No summer BBQ is complete without fresh corn on the cob, but there is conflicting information about whether it's actually good for you. If you're watching your weight, you might be particularly interested in whether corn is fattening.
Corn is not fattening and, when eaten in moderation, it's a healthy food choice.
The good news is that when eaten in moderation, corn is not fattening and provides several nutritional benefits. Eating corn along with a variety of other vegetables instead of more fattening foods should make it easier to manage your weight.
Corn Benefits and Side Effects
Weight gain is typically caused by eating more calories than your body needs to support physiological functioning, daily activities of living 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 63 per one-half cup, according to the USDA. The American Academy of Family Physicians says that most adults need about 1,500 to 2,000 calories each day. That serving of corn would only comprise 3 to 4 percent of those totals — a small fraction.
Corn does contain more fat than some other vegetables, but that doesn't make it any more fattening. The fat in vegetables is also unsaturated fat, which is healthier than the saturated fats found in animal foods, explains the American Heart Association.
Read more: 9 Delicious Ways to Enjoy End-of-Summer Corn
Carbs in Corn
One of the reasons corn gets a bad rap is its high carbohydrate content. With 14 grams per half cup, its carb count is similar to that of a boiled white potato, per USDA data. As such, corn — along with peas and potatoes — is considered a starchy vegetable.
The concern with starchy vegetables is that they have more of an effect on your blood sugar than non-starchy vegetables. Food that your body can digest quickly can raise your blood sugar levels higher and faster than food that your body digests more slowly, explains Kaiser Permanente. Sharp rises in blood sugar typically lead to sharp drops, which can leave you feeling tired and hungry again soon after eating and make it difficult to control your calorie intake.
However, a serving of corn, especially when eaten as part of a nutritious meal, is nothing to worry about. This is partly due to the fact that it contains a good amount of fiber — 2 grams per half cup. That's more than the amount in the same portion of boiled potato or broccoli, according to the USDA.
Fiber helps slow the digestion of starchy carbs, so they have a lesser effect on blood sugar. According to the National Institutes of Health, even people with diabetes can eat corn, as long as they stick to one serving.
Keeping Corn Healthy
One of the most popular ways to eat corn is straight off the cob, slathered in butter. That's when corn really can become fattening. Corn is only as light and lean as its preparation.
If you love corn, you can continue to eat it with dinner or as part of a healthy lunch, but look for nutritious recipes that let you indulge without feeling guilty. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Corn on the cob: Brush it with a teaspoon of olive oil, which is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, according to the American Heart Association.
- Corn salsa: Make it using fresh tomatoes, black beans, chopped red onion, jalapeños and lime juice.
- Mexican grilled corn salad: Add olive oil, shallots, red chili, low-fat Greek yogurt and lime juice.
- Corn and zucchini blossom salad: Add fresh basil, parsley, olive oil, red pepper, black pepper, white wine vinegar and feta cheese.
- USDA: "Corn, Raw"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Nutrition for Athletes"
- American Heart Association: "The Skinny on Fats"
- USDA: "Potato, Boiled"
- Kaiser Permanente: "Sources of Glucose"
- USDA: "Broccoli, Raw"
- National Institutes of Health: "Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity"
- American Heart Association: "Monounsaturated Fat"