If you are diabetic, well-meaning friends or family might have warned you away from corn as a starchy, carbohydrate-rich food you shouldn't eat. But corn offers plenty of nutritional benefits that make it worth the extra effort to include it as part of a balanced diabetic diet. The trick to including corn in your eating plan is to balance it with sources of protein and fat that can mitigate the effect of carbohydrate-rich foods on blood glucose levels.
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People with diabetes can't properly process glucose and use it for energy. Instead, their production or use of insulin, the hormone responsible for converting glucose to fuel, is hampered, leading to episodes of extremely high blood sugar levels. A diagnosis of diabetes typically requires a blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or more during a random test or one over 126 mg/dL after an eight-hour fast. Over 23 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.
Carbohydrates can cause blood sugar to rise, so diabetics typically have to pay close attention to the carbohydrates in their diet. This can be done through counting carbohydrates and limiting the specific amount allowed per meal, by using an exchange system to swap out specific carbohydrate-containing foods with others or by using the glycemic index, a measure of blood sugar response to specific carbohydrate-containing foods.
Corn is high in starch, a type of carbohydrate that can quickly raise blood sugar levels. This doesn't mean that as a diabetic you need to completely forgo corn, however. Corn contains plenty of healthy nutrients, including iron, vitamins A and B-6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and selenium. It also provides a high level of fiber and is considered a whole-grain food. To properly include corn in a diabetic diet, consume it along with foods containing protein or fat and limit your consumption to one ear of corn or one-half cup of kernels at any given meal.
For a healthy change in your diabetic diet, consider adding products containing blue corn, a variety grown in Latin America and used to make tortillas, corn chips and other foods. A 2007 report in the "Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture" found that blue corn products had a lower glycemic index, less starch, more protein and more fat than yellow or white corn products. The blue corn also provided anthocyanins, phytochemical compounds that act as antioxidants in the body.
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse; Diabetes Overview; November 2008
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Meal Plans and a Healthy Diet
- American Diabetes Association: Carbohydrates
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Corn
- NutraIngredients; Anthocyanin-rich Corn Products May Benefit Dieters, Diabetics; Stephen Daniells; July 2007