Corn boosts health, helps fight heart disease, cancer

Maize, also known as corn or makkai or bhutta, has many nutritional benefits. Owing to its food value and numerous uses in the industry, corn is one of the most important crops in the world.

A recent research at Cornell University indicates that cooking corn unleashes beneficial nutrients including carotenoids (plant version of vitamin A) that can substantially reduce the chance of heart disease and cancer.

Despite conventional opinion that processing fruits and vegetables results in lower nutritional value than fresh produce, cooked corn retains its anti-oxidant activity even after the loss of vitamin C. In fact, cooking increases the anti-oxidants in corn by about 53 per cent. In addition to its anti-oxidant benefits, cooked corn releases ferulic acid, a compound which provides many health benefits. These benefits are even more pronounced in sweet corn.

Ferulic acid is a unique phyto-chemical found mostly in grains and in very low amounts in fruits and vegetables. It is found in very high levels in corn. Cooking corn increases the amount of ferulic acid significantly.

Although corn is yellow due to carotene, it has small amounts of beta-carotene. Carotenes help in preventing oxidative reactions and cancers.

Rich in carbohydrates, corn provides minerals and vitamins like potassium, phosphorus, iron and thiamine. Corn oil has 55 per cent poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). It has 32 per cent mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and 12 per cent saturates. The former two fatty acids lower harmful LDL cholesterol. Corn oil, therefore, is a good choice for heart patients.

The proteins in maize are incomplete. They lack essential amino acids. Add legumes (pulses), nuts, dairy products or animal protein, which contain the missing amino acid (lyseine).

Traditionally, Indian preparations use the entire grain as in makkai ki roti made from corn meal, bhuna bhutta (corn on the cob), popcorn and most sweet corn preparations.

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