Maize, Makkai, or our good old Bhutta is not as modest in its nutritional benefits. Owing to its food value and numerous uses in industry, corn, in fact, is one of the most important crops in the world. It assumes the status of being one of the chief sources of energy in the human diet.
A brief historical review reveals that maize grass cultivation originated in Mexico by the Indians, about 10,000 years ago. Although known as “poor man’s cereal”, it has many nutritional qualities.
Cooking whole grains is better than taking refined ones. It is reported that cooking corn significantly boosts the grain’s health-giving anti-oxidant activity. In fact, cooking increases the anti-oxidants in corn by about 53%. In addition, to its anti-oxidant benefits, cooked corn releases ferulic acid, a unique phytochemical (plant compound) which provides health benefits such as battling cancer. These benefits are even more pronounced in sweet corn.
Although, corn is yellow due to carotene, it has small amounts of beta-carotene. The role of carotenes in the prevention of oxidative reactions and cancers is noteworthy.
Rich in carbohydrates, corn provides minerals and vitamins like potassium, phosphorus, iron and thiamine. Corn oil is rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (55%). Mono-unsaturated Fatty acids (MUFA) (32%) and saturates are 12%. The former two fatty acids lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Corn Oil, therefore, is a cholesterol fighter, hence , a good choice for heart patients. The principal protein is Zein. The proteins in maize as is in most cereals are incomplete proteins. These proteins lack some of the essential amino acids if eaten alone. To get complete proteins all that you need to do is add legumes (daals and pulses), nuts, dairy products or animal protein, which contain the missing amino acid (lyseine).
Fibre is of two types namely the soluble and the insoluble type. The soluble type is known to lower blood cholesterol and blood glucose. The insoluble fiber is known to be beneficial for bowel function. Deficiency of dietary fiber has been linked to constipation, cancer, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Corn meal provides a total of 15% fiber out of which 9% is soluble.
Processing and refining in the manufacture of cornflakes, removes the fiber rich pericarp and germ. This depletes the grain of most of its proteins, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals. ‘Corn flakes’ manufacturers fortify and enrich the cereal with vitamins and minerals to compensate for some of these losses.
The glycemic index (ability of food to raise blood sugar) of corn is fairly high and therefore, must be taken in moderation by weight watchers and diabetics. Being gluten free, it is suitable for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
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