Corn (Zea mays L.) is an annual herbaceous plant of the Poaceae family, it was the staple cereal in the diet of American peoples as well as wheat for the peoples of the Old Continent. The cultivation of corn has millenary roots in the American continent. It has always been considered a very important cereal, so much so that in the ancient languages of the American Indians the word corn means ‘that which keeps alive’. In Europe the plant arrived at the end of the fifteenth century, spreading first in the Mediterranean basin and subsequently among the northern European populations. The predominant variety today is the yellow one, but there are others with different colored grains thanks to the presence of different pigments in the surface layer.
NUTRITIONAL PROPERTIES OF CORN
From a nutritional point of view, corn contains above all complex carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fatty acids, almost all essential amino acids and vitamin E. The protein content is reduced (on average 9 g%, compared to 12-14 g% of wheat). Although it contains many carbohydrates, corn can also be used in people with diabetes to provide the necessary sugars without this leading to particular imbalances in blood sugar. Vitamin E of which corn is rich, is part of the group of tocopherols which are powerful antioxidants. They reduce oxygen radicals and other harmful waste in the blood, helping the metabolism of the liver which can therefore send blood less rich in toxic molecules to the kidneys, which greatly facilitates renal filtration. For this reason and due to the lower quantity of gluten, corn, more than wheat, can be used in patients suffering from kidney diseases. The iron and potassium content is not negligible. Among the micronutrients it is interesting to remember the presence of magnesium, zinc and above all selenium. The latter is an antioxidant with recognized anticancer properties.
CORN ON THE TABLE
Corn in its natural state has a rather significant amount of fat, which makes it, if eaten whole, a fairly balanced food from the point of view of regulating blood sugar, as fats, together with proteins, are able to slow down the rate of transfer of sugars to the blood. The grains still on the ear are eaten boiled or grilled; shelled and boiled grains can instead be served in salads or as a side dish. When boiled corn on the cob has a greater availability of the sugar content due to cooking in water which facilitates the absorption and use of carbohydrates, while roasted corn on the cob is more demanding for the liver to digest. However, the latter has a higher nutritional power thanks to the concentration of nutrients resulting from dehydration. To make the roasted corn on the cob more digestible, a small amount of salt and lemon juice can be added to increase the functional capacity of the liver.