Unbelievable facts of maize
Maize is one of the most important cereal crops of the world and contributes to food security in most of the developing countries. In India, maize is emerging as third most important crop after rice and wheat. Its importance lies in the fact that it is not only used for human food and animal feed but at the same time it is also widely used for corn starch industry, corn oil production, baby corns etc.
Corn production has nearly doubled from around 12.0 million tons in the early 2000s to around 22 million tons today. This remarkable production growth has been largely driven by adoption of single cross hybrids in the late 1980’s and continuous demand in domestic and export market. The increasing use of maize as feed, increasing interest of the consumers in nutritionally enriched products and rising demand for maize seed are the core driving forces behind emerging importance of maize crop.
Some of the important facts of maize are discussed below:
1 Nutrition Facts
Aside from containing varying amounts of water, corn is mainly composed of carbohydrates, and has small amounts of protein and fat.
Like all cereal grains, corn is primarily composed of carbs.Starch is the main type of carbs found in corn, making up 28-80% of the dry weight. Corn also contains small amounts of sugar. Sweet corn, also known as sugar corn, is a special low-starch variety (28%) with a higher sugar content (18%), most of which is sucrose. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly carbs are digested. Foods that rank high on this index may cause an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. Despite the sugar content of sweet corn, it is not a high-glycemic food, ranking low or medium on the glycemic index.
Corn contains a fair amount of fiber.One medium bag of popcorn from a cinema (112 g) contains approximately 16 grams of fiber. This amount is 42% and 64% of the adequate daily intake for men and women, respectively . The fiber content of different corn types varies, but is generally around 9-15% .The predominant types of fiber in corn are insoluble fibers, such as hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin.
4 Corn Protein
Corn is a decent source of protein. Depending on the corn variety, the protein content ranges from 10-15% .The most abundant proteins in corn are known as zeins, accounting for 44-79% of the total protein content.Overall, the protein quality of zeins is poor because they are lacking in some essential amino acids, mainly lysine and tryptophan Aside from their role in nutrition, zeins are quite unique and have been used in the production of adhesives, inks, and coatings for pills, candy, and nuts.
5 Other Plant Compounds
Corn contains a number of bioactive plant compounds, some of which may have beneficial health effects.In fact, corn contains higher amounts of antioxidants than many other common cereal grains .
Ferulic acid: One of the main polyphenol antioxidants in corn, which contains higher amounts of it than other cereals, such as wheat, oats, and rice .
Anthocyanins: A family of antioxidant pigments responsible for the color of blue, purple, and red corn .
Zeaxanthin: Named after corn (Zea mays), zeaxanthin is one of the most common carotenoids found in plants. In humans, it has been linked with improved eye health .
Lutein: One of the main carotenoids in corn. Like zeaxanthin, it is found in the human eye (retina) where it serves as an antioxidant, protecting the eye from oxidative damage produced by blue light .
Phytic acid: An antioxidant that may impair the absorption of dietary minerals, such as zinc and iron .
6 Health Benefits
Eating whole grain corn regularly may have a number ofhealth benefits.
- Eye Health
Macular degeneration and cataracts are among the world’s most common visual impairments and major causes of blindness .Infections and old age are among the main causes of these diseases, but nutrition may also play a significant role.Dietary intake of antioxidants, most notably carotenoids, such as zeaxanthin and lutein, may have considerable benefits for eye health .Lutein and zeaxanthin are the predominant carotenoids in corn, accounting for 70% of the total carotenoid content. However, their levels are generally low in white corn .Commonly known as macular pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the human retina, the light-sensitive inner surface of the eye, where they protect against oxidative damage caused by blue light.High levels of these carotenoids in the blood are strongly linked with reduced risk of both macular degeneration and cataracts .
- Prevention of Diverticular Disease:
Diverticular disease (diverticulosis) is a condition characterized with pouches in the walls of the colon.They main symptoms are cramps, flatulence, bloating, and less often, bleeding and infection.Despite lack of evidence, avoiding popcorn and other high-fiber foods, such as nuts and seeds, has been recommended as a preventive strategy against diverticular disease .However, one observational study, which followed 47,228 men for 18 years, does not support this recommendation.In fact, popcorn consumption was found to be protective. Men who ate the most popcorn were 28% less likely to develop diverticular disease than those with the lowest intake .
7 Adverse Effects and Individual Concerns
Eating corn is generally considered safe.However, its consumption may be of concern for some people, especially in populations that depend on it as a dietary staple.
- Antinutrients in Corn
Like all cereal grains, whole grain corn contains phytic acid (phytate).Phytic acid impairs the absorption of dietary minerals, such as iron and zinc, from the same meal .This is usually not a problem in well-balanced diets and for those who eat meat regularly, but may be a serious concern in developing countries where cereal grains and legumes are staple foods. Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting the corn can reduce the levels of phytic acid substantially .
Some cereal grains and legumes are susceptible to contamination by fungi. Fungi produce various toxins, known as mycotoxins, that are considered to be a significant health concern .The main classes of mycotoxins in corn are fumonisins, aflatoxins, and trichothecenes. Fumonisins are particularly noteworthy. They are found in stored cereals worldwide, but adverse health effects have mostly been linked with the consumption of corn and corn products, especially among people who depend on corn as their main dietary staple .High consumption of contaminated corn is a suspected risk factor for cancer and neural tube defects, common birth defects that may result in disability or death .
Corn is one of the most widely consumed cereals grains.Being a good source of antioxidant carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, yellow (or colored) corn may promote eye health.It is also a rich source of many vitamins and minerals. For this reason, moderate consumption of whole-grain corn, such as popcorn or sweet corn, may well fit into a healthy diet.