Corn

Corn ~ Super Grains

A good source of B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus, this super veggie is also thought to increase healthy gut flora, which can ward off diabetes, heart disease, and chronic inflammation.

The yellow variety is also high in antioxidants.

What vegetable is more synonymous with the coming of summer than freshly picked on-the-cob?

Although it's now available in markets year-round, it's the locally grown varieties that you can purchase during the summer months that not only tastes the best but are usually the least expensive.

This super grain grows in "ears," each of which is covered in rows of kernels that are then protected by the silk-like threads and encased in a husk.

It's known scientifically as Zea mays.

This moniker reflects its traditional name, maize, by which it was known to the Native Americans as well as many other cultures throughout the world.

Health Benefits

Hot, fresh on-the-cob is an almost essential part of any summertime party.

Fortunately, it's also worthy part of any healthful menu.

This super grain is a good source of many nutrients including thiamin (vitamin-B1), pantothenic acid (vitamin-B5), folate, dietary fiber, vitamin-C, phosphorus and manganese.

Cardiovascular Health

This grains' contribution to heart health lies not just in its fiber, but in the significant amounts of folate that it supplies.

Folate, which you may know about as a B-vitamin needed to prevent birth defects, also helps to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an intermediate product in an important metabolic process called the methylation cycle.

Homocysteine can directly damage blood vessels, so elevated blood levels of this dangerous molecule are an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease, and are found in between 20-40% of patients with heart disease.

It's been estimated that consumption of 100% of the daily value (DV) of folate would, by itself, reduce the number of heart attacks suffered by North Americans each year by 10%.

Folate-rich diets are also associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.

Just a cup supplies 19.0% of the DV for folate.

Supporting Lung Health

Consuming foods rich in beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid found in highest amounts in corn, pumpkin, papaya, red bell peppers, tangerines, oranges and peaches, may significantly lower one's risk of developing lung cancer.

Maintain Your Memory with Thiamin (Vitamin-B1)

This super grain is a good source of thiamin, providing about one-quarter (24.0%) of the daily value for this nutrient in a single cup.

Thiamin is an integral participant in enzymatic reactions central to energy production and is also critical for brain cell/cognitive function.

This is because thiamin is needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory, whose lack has been found to be a significant contributing factor in age-related impairment in mental function (senility) and Alzheimer's disease.

In fact, Alzheimer's disease is clinically characterized by a decrease in acetylcholine levels.

Purple Corn

The power is in its deep dark color.

Purple corn is botanically-speaking the same species as the regular variety you'd find at a roadside farmer's market.

But, this unique specialty is found in its deep shades of purple.

What's more, in the September 2008 issue of the professional journal Cancer Science, Japanese scientists revealed that the purple type contains cell-protecting antioxidants with the ability to inhibit carcinogen-induced tumors in rats.

Purple power has also shown extraordinary anti-inflammatory properties and the potential to support weight loss.

Under a microscope you'd see that the purple color is the result of massive amounts of anthocyanins.

Anthocyaninins are a type of complex flavonoid that produces blue, purple and red colors.

NOTE: Flavonoids act as age-fighting antioxidants to counteract cellular damage caused by free radicals.

They also serve as an anti-inflammatory and helps nourish connective tissue.

And research shows that plants with the highest anthocyanin content also have the highest antioxidant activity.

That's bad news for cell damaging free radicals, but good news for you.

As well as being a powerful antioxidant that keeps you looking young and protected from disease, anthocyanin also promotes blood flow and helps maintain cholesterol levels already in a normal range.

Plus, anthocyaninins have been shown to stimulate collagen formation (which is great for your skin) and support circulation.

So you'll not only feel younger, you might even look younger, too!

Purple corn also contains massive amounts of polyphenol which offers strong support for cardiovascular health and vitality.

In fact as reported in Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology (February 2007) and Food Chemistry and Toxicology (February 2008) polyphenol-rich blue corn worked in laboratory rats to;

Protect against atherosclerosis

Lower blood pressure

Reduce blood clots

Elevate antioxidant capacity of the blood*

Keep in mind that Peru, the home of the Incas, is the only country in the world that produces purple corn commercially.

Don't forget to make this a staple in your healthy diet.

Support for Energy Production

In addition to its thiamin, this super grain is a good source of pantothenic acid.

This B-vitamin is necessary for carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism.

Pantothenic acid is an especially valuable B-vitamin when you're under stress since it supports the function of the adrenal glands.

A cup of this grain supplies 14.4% of the daily value for pantothenic acid.

History

An important food plant that's native to America, this grain is thought to have originated in either Mexico or Central America.

It's been a staple food in native civilizations since primitive times with some of the earliest traces of meal made from corn dating back about 7,000 years.

This super grain has played and still continues to play a vital role in Native American cultures.

It's been greatly honored for its ability to provide not only sustenance as food but shelter, fuel, decoration and more.

Because of the vital role that it played in the livelihood of many native cultures, it has been one of the important icons represented in the mythological traditions of the Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilizations.

Traditional dishes made with corn often included a small amount of lime, not the fruit, but calcium oxide, the mineral complex that can be made by burning limestone.

Limestone is a sedimentary rock that is composed of calcium carbonate and occurs naturally across the United States.

This lime added to a cornmeal was generally obtained from the fire ash because a small amount of lime is produced simply from the burning of wood into ash.

The reason for this process was simple: people seemed healthier when the pot ash was added.

Now we know why.

The niacin (vitamin-B3) is not readily available for absorption into the body, and lime helps free this B-vitamin, making it available for absorption.

When Christopher Columbus and other explorers came to the New World, they found this super grain growing throughout the Americas, from Chile to Canada.

It was consumed both as a vegetable and as a grain in the form of cornmeal seasoned and eaten as an accompaniment to vegetables, fish or meat.

The variety that was prized was not just limited to the yellow and white kernels that we know, but many other more popular varieties that featured kernels of red, blue, pink and black and were not only solidly colored, but spotted or striped.

It was brought back to Europe by Spanish and Portuguese explorers who later introduced it throughout the world.

However, many of the European explorers coming over to North America ignored Native American traditions, including the pot ash tradition, and later fell victim to the vitmamin-B3 deficiency disease called pellagra.

Today, the largest commercial producers include the United States, China, Brazil, Mexico and the Russian Federation.

The easiest way to eat year round?

Popcorn!

Just skip the microwavable kinds that use harmful chemicals in the bags’ nonstick lining.

Instead, buy organic kernels and make microwave popcorn in an ordinary paper bag, or do it the old-fashioned way on the stove-top.

Organic is important, as about 40 percent of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified (GM) to withstand higher doses of pesticides.

Some studies are starting to link GM foods to allergies and other health problems.

How to Select & Store

Since heat rapidly converts the sugar to starch, it's very important to choose corn that is displayed in a cool place.

If shopping for it in the supermarket, make sure it's refrigerated.

If purchasing at a farmer's market or roadside stand, make sure that if it's not refrigerated, it has at least been kept in the shade, out of direct sunlight.

Look for ears whose husks are fresh and green and not dried out.

They should envelope the ear and not fit too loosely around it.

To examine the kernels, pull back part of the husk.

The kernels should be plump and tightly arranged in rows.

You can test for the juiciness by taking your fingernail and pressing on a kernel.

When fresh it will exude a white milky substance.

To enjoy maximum flavor, purchase it on the day you're going to cook it since it has a tendency to lose its flavor relatively rapidly.

Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Do not remove its husk since this will protect its flavor.

To enjoy its optimal sweetness, it should be eaten as soon as possible.

Fresh, it freezes well if placed in heavy-duty freezer bags.

To prepare whole ears for freezing, blanch them first for seven to eleven minutes depending upon their size (larger ears take a longer time to blanch than smaller ones).

If you just want to freeze the kernels, first blanch the ears for about five minutes and then cut the kernels off the cob at about three-quarters of their depths.

Whole corn-on-the-cob will keep for up to one year, while the kernels can be frozen for two to three months.

If you're watching your weight or your blood sugar levels, choose blue corn chips and tortillas.

This super grain comes in a rainbow of colors, including violet, blue as well as black.

Darker varieties contain greater quantities of antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins.

Blue tortillas contain about 20% more protein and 8% less starch giving them a lower glycemic index than the more common version made with white corn; plus blue tortillas have a softer texture and sweeter flavor than those made with the white variety.

Tips for Preparation:

This super grain can be cooked either with or without its husk in a variety of different ways.

If using the wet heat methods of boiling or steaming, make sure not to add salt or overcook as the corn will tend to become hard and lose its flavor.

Or, they can be broiled in the husk.

If broiling, first soak in the husk ahead.

When purchasing tortillas, purchase those that include lime (the mineral complex calcium oxide, not the fruit juice) in their ingredient list.

The addition of lime to the corn meal helps make the niacin (vitamin-B3) in the tortilla more available for absorption.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Eat corn-on-the-cob just as it is or seasoned with a little organic butter, herb infused olive oil or flaxseed oil, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, nutritional yeast or any other herbs or spices you enjoy.

Sauté with green chilis and onions.

Served hot, this makes a wonderful side dish.

Enjoy a cold salad with an ancient Incan influence by combining cooked kernels, quinoa, tomatoes, green peppers and red kidney beans.

Use polenta (a type of cornmeal) as a pizza crust for a healthy pizza.

Add kernels and diced tomatoes to guacamole to give it extra zing.

Adding to soup, whether it be chili or chowder, enhances the soup's hardiness, let alone its nutritional profile.

Corn-on-the-cob Toppers

It's not easy to improve on a summer classic, but slathering on any of these flavorful butters and spreads will certainly add to the fun of trying.

It's best to use room temperature butter.

Mediterranean Medley

Finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes and mince garlic, the mix in to butter.

New Orleans Hot

Sprinkle Cajun seasoning over butter, then stir in along with a healthy dash of Tabasco sauce.

An Asian Touch

Blend Wasabi paste into butter, then add thinly sliced green onion.

Colorful Italian

Stir chopped capers, roasted red peppers, minced garlic and chopped fresh basil into butter.

Pesto Butter

Flavor butter with a dab of pesto and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Provencal Style

Stir butter or spreadable cream cheese with finely chopped shallots and fresh or dried tarragon or herbes de Provence.

Curry It Up, Please

Mix a little curry paste into butter along with chopped cilantro.

Divine Ginger

Finely chop pickled ginger and stir into butter with sliced chives or green onions.

Savory Spread

Chop fresh Rosemary and stir into butter with pinches of poultry seasoning.

Kid Pleasing

Mix a little dab of honey and a pinch of cinnamon into butter.

So, other than the tips above, you're wondering how to add this super grain to your diet in a new and additionally unique manner.

Well, might we suggest;

Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup

Whip up a batch of this fresh soup and you'll be enjoying the leftovers later in the week.

Use fresh instead of canned when it's in season.

Prep: 10 min

Total: 45 min

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 Tbs. (25 g) butter

4 c. hot chicken stock

1 onion, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 x 12 oz. (350 g.) cans corn kernels, drained

handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

12 oz. (350 g.) leftover roasted chicken, skin removed, coarsely shredded

Preparation;

1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven or large deep frying pan over low heat.

Add the onion, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, or until soft.

2. Add 1 can of the drained corn into a food processor, and pulse on and off for a few times until the kernels are a chunky puree.

Scrape this into the pan with the onion.

Stir in the chicken and garlic, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Increase the heat slightly, and cook for a few minutes longer to blend flavors.

3. Now add the remaining corn and the stock, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat slightly, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Taste, and season again with salt and pepper if needed.

Stir in the parsley just before serving.

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