Corn is a diet staple for many people around the world. It’s found as a side dish, in soup, in casseroles, and more. When corn kernels are popped, they become a favorite snack while watching a movie.
Despite corn’s regular use in our everyday lives, you may not know as much about it as you might think.
Here’s a look at whether or not it really counts as a vegetable.
What is corn?
Answering the question of whether or not corn is a vegetable sounds like it would be simple. In fact, it’s a little more complicated than it appears.
Whole corn, like you eat on the cob, is considered a vegetable. The corn kernel itself (where popcorn comes from) is considered a grain. To be more specific, this form of corn is a “whole” grain.
To complicate things a little more, many grains including popcorn are considered to be a fruit. This is because they come from the seed or flower part of the plant.
In contrast, vegetables are from the leaves, stems, and other parts of a plant. This is why several foods people think of as vegetables are actually fruits, like tomatoes and avocados.
So, corn is actually a vegetable, a whole grain, and a fruit. But no matter what form it comes in or what category it falls into, corn is good for you and can be part of a healthy diet. Even plain popcorn can be healthy when prepared without oil, butter, or salt.
What’s the history of corn?
Corn originally started in the Americas. It’s the most popular crop grown in the world. In many parts of the world, it’s called maize.
The three most popular types of corn are:
- Sweet corn: This is what you’d typically find at the grocery store.
- Field corn (or dent corn): This variety is used to feed cattle and other livestock. It’s also used in some industrial items.
- Indian corn (or flint corn): This kind of corn comes in many colors and is popular as a decoration often seen around Thanksgiving. A variety of this type of corn is also used to make popcorn.
It’s believed that corn originated from a type of Mexican grass. But corn itself doesn’t actually grow anywhere in the wild.
What are the health benefits of eating corn?
There are a number of health benefits to eating corn. But the benefits differ slightly depending on the form of corn that you’re eating, such as popcorn or sweet corn.
Corn is a whole grain. A whole grain is just what it sounds like, the entire grain. Whole grains are the most nutritious kind of grain. They contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Corn specifically contains a much higher amount of vitamin A than other grains. It’s also a great source of antioxidants.
Corn is also considered a starchy vegetable. It’s lower in sugar, fat, and sodium than some other starchy vegetables.
Whether you eat corn on the cob or popcorn (plain), there are plenty of nutrients. They include:
- vitamin B-6
Other health benefits of corn include:
- improving eye health due to its lutein and zeaxanthin content
- providing a number of beneficial antioxidants
- helping to prevent diverticular disease and lower LDL due to its high fiber content
How to eat corn
Corn is something that can be served in a variety of ways. You’ve had popcorn and corn on the cob, but there’s an almost endless supply of recipes and ways you can get more corn into your diet.
Steamed and popped corn are probably two of the more common ways to eat corn, but the following are a few recipes to help you get started finding new ways to add corn to your diet.
Whole grain corn muffins
Corn muffins are a great addition to any meal. They’re a nutritious substitute for regular white rolls. Get the recipe.
Corn and tomato pasta salad
This dish is great as a healthy meal. If you remove the shredded chicken, it can be added as a side to almost any meal. Get the recipe.
Corn and cheese chowder
On a crisp fall or winter day, this warm and hearty soup will hit the spot. With only a 15-minute preparation time, it’s quick and easy and makes a good-sized batch for a large family or for leftovers. Get the recipe.
Mexican grilled corn with cilantro
This unique take on corn on the cob will be a hit at any outdoor barbeque. Get the recipe.
Baked cream corn
You’ll be the hit of the next potluck or dinner party when you bring this easy to make casserole. Get the recipe.
This dish takes a little longer to prepare, but the healthy and delicious result is well worth it! Get the recipe.
If you’re looking for something you can prepare ahead of time, this quick-pickled corn is what you want. It’s quick to prepare, but needs at least a day to sit in the refrigerator. It is a perfect complement to your meal on a warm day. Get the recipe.
You can call corn a vegetable, a whole grain, or a fruit, and you’d be correct. It depends what form of corn you’re eating. Corn is a great part of a healthy diet, whether you eat it as popcorn, a side dish, or include it in any recipe.