Is Corn Healthy or making you sick and overweight?
by Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist
and Cat Ebeling, co-author of Fat-Burning Kitchen
Contrary to popular belief, corn is a grain, not a vegetable, and is really not appropriate as a dietary staple for several reasons:
1. The problems with “antinutrients” in corn (and other grains too)
2. The inflammatory aspect of excess omega-6 fats in corn products
3. The blood sugar disrupting nature of corn products.
When civilizations such as the Mayans and Native Americans changed their diet to a corn-based one, rates of anemia, arthritis, rickets, and osteoporosis skyrocketed.
Our bodies were not made to exist on such a high quantity of grain-based foods as is present in the modern western diet. This evidence shows up in the archeological records of our ancestors. When archaeologists looked at skeletons of native Americans in burial mounds in the Midwest who ate corn as their primary staple, there was a 50% increase in malnutrition, four times as much incidence of iron-deficiency, and three times as much infectious disease, compared to the more hunter-gather ancestors who primarily ate meats and fruits and veggies as opposed to grains.
Keep in mind that we are not just talking about corn-on-the-cob (sweet corn) here… we are also talking about corn cereals, corn chips, and other modern corn-based foods that are promoted by food companies as “healthy”. There are several reasons researchers give for the nutritional problems and the weight gain caused by a corn-dominated diet:
• Corn contains lots of fast digesting starches and sugar, which raises insulin levels, causes you to be hungrier and causes your body to store calories as fat. Don’t be mistaken, just because corn does not taste obviously sweet, doesn’t mean it isn’t full of sugars. Once eaten, your body quickly turns corn based foods into sugar. Even the starches in corn products can be broken down very quickly by your body spiking your blood sugar levels, and causing cravings for more carbohydrate-based foods.
• Corn is also a poor source of protein, usually deficient in 3 of the 8 essential amino acids: lysine, isoleucine, and tryptophan. The essential amino acids are so-named because they must be obtained from the diet, since the body is unable to manufacture them.
• Corn contains a high amount of phytate, a chemical that binds to iron and inhibits its absorption by the body. So, consequently, a diet high in phytate can make people more likely to have iron-deficiency anemia and fatigue. Phytate is also a nutrient blocker (an antinutrient) and inhibits other vitamins and minerals from being utilized.
• Corn is a poor source of certain minerals such as calcium and some vitamins such as niacin (B3). Deficiencies of niacin can result in a condition known as Pellagra, which is common in civilizations that eat a lot of corn. It can cause a variety of symptoms such as dermatitis, diarrhea, and depression. Since we are now a nation of corn-eaters, it wouldn’t be surprising that this is more common here than we realize.
• Corn oils are also used in most processed foods (along with soybean oils). Both corn oil and soybean oil are excessively high in inflammatory omega-6 fats and low in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. This throws the delicate balance of omega-6 to omega-3 in your body out of whack and can cause degenerative diseases and weight gain over time.
In addition, corn oil and soybean oil are highly refined with high heat and solvents, which oxidizes. and damages the fragile polyunsaturated oils, and makes them even more inflammatory when you ingest them in processed foods. Read this article to find out the truth about healthy vs unhealthy cooking oils
It’s not just people who eat too much corn based foods. A large amount of the nation’s corn crop ends up feeding commercially raised cattle, which are cheaply fattened on corn and other grains before slaughter. Beef from corn-fattened cattle also has much higher ratios of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than healthier grass fed beef which contains more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Most meat in supermarkets comes from grain-fed animals and not healthy grass fed animals.
Because corn and other grains are an unnatural diet and difficult to digest, cattle raised on corn develop higher stomach acidity, which is a breeding ground for the dangerous E. coli O157:H7, the deadly strain of the bacteria. E-coli is rare in healthy grass-fed meat.
While eliminating refined grains such as corn and wheat (yes, it seems they are in everything!) can seem a very daunting task, the reward is a return to wonderful health, sparkling eyes, clear skin, clear thinking, and less body fat as the body is once again able to extract appropriate nutrients from food, reduced inflammation caused by grain based foods, and a resolution of nutritional deficiencies from the lack of absorption.
Do yourself a favor, and try at least 2 weeks with no grain products at all. I guarantee you will see some drastic improvements in your weight, energy, and general outlook! This is easier than you may think… For example, instead of having pasta with sauce and meat for dinner, a better alternative would be to have just grass-fed meat, sauce, and veggies, topped with a little parmesan cheese. It’s delicious and no grains!
Another example would be breakfast… instead of cereals, bagels, or muffins, try to base most of your breakfasts on cage-free organic whole eggs with lots of veggies and perhaps some bison sausage or other nitrate/nitrite-free turkey or chicken sausage.
If you’re very active and need a little more carbs with your breakfast, instead of grains, a small piece of fruit or some tea with a little bit of raw honey can be great additions to the egg/veggies based breakfast. This is a delicious and satisfying breakfast that will control your blood sugar, balance your hormones, and eliminate the problems with antinutrients found in most grains. Those are just a couple examples, but I think you get the point of how easy this can be.
I know it may not be realistic for everybody to give up grains fully, so the most realistic plan for many people is to only eat grain based foods (bread, pasta, cereals, etc) on their one cheat day each week, and save 6 days per week to be grain-free. Your body with thank you!
-Cathering Ebeling and Mike Geary are co-authors of the popular ebook, Fat-Burning Kitchen, which shows you how to totally revamp your kitchen to make your body a fat-burning machine!
Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
Her Fitness Hut