Corn on the cob is a summertime staple, but it's also arguably one of the most versatile foods out there.
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Corn is considered both a vegetable and a grain. When it's harvested in the summer and eaten off the cob, it's known as a veggie. When it's harvested later in the season, corn is considered a grain that can be ground into cornmeal or harvested as popcorn. Corn can also be made into cooking oil, a sweetener and even fuel to heat homes or run cars.
One of the few starchy vegetables (along with squash, potatoes, peas and beans), corn has more carbohydrates than many other veg. Besides being a rich source of healthy carbs, corn is also a good source of fiber and plant-based protein.
Corn Nutrition Facts
One cup of corn is equal to a single serving. One cup of cooked yellow sweet corn contains:
- Calories: 143
- Total fat: 2.2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 1.5 mg
- Total carbs: 31.3 g
- Dietary fiber: 3.6 g
- Sugar: 6.8 g
- Added sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 5.1 g
- Total fat: One cup of corn contains 2.2 grams of total fat, including 0.3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 0.9 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
- Carbohydrates: One cup of corn contains 31.3 grams of carbs, including 3.6 grams of fiber and 6.8 grams of naturally occurring sugar.
- Protein: One cup of corn contains 5.1 grams of protein.
Corn offers a source of complex carbs, giving your body fuel for a long period. Corn is a starchy food, which means your body must break down and digest the carbs in corn before creating glucose for energy.
Vitamins, Minerals, and Other Micronutrients
- Pantothenic Acid (B5): 24% of your Daily Value (DV)
- Niacin (B3): 16% DV
- Thiamin (B1): 12% DV
- Pyridoxine (B6): 12% DV
- Vitamin C: 9% DV
- Magnesium: 9% DV
- Folate (B9): 9% DV
- Phosphorus: 9% DV
- Copper: 8% DV
- Zinc: 8% DV
- Potassium: 7% DV
- Riboflavin (B2): 7% DV
Corn on the Cob Calories and Nutrition
One medium ear of corn contains:
- Calories: 99
- Total fat: 1.5 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Total carbs: 21.6 g
- Dietary fiber: 2.5 g
- Sugar: 4.7 g
- Added sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 3.5 g
Health Benefits of Corn
Whether you eat corn in vegetable or grain form, there are several health benefits to including it in your diet. Many of these perks come from the carotenoids, vitamins and fiber found in the veggie.
1. Corn Can Protect Your Eyes and Vision
Yellow corn, specifically, plays a role in promoting eye health and protecting your vision. "Carotenoids found in corn, mainly lutein and zeaxanthin, protect the eyes from oxidative and light-induced damage," Erin Hendrickson, RDN at No Waste Nutrition, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
The carotenoids in corn not only promote healthy vision, but they might play a role in protecting against cataracts, Hendrickson says.
Several studies have observed that people who eat a diet high in lutein and zeaxanthin have a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, according to a February 2019 review in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.
2. Corn Is a Good Source of B Vitamins
One cup of corn has over 10 percent of your DV for:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
B vitamins are essential for helping enzymes in the body do their job. These vitamins play an important role in helping us use the food we eat by releasing energy from the carbs we eat and transporting oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body to be used, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Niacin, or vitamin B3, also helps to keep your nervous system, digestive systems and skin healthy, per the Mayo Clinic. In addition to corn, yeast, milk, meat and other cereal grains are good sources of niacin.
3. It's a Good Source of Fiber for a Healthy Gut
One cup of corn contains 3.6 grams of fiber, which supports a healthy gut. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults assigned male at birth eat 38 grams of fiber or more per day and adults assigned female at birth get 25 grams or more each day.
Fiber can help prevent constipation and problems related to constipation, according to the University of Michigan Health, but that's not the only way the nutrient helps us.
"Fiber provides food for the gut's healthy bacteria, which in turn is responsible for a healthy immune system, brain function and may even support weight loss," Hendrickson says.
Eating more fiber could have an effect on your gut microbiome in as little as two weeks, according to a small March 2021 study in the American Society for Microbiology. A group of 26 people increased their fiber intake by 25 grams per day for two weeks and noticed their gut microbiome was more robust with healthy bacteria than before the high-fiber diet.
4. It's Heart-Healthy
The fiber in corn can help protect your heart by lowering your cholesterol levels. In fact, just 5 to 10 grams of daily soluble fiber — the type found in corn — can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream, per the Mayo Clinic.
What's more, corn doesn't contain cholesterol. And corn products are free of cholesterol unless they're combined with meat, poultry, seafood, dairy or other cholesterol-containing animal foods. Cold cereals such as corn flakes and cooked corn cereals like yellow or white grits don't contain any cholesterol, too.
Although it has healthy fat, corn oil is cholesterol-free. Corn syrup contains a lot of sugar but zero cholesterol.
Corn tortillas, raw cornmeal and corn pasta are also cholesterol-free foods and make a nutritious addition to your diet.
Even though there are several reasons to include corn in your diet, there are a few risks to be aware of, including the potential for allergies and stomach pains.
While corn is not one of the nine major food allergens, some people have allergies or intolerances to corn and corn products.
A corn allergy is rare and can be tricky to diagnose with traditional tests, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI).
Typical symptoms of a corn allergy or intolerance can include vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, hives or dizziness per the ACAAI.
Corn May Cause Stomach Pains
Some people can have a difficult time digesting corn because of its fiber content. Eating too much corn can lead to symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain and even constipation, Hendrickson says.
One cup of corn has 3.6 grams of fiber, but if you eat more than that at one time, it may be too much for your system to digest comfortably.
Keep the portion of corn to ½ a cup at a time and drink plenty of fluids to keep stomach pains at bay, says Hendrickson.
How to Eat Corn
With the versatility of corn, there are countless ways to enjoy it as a vegetable or grain. "Corn is a versatile ingredient in soups, stews, casseroles and salads or delicious all on its own," Hendrickson says.
How to eat corn as a vegetable:
- Fresh on the cob or off the cob
- Canned or frozen as a side dish
- In salsa
- In casseroles
- In chilis, soups and stews
How to eat corn as a grain:
- Corn tortillas
- Cornbread or muffins
- Cereals containing corn (like corn flakes)
If you're watching your calories, know that corn is a nutritious food to include in your diet — just try to limit slathering it in butter. Weight gain is typically caused by eating more calories than your body needs to support physiological functioning, daily activities and any exercise you do. Theoretically, any food can be "fattening" if eating a lot of it causes you to go over your daily calorie budget.
But compared to many foods, corn is low in calories, with only 99 calories in a medium ear. While corn does contain more fat than some other veggies, that doesn't mean it causes weight gain. The fat in vegetables is unsaturated, which is healthier than the saturated fats found in animal foods, and can help keep you full for longer, per the American Heart Association.
If you find yourself only eating corn on the cob or warming up frozen corn as a stand-alone side dish, try one of these delicious and healthful recipes to experience corn in a new way:
After you cut the corn kernels from the cob, don’t toss the cob!
“Spent corn cobs can be transformed into a sweet and creamy golden corn broth, which provides an extra layer of flavor in many dishes, like rice, risotto, chowders and chili,” Hendrickson says.
- My Food Data: "Cooked Yellow Sweet Corn"
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity:"Health Benefits of Polyphenols and Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Diseases"
- Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health: "B Vitamins"
- Mayo Clinic: "Niacin"
- Institute of Medicine: "Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber,Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids"
- The University of Michigan Health: "Getting Enough Fiber"
- ACAAI: "Corn"