Did you know that corn was prized as a Godly staple amongst the Mayans and Aztecs? These ancient civilizations of Mexico, Peru and many parts of South and Central America called themselves “The Corn People”, and that tradition still exists today, as forty percent of Mexican’s daily diet consists of corn.
While I’m sure that the corn consumed back in the Mayan times was delicious and nutritious, our problem today is that something funky has happened to corn, and unfortunately this has had an effect on “The Corn People.” The recent rise of obesity and diabetes in Mexico and many parts of South and Central America, leads me to strongly believe that it has to do with their corn consumption. But is all corn bad? Let’s take a look at The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of corn, and how you can ensure your eating this delicious veggie in all the right ways.
All corn isn’t horrible. It’s actually a great source of many vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin A, B, C, E, Folic Acid, magnesium and phosphorus. And, if you combine your corn with some beans, which is a very traditional pairing, you’ll have yourself a healthy complete protein.
Here are some ways for you to keep your corn on the “good” side so you can enjoy all of those healthy benefits:
- Choose corn that is organic, heirloom, non-gmo and (ideally) local. Don’t just look at the grocery store for your corn (where you will only find the sweet yellow or white varieties); check out your local markets or food co-ops for different kinds of corn like blue, purple, multi colored and even black! They have significantly more anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds then yellow and white corn.
- Prepare your corn thoroughly. In traditional times, this meant soaking the kernels in lime water, drying it out and then cooking it, which unlocked many vitamins, minerals and certain proteins. Don’t have time for that? Don’t worry – you can find traditionally made organic and GMO-free corn flours at many health food and grocery stores that can be used to make your own fresh corn tortillas. It’s really simple – learn about the process on this website.
“Bad” corn includes:
- Conventional corn products of any kind from corn flour, corn meal, corn starch and other corn based products as they’re likely heavily sprayed with pesticides. The USDA states that southern US growers spray their crops 25 to 40 times per season. That’s a lot of pesticides – not only ruining your health, but the environment as well.
- Corn that has been Genetically Modified to taste sweeter by removing fiber, protein and anti-oxidants. Sure it may taste nice and sweet, but that means it also has a high glycemic index leading to high blood sugar spikes and diabetes. If you’re overweight, trying to loose weight or have diabetes, you’ll need to avoid these types of corn products.
Also avoid those cans of non-BPA-free sweetened corn – it’s full of toxins and sugar. Need I say more?
Parts of Mexico and South and Central America today have gone through a nutritional transition which has drastically increased rates of obesity and diabetes. This isn’t because of their traditional diets consisting of corn tortillas and traditional corn dishes, but because of the consumption of refined corn in the form of processed foods and sodas.
“Ugly” corn is GMO corn that’s no longer used as corn. Instead it has been turned into processed foods, such as:
- HFCS (High fructose Corn Syrup) which is the sweetener used to sweetened your soda, your candies, your candy bar and store bought cakes. Since the 1980’s almost all soda’s and most fruit drinks sold contain HFCS.
- Corn “derivatives” – including corn oil and chemical ingredients and preservatives (those ingredients that are difficult to pronounce on labels), which are found in thousands of processed foods. Michael Pollan, the investigative journalist, estimated that there are 45,000 thousand items in the average American supermarket – and more than a quarter of them contain corn. These “corn derivatives” are not recognizable in our bodies and are linked to diabetes, cancer and many other chronic diseases.
- Sugary granola bars, cereals, corn chips, protein bars and other processed foods. Here’s a list of 20 foods that contain corn in it’s harmful, processed form.
- Animal feed to fatten chickens, pigs, beef, lamb and turkeys in animal feedlots or CAFO’s making your conventional meat products high in pro-inflammatory Omega 6’s and low in anti-inflammatory Omega 3’s.
- Unhealthy popcorn that’s scarfed down with trans fatty margarine (that may contain corn) too!
Corn can absolutely be a part of a healthy diet. For your own health and the health of the environment, it’s best to opt out of the food chain that makes processed foods out of corn. Instead, make a point to discover some ancient recipes that use organic and heirloom varieties.