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What Are the Health Benefits of Corn?

By Tara Carson

The United States produces more corn than any other country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The primary location for corn production is in the Midwest in an area known as the corn belt that includes Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Long before modern corn cultivation practices began, Native Americans grew corn and introduced it to the European settlers. The bountiful nutrition it provides sustained them through the harsh winters of the New World.

Good Source of Protein

A 1-cup serving of corn provides 5 grams of protein, which is about 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance. The protein you'll get from corn contains all of the essential amino acids, but does not have a sufficient amount of lysine to be considered a complete protein. You can fill in the lysine you need by consuming beans, eggs, poultry and lean meat. You don't need to eat complete proteins at every meal, as long as you eat a variety of foods over the course of one day and get your recommended daily allowance. Women should consume 46 grams of protein daily, while men need 56 grams.

Folate for Metabolism

Your body depends on folate to metabolize DNA and protein. This B vitamin is especially important for women who may become pregnant, because it prevents birth defects that occur in the first few weeks after conception. It also helps convert an amino acid -- homocysteine -- into S-adenosylmethionine, or SAMe. As a result, homocysteine is removed from your bloodstream, which may protect your heart because high levels of homocysteine can damage your blood vessels. Additionally, SAMe is vital for other metabolic processes, such as producing neurotransmitters. A 1-cup serving of cooked corn contains 34 micrograms of folate, or 9 percent of your recommended daily allowance.

Fiber for Your Heart

Fiber used to be known as roughage, which reflects the ability of insoluble fiber to prevent constipation. However, the second type of fiber -- soluble -- provides other health benefits. It binds with cholesterol and carries it out of your system, which helps lower levels in your blood and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. The Institute of Medicine established the recommended intake for fiber based on the amount needed to protect your heart. You'll get 4 grams of fiber from 1 cup of cooked corn, which is 16 percent of women's and 11 percent of men's daily intake.

Weight Management

Corn possesses several characteristics that support weight management, but also has one potential downside. One benefit is that it's low in calories, with 1 cup providing just 143 calories. About 73 percent of corn consists of water. This helps manage weight because water adds bulk without contributing any calories. As a result, you can eat a reasonable portion, get full and still stay within daily calorie goals. Another benefit comes from the protein and fiber, both of which make you feel full and help maintain satiety for a longer period of time. However, corn is also high enough in carbohydrates that it moderately boosts blood sugar. A 1-cup serving has 31 grams of carbs, which is almost one-fourth of an entire day's recommended carb intake.

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