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Dr. Linda Dahl

Dr. Linda Dahl

Dr. Linda Dahl

Dr. Linda Dahl

1 month ago

We eat corn in almost everything. Is It Important?

Photo by Mockup Graphics on Unsplash

Corn Kid got viral on TikTok after being interviewed by Recess Therapy. Tariq, called the Corn Kid, ate a buttery ear of corn in the video. He's corn crazy. He thinks everyone just has to try it. It turns out, whether we know it or not, we already have.

Corn is a fruit, veggie, and grain. It's the second-most-grown crop. Corn makes up 36% of U.S. exports. In the U.S., it's easy to grow and provides high yields, as proven by the vast corn belt spanning the Midwest, Great Plains, and Texas panhandle. Since 1950, the corn crop has doubled to 10 billion bushels.

You say, "Fine." We shouldn't just grow because we can. Why so much corn? What's this corn for?

Why is practical and political. Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma has the full narrative. Early 1970s food costs increased. Nixon subsidized maize to feed the public. Monsanto genetically engineered corn seeds to make them hardier, and soon there was plenty of corn. Everyone ate. Woot! Too much corn followed. The powers-that-be had to decide what to do with leftover corn-on-the-cob.

They are fortunate that corn has a wide range of uses.

First, the edible variants. I divide corn into obvious and stealth.

Obvious corn includes popcorn, canned corn, and corn on the cob. This form isn't always digested and often comes out as entire, polka-dotting poop. Cornmeal can be ground to make cornbread, polenta, and corn tortillas. Corn provides antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins in moderation. Most synthetic Vitamin C comes from GMO maize.

Corn oil, corn starch, dextrose (a sugar), and high-fructose corn syrup are often overlooked. They're stealth corn because they sneak into practically everything. Corn oil is used for frying, baking, and in potato chips, mayonnaise, margarine, and salad dressing. Baby food, bread, cakes, antibiotics, canned vegetables, beverages, and even dairy and animal products include corn starch. Dextrose appears in almost all prepared foods, excluding those with high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS isn't as easily digested as sucrose (from cane sugar). It can also cause other ailments, which we'll discuss later.

Most foods contain corn. It's fed to almost all food animals. 96% of U.S. animal feed is corn. 39% of U.S. corn is fed to livestock. But animals prefer other foods. Omnivore chickens prefer insects, worms, grains, and grasses. Captive cows are fed a total mixed ration, which contains corn. These animals' products, like eggs and milk, are also corn-fed.

There are numerous non-edible by-products of corn that are employed in the production of items like:

  1. fuel-grade ethanol

  2. plastics

  3. batteries

  4. cosmetics

  5. meds/vitamins binder

  6. carpets, fabrics

  7. glutathione

  8. crayons

  9. Paint/glue

How does corn influence you? Consider quick food for dinner. You order a cheeseburger, fries, and big Coke at the counter (or drive-through in the suburbs). You tell yourself, "No corn." All that contains corn. Deconstruct:

Cows fed corn produce meat and cheese. Meat and cheese were bonded with corn syrup and starch (same). The bun (corn flour and dextrose) and fries were fried in maize oil. High fructose corn syrup sweetens the drink and helps make the cup and straw.

Just about everything contains corn. Then what? A cornspiracy, perhaps? Is eating too much maize an issue, or should we strive to stay away from it whenever possible?

As I've said, eating some maize can be healthy. 92% of U.S. corn is genetically modified, according to the Center for Food Safety. The adjustments are expected to boost corn yields. Some sweet corn is genetically modified to produce its own insecticide, a protein deadly to insects made by Bacillus thuringiensis. It's safe to eat in sweet corn. Concerns exist about feeding agricultural animals so much maize, modified or not.

High fructose corn syrup should be consumed in moderation. Fructose, a sugar, isn't easily metabolized. Fructose causes diabetes, fatty liver, obesity, and heart disease. It causes inflammation, which might aggravate gout. Candy, packaged sweets, soda, fast food, juice drinks, ice cream, ice cream topping syrups, sauces & condiments, jams, bread, crackers, and pancake syrup contain the most high fructose corn syrup. Everyday foods with little nutrients. Check labels and choose cane sugar or sucrose-sweetened goods. Or, eat corn like the Corn Kid.