Is Cornbread Healthy? Benefits, Risks, Recipes and Tips

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Cornbread can be served in slices or made into easy-to-grab corn muffins.
Image Credit: MSPhotographic/iStock/GettyImages

Cornbread is a classic cold-weather side dish that's a staple on holiday tables and alongside chili. Whether made from a box or scratch, this sweet and crumbly bread is not only delicious but also has several nutritional benefits.

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Here, we explain whether cornbread is healthy and ways to enjoy this delicious treat.

Cornbread Nutrition Facts

One slice of cornbread contains:

  • ​‌Calories‌​: 184
  • ​Total fat​‌: 6.1 g
    • ​Saturated fat​‌: 1.2 g
  • ​‌Cholesterol‌​: 34.2 mg
  • ​‌Sodium‌​: 317.9 mg
  • ​‌Total carbs‌​: 27.8 g
    • ​Dietary fiber​‌: 1 g
    • ​‌Sugar‌​: 4.5 g
  • ​‌Protein‌​: 4.2 g

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Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients

  • ​‌Selenium‌: 16% of your Daily Value (DV)
  • Riboflavin‌: 15% DV
  • Thiamin‌: 14% DV
  • Folate‌: 11% DV
  • ​‌Calcium‌​: 10% DV
  • Iron‌: 9% DV
  • Phosphorus‌:​ 8% DV
  • Copper‌: 4% DV
  • Zinc‌: 4% DV

Health Benefits of Cornbread

Cornbread can be a part of a nutritious balanced diet. If you love this sweet side dish next to a hearty chili or at the Thanksgiving table, you can also enjoy some of these nutritional benefits.

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It's a Good Source of Selenium

One slice of cornbread has 16 percent of your DV for selenium, an important mineral that supports reproduction, thyroid health and DNA production, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Selenium also acts as an antioxidant by helping protect the body from free radicals.

It's a Good Source of Folate

Folate is essential for red blood cell formation and for healthy cell growth. This B vitamin is particularly important during reproductive years as low folate levels can lead to neural tube defects anencephaly or spina bifida in a developing fetus, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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One slice of cornbread has 11 percent DV of folate. Other foods high in folate include enriched wheat products (such as pasta, cereals, bread and tortillas) and naturally in beans, peas, lentils, oranges and leafy greens. It's recommended that people who could potentially become pregnant also take a daily vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid, per the CDC.

It Has Many B Vitamins

Cornbread is a source of several B vitamins, especially thiamin and riboflavin. With 14 percent of the DV for thiamin and 15 percent of the DV for riboflavin, cornbread can help you get enough of these energy-supporting nutrients.

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Thiamin is essential for getting usable energy out of the food you eat and is needed for the growth and development of cells, per the Mayo Clinic.

Thiamin deficiency can lead to neurological conditions like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which leads to cognitive decline. Because so many foods are enriched with this B vitamin, deficiencies in the United States are rare, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Riboflavin is also essential in turning the food you eat into usable energy.

It's a Source of Phosphorus

Phosphorus is an essential mineral that's important for the structure of teeth, bones and DNA. It's also the main component of a prime energy source in the body known as ATP, per the NIH.

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One slice of cornbread has 8 percent of the daily value of phosphorus. But, it's important to understand that not all of the phosphorus in cornbread will be absorbed by the body. The type of phosphorus found in grains and seeds, called phytic acid, isn't effectively absorbed by the body, per the NIH.

Health Risks of Cornbread

Along with several health benefits of eating cornbread, you should be aware of the added sugars and potential allergic reactions for those with a corn allergy.

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Added Sugars

Cornbread, especially bread prepared commercially or from a mix, is often high in added sugars. While corn does have some natural sweetness to it, added sugars help make this bread more appetizing.

Cornbread's sugar content ranges across recipes and brands, but some store-bought options (such as this pick from Walmart) could have around 15 grams of sugar. While this may be OK as a special treat, it's important to limit the amount of added sugars eaten on a regular basis. Eating too much added sugar is associated with cavities, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, per a June 2019 article in the European Journal of Paediatric Dentistry.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that less than 10 percent of your daily calories come from added sugars. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this means no more than 50 grams of added sugars per day.

Corn Allergy

Corn is not one of the top nine food allergens, but it is possible to develop an allergy to the protein in corn. If someone is allergic to corn, they may experience the following symptoms, according to the New York Allergy and Sinus Center:

  • Hives
  • Sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Anaphylaxis

The only way to avoid symptoms of a food allergy is by staying away from that food. While cornbread is an obvious source of corn, others include packaged foods like chips, cereals, crackers and other snacks, tortillas, popcorn, fried foods that have breading, puddings and more.

Be sure to read the labels on any packaged foods that may include corn in the ingredient list.

Warning

If you experience signs of anaphylaxis including difficulty breathing, chest pain or tightness, swelling of the lips or tongue, or difficulty staying awake after contact with a potential food allergen, seek medical attention immediately.

How to Make and Serve Cornbread

Cornbread is a favorite side dish to serve with Thanksgiving dinner, but you can enjoy this sweet and starchy dish all chilly season long.

Buy cornbread pre-made, doctor it up using a cornbread mix or make your own cornbread from scratch with this High-Protein Gluten-Free Cornbread recipe.

Serve your cornbread with:

The Bottom Line

Cornbread isn't the most nutritious food out there — after all, it is a source of added sugars. While it's OK to enjoy cornbread from time to time as a treat, stick to just one portion at a time and make sure to focus on whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and lean proteins for the majority of your eating plan.

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