Corn is considered both a vegetable and a cereal grain.
Sweet corn that you eat off the cob is usually considered a vegetable in the culinary world, whereas the dry seeds that are used for popcorn are classified as whole grains.
Corn originated in Mexico over 9,000 years ago and is known by its original name “maize” in many parts of the world. Native Americans grew and harvested this crop as a main source of food (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
Today, it’s one of the most widely consumed cereal grains worldwide (3).
Corn is usually white or yellow but also comes in red, purple and blue.
It’s eaten as sweet corn, popcorn, tortillas, polenta, chips, cornmeal, grits, oil and syrup and added to countless other foods and dishes.
What’s more, it’s widely used for fuel and animal feed. In fact, 40% of the corn grown in the US is used for fuel and 60–70% of corn worldwide is produced to feed animals (2Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Corn is a popular food that is considered both a vegetable and whole grain. It can be eaten whole as sweet corn or popcorn or processed into chips, oil and syrup. However, most corn is used for animal feed and fuel production.
Corn is high in carbs and packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s also relatively low in protein and fat.
One cup (164 grams) of sweet yellow corn contains (5):
Calories: 177 calories
Carbs: 41 grams
Protein: 5.4 grams
Fat: 2.1 grams
Fiber: 4.6 grams
Vitamin C: 17% of the daily value (DV)
Thiamine (vitamin B1): 24% of the DV
Folate (vitamin B9): 19% of the DV
Magnesium: 11% of the DV
Potassium: 10% of the DV
Most of the carbs in corn come from starch — which can quickly raise your blood sugar, depending on how much you eat. However, it’s also high in fiber that can help balance your blood sugar levels (3, 6).
Due to its impressive nutrient profile, most people can benefit from eating whole corn and popcorn as part of a balanced diet. It’s also a naturally gluten-free food and can be eaten by those who avoid gluten.
On the other hand, processed corn products may not be very nutritious, as refined oil, syrup and chips lose beneficial fiber and other nutrients during production. Also, many processed products are high in added salt, sugar or fat (7, 8).
Whole corn is loaded with fiber and contains vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium. Processed corn products are not as nutritious.
What is corn silk, and how is it used?
Corn silk is the long, thread-like strands of plant material that grow underneath the husk of a fresh ear of corn.
These shiny, thin fibers aid the pollination and growth of corn, but they’re also used in traditional herbal medicine practices.
Corn silk contains a variety of plant compounds that may be responsible for various health effects.
In traditional Chinese and Native American medicine, it’s used to treat a variety of ailments, including prostate problems, malaria, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and heart disease (1Trusted Source).
More recent research indicates that it may also help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation (1Trusted Source).
Corn silk may be used fresh but is often dried before being consumed as a tea or extract. It may also be taken as a pill.
Corn silk is a type of natural fiber that grows on corn plants. It’s used as an herbal remedy for a variety of illnesses in traditional or folk medicine.
Potential benefits of corn silk
- Although corn silk is routinely used in herbal medicine, studies on it are limited.
- However, preliminary research suggests that it may have health benefits, especially for certain types of inflammatory conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
- Provides antioxidants
- Antioxidants are plant compounds that protect your body’s cells against free radical damage and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is one of the major causes of a number of chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and inflammation (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
- Corn silk is a naturally rich source of flavonoid antioxidants.
- Multiple test-tube and animal studies demonstrate that its flavonoids reduce oxidative stress and protect against free radical damage (1Trusted Source).
- These compounds may be responsible for many of corn silk’s benefits.
- Has anti-inflammatory properties
- Inflammation is part of your body’s natural immune response. However, excessive inflammation is linked to a variety of illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes (3Trusted Source).
- Test-tube and animal studies have found that corn silk extract may reduce inflammation by suppressing the activity of two major inflammatory compounds (1Trusted Source).
- This stringy plant fiber also contains magnesium, which helps regulate your body’s inflammatory response (4, 5Trusted Source).
- That said, human research is needed.
- May manage blood sugar
- Some research indicates that corn silk may lower blood sugar and help manage diabetes symptoms.
- One animal study noted that diabetic mice given corn silk flavonoids had significantly reduced blood sugar compared to a control group (6Trusted Source).
- A recent test-tube study also revealed that antioxidants in this corn product may help prevent diabetic kidney disease (7Trusted Source).
- Although these results are promising, human studies are needed.
- May lower blood pressure
- Corn silk may be an effective treatment for high blood pressure.
- First, it encourages the elimination of excess fluid from your body. As such, it could be a natural alternative to prescribed diuretics, which are often used to reduce blood pressure (1Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
- What’s more, a recent study in rats discovered that corn silk extract significantly reduced blood pressure by inhibiting the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) (9Trusted Source).
- In one 8-week study, 40 people with high blood pressure were given increasing amounts of this supplement until they reached a dose of 118 mg per pound of body weight (260 mg per kg) (10Trusted Source).
- Their blood pressure dropped significantly compared to that of a control group, with those given the highest dose experiencing the greatest reduction (10Trusted Source).
- Still, more human research is needed.
- May reduce cholesterol
- Corn silk may also lower cholesterol (11Trusted Source).
- One animal study found that mice given corn silk extract experienced significant reductions in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol alongside increases in HDL (good) cholesterol (12Trusted Source).
- In another study in mice fed a high-fat diet, those that received corn silk experienced significantly lower total cholesterol than those that did not get this supplement (13Trusted Source).
- Even so, human research is needed.
A handful of studies indicate that corn silk may reduce inflammation, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. However, more research is needed.
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