating weight loss and managing other lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity.
Iron deficiency anaemia affects countless Indian men, women and children every year, leading to excessive fatigue and low productivity levels. Corn is a powerhouse of iron, serving as a boon for people who experience low haemoglobin levels in the blood, thus effectively treating anaemia.
Boosts Nervous System Function
Eating corn in controlled portions on a daily basis assists in enhancing nerve impulse conduction, activating memory centres in the brain and relaxing the mind, due to elevated levels of the amino acid tryptophan. As the tryptophan brings about an equilibrium in the levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter, corn helps in treating anxiety and insomnia, by maintaining good moods and promoting sound sleep.
Augments Heart Health
Corn is completely devoid of cholesterol and sodium, so recipes made with cornflour can safely be consumed by those with heart ailments. Furthermore, the abundance of dietary fibers and vitamin B3 or niacin helps to enhance good HDL levels and diminish bad LDL levels. This averts plaque and fatty deposits in heart vessels, easing cardiac muscle function and improving heart health.
Ensures Healthy Pregnancy
Consuming measured portions of corn has massive benefits for the health of pregnant and lactating women. Due to the immense iron and calcium content in corn, it is ideal to stimulate milk production and balance hormonal activities in expecting women and young mothers.
Contributes To Healthy Weight Gain
The comprehensive nutritional content in corn makes it a perfect food for meeting a growing child’s ever-expanding nutrient requirements. Corn on the cob is often served as a snack after intense physical activities, to young kids, to facilitate optimal growth and development. Owing to its starchy content, corn influences healthy weight gain in young children, assisting in their routine development.
Promotes Gut Health
Many people suffer from unbearable stomach pain along with abnormal bowel movements, diarrhoea, flatulence and constipation. Corn is blessed with the goodness of dietary fibers, that enhance gastrointestinal functions. Eating foods with increased fiber content positively influences bowel movement, regulating faecal bulk and promotes optimal passage of food and other materials within the intestines. In this manner, corn stimulates healthy metabolism and digestion.
Being rich in the mineral potassium, which functions as a key electrolyte in the body, corn helps to lower high blood pressure and effectively treat instances of hypertension. This in turn averts the risk of other grave cardiac disorders such as heart attacks, arrhythmias and stroke.
Corn/Maize Uses In Ayurveda:
Corn is an age-old nutrient-dense crop, that defined the agrarian scenario and food culture in several ancient civilizations. Its therapeutic applications are hence, of tremendous magnitude, in Ayurveda - the traditional Indian system of medicine. The olden Ayurvedic scriptures praise the healing potential of corn, in successfully battling hypertension or high blood pressure, averting cancer, treating depression and remedying liver disorders.
Effect On Doshas
Corn kernel, in essence, has a madhura rasa (sweet taste) with intrinsically laghu and ruksha gunas (light and dry qualities). It possesses ushna virya (heating potency), balancing the kapha (earth and water) dosha (element) while excessively influencing pitta (fire and water) and vata (air and ether) doshas. Moreover, it fosters the positive and equalizing states of mind namely sattva and rajas, effectively eliminating tamas or a negative mindset.
Lowers High Blood Pressure
Being rich in dietary fibers, corn flushes out Ama toxins from improperly processed foods and hence circumvents them from getting clogged in blood vessels namely arteries, veins and capillaries. The unobstructed transport of blood and nutrients to and from the heart is thus facilitated, lowering high blood pressure i.e. hypertension.
Remedies Liver Dysfunction
Corn is heaped with antioxidants, which provide for the prompt removal of harmful free radicals from the system, especially in the liver and gallbladder. In this manner, a balance between the bodily tridoshic states is attained wherein all unwanted fatty accumulations are wiped out of the body, ensuring healthy liver function.
Ameliorates Depression Symptoms
Comprising neurotransmitter regulating properties, corn efficiently boosts the positive state of mind - sattva and suppresses lethargy or tamas. This works wonders in uplifting moods, sharpening the intellect and rehabilitating the brain from depression symptoms.
Uses Of Corn Flour For Skin And Hair:
Aside from being a panacea for practically every illness bothering the internal organs in the body, cornflour also enhances the external appearance by revitalizing skin and strengthening hair. This is chiefly owing to its amazingly high amino acid content and potent antioxidants. Moreover, the fine powdery, slightly granular attribute of cornflour makes it a wonderful exfoliating agent, that completely removes dead cells from the face, body and scalp, apart from providing a refreshing look and radiant glow to skin and hair.
Supplies Anti-Aging Benefits
The seed coat of corn pods is composed of phenolic acids and flavonoids - two classes of antioxidants that are excellent free radical terminators. This promotes new skin cell formation, concealing fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, the vast reserves of amino acids in cornflour help boost collagen, maintaining suppleness and smoothness of the skin.
Applying a herbal mask of cornflour with some milk and honey or other natural infusions is a superb solution to get rid of suntans, UV ray damage and irregular skin complexion, due to the skin-tightening, protective and rejuvenating traits of corn.
Reduces Acne And Boils
Corn is imbued with tannins, which are plant compounds with anti-inflammatory qualities. Thus, it aids in decreasing acne, pimples and boils, besides brushing away dark spots and scars.
Prevents Hair Fall
Consisting of formative amino acids such as methionine and lysine, a corn hair mask as well as eating corn in the diet enriches hair growth and renews texture of tresses. This controls hair fall and averts premature greying and balding.
Corn possesses innumerable essential amino acids and carotenoids that confer useful hair growth and anti-microbial characteristics when applied as a herbal paste to dandruff-prone scalp. It soothes the hair roots or follicles, thereby repairing damaged scalp as well as dry and brittle hair, besides guaranteeing relief from incessant itching.
Wholesome And Tasty Corn Recipes
The uniqueness and versatility of corn kernels and processed corn flour extend into the typical Indian kitchen, where it can be incorporated to make staple dals, curries and gravies, as well as sandwiches, burger patties, with a hint of sweetness and a crunchy twist. Try these delectable recipes with corn kernels, to elevate your overall wellbeing, in addition to preventing any chronic ailments and seasonal illnesses.
Sweet Corn Curry
1 cup corn kernels, boiled
1 big onion
2 medium tomatoes
2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
Salt, as per taste
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp rice bran oil
Prepare a paste of onion and tomato, to obtain a thick texture.
Heat oil in a pan on medium flame, sauté the mustard seeds and cumin seeds until they sputter.
Transfer the onion-tomato puree and ginger garlic paste, cook thoroughly for 10 minutes.
Add the boiled corn kernels and salt, spice powders, allow it to soak all the flavours for 5 minutes, then turn off the stove.
Garnish with some fresh mint leaves and serve the sweet corn curry hot, as a side for rotis, chapatis, parathas.
Corn is a storehouse of dietary fibers to bolster gut health, as well as rich in iron to avert anaemia and fatigue. Onions provide quercetin antioxidants, which lower the risk of cancer. Tomatoes offer ample B and C vitamins, for enriched skin texture.
Corn Cheese Toast
1 cup corn kernels
8 slices of bread
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tsp butter
3 small carrots, finely cut
Salt, as per taste
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
Boil the corn kernels and carrot pieces in a pan, with some salt, on medium flame, until they become soft.
Toast the bread in a tawa, applying an even amount of butter on both sides, until it turns a crisp golden brown.
Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese on all the toasted bread slices.
Add the boiled corn and carrots on top, then sandwich two bread slices together.
Dry roast some pumpkin seeds, top it off on the corn cheese toast and enjoy as a wholesome meal.
Comprising copious concentrations of lutein, zeaxanthin, corn uplift eye health, along with carrots, which supply vitamin A. Moreover, corn is also high on calories, carbs, low on cholesterol, sodium, trans fats, thereby providing instant energy, boosting metabolism and protecting heart functions. Cheese is a wonderful source of proteins, for growth, development and fortified muscles. Pumpkin seeds abound in zinc, copper mineral, which have antioxidant properties, to shield the body from chronic ailments like diabetes, hypertension and cancer.