Farm to FUEL: Corn
What food says summer more than freshly picked corn? For Southerners, corn is an essential at barbecues and cookouts but seldom is it considered as a unique source of health benefits. Yet when eaten as a whole food it is a good source of energy-producing B vitamins; heart-healthy folate and niacin; and immune boosting vitamin C. Now corn can be found year-round, but local grown assortments can be purchased in the summer.
Recently, corn has gathered a poor reputation as the foundation for processed snack foods and as the main ingredient in high fructose corn syrup. As a registered dietitian, I cannot argue that these foods are less nutritious and limiting or avoiding corn in this capacity is wise for optimal health and performance. However, let’s look at a few health benefits of adding plain whole corn to your endurance diet.
Preparation for endurance sports results in free radical production from oxidative stress. Free radicals are thought to lead to increases in heart disease, some cancers and other degenerative disease. Corn is a phytonutrient-rich food that provides us with vitamin C and the mineral manganese. Both nutrients are beneficial to reducing the damage caused by oxidative stress.
Vitamin C protects our immune system and aids the healing process after an injury. Manganese is essential for energy production and protects against inflammation produced by intense training.
At about 5 grams of fiber per cup, corn has superb fiber content. Corn fiber can provide digestive benefits to athletes. Recent research has shown that corn can support the growth of friendly bacteria in our large intestine and thereby help lower our risk of intestinal problems, including colon cancer.
Take advantage of the fresh corn still in season. Stock up and freeze whole or kernelled corn for later in the year. When fresh is not available opt for frozen varieties first and canned in water second.
- Replace dinner grains with corn on the cob, creamed or kernel corn.
- Add corn to salads, wraps, pitas, and soups.
- Snack on air popped corn.
- Snack on 100% blue corn chips
Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian and certified sports specialist in dietetics and founder of Runner’s FUEL. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @RunnersFuel. For more information visit www.runner-fuel.com. Text runnersfuel to 601.863.8370 for health news and nutrition tips.