Is Corn a Bad Food to Eat With Diabetes?

Grilled corn with toppings
Is Corn a Bad Food to Eat With Diabetes? (Image: Eugene Mymrin/Moment/GettyImages)

For a Type 2 diabetic, the dietary goal is to lose weight, to maintain that loss and to control blood sugar. While the primary focus should be on getting plenty of lean protein and “slow carbs," which are those that convert more slowly to glucose in your bloodstream, you can enjoy other foods that you may have previously considered off-limits. One of the common myths of diabetic diets is that all starches, including starchy vegetables like corn, are bad foods to eat. The truth is, however, corn and diabetes aren't mutually exclusive — as long as you keep the serving size in mind.

Tip

Cooked corn, both on the cob and off, is good for diabetics in moderation.

Carbs in a Diabetic Diet

Everyone needs carbs to fuel their bodily functions, but the amount of carbohydrate you require daily depends on individual factors like sex, weight and physical activity. A dietitian can help you arrive at a number that works for you. In general, most adults with diabetes should aim for no more than 200 grams of carbs a day, says MedlinePlus.

The American Diabetes Association reports that a “diabetic diet” is virtually identical to a healthy diet. Whole foods rather than processed foods work best for health. To that end, diabetics should focus on foods low in saturated fat, sugar and sodium, and select lean proteins like fish and chicken; non-starchy vegetables like greens and peppers; fruits; whole grains; and healthy fats most often.

That said, starchy foods are not off the menu; you just need to pay close attention to serving size. The serving size for starchy vegetables like corn or potatoes is 1/2 cup cooked, while 1/3 cup cooked is the size for starches like rice and pasta.

As a visual aid, if you divide a 9-inch plate into quarters, you would fill a fourth with lean protein like baked salmon or chicken breast; a fourth with a starch like corn or brown rice; and the remaining half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables like steamed broccoli, cauliflower or greens.

Corn and Diabetes

If you count carbs as part of your diabetic diet, a half-cup serving of sweet cooked corn gives you 16 grams of carbs, while a small ear about 6 inches long contains 19 grams. For those who consult the glycemic index when choosing carbs — a tool for measuring how quickly a carb-containing food converts to glucose — sweet corn falls into the “moderate” GI category, with a serving receiving a 52 on the scale.

Be aware, though, of unhealthy additions to your cooked corn, like butter and salt, which add saturated fat and sodium to your vegetable. Try enjoying your serving of corn with a dab of a plant-based butter substitute and fresh herbs like basil or cilantro.

Diabetics can also enjoy other foods containing corn, like air-popped popcorn, which has 6 grams of carbs in a cup; and popcorn cakes, which contains 8 grams in a one-cake serving. For all processed foods with corn, check the nutrition label for carb content.

As part of a healthy diet, corn delivers other valuable nutrients like fiber, for digestive health; vitamin A, for eyes and skin; and B-family vitamins, which benefit nerve and brain health.

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