Maize,also known as corn or makkai or bhutta,has many nutritional benefits. Owing to its food value and numerous uses in the industry,corn is one of the most important crops in the world.
A recent research at Cornell University indicates that cooking corn unleashes beneficial nutrients including carotenoids (plant version of vitamin A) that can substantially reduce the chance of heart disease and cancer.
Despite conventional opinion that processing fruits and vegetables results in lower nutritional value than fresh produce,cooked corn retains its anti-oxidant activity even after the loss of vitamin C. In fact,cooking increases the anti-oxidants in corn by about 53 per cent. In addition to its anti-oxidant benefits,cooked corn releases ferulic acid,a compound which provides many health benefits. These benefits are even more pronounced in sweet corn.
Ferulic acid is a unique phyto-chemical found mostly in grains and in very low amounts in fruits and vegetables. It is found in very high levels in corn. Cooking corn increases the amount of ferulic acid significantly.
Although corn is yellow due to carotene,it has small amounts of beta-carotene. Carotenes help in preventing oxidative reactions and cancers.
Rich in carbohydrates,corn provides minerals and vitamins like potassium,phosphorus,iron and thiamine. Corn oil has 55 per cent poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). It has 32 per cent mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and 12 per cent saturates. The former two fatty acids lower harmful LDL cholesterol. Corn oil,therefore,is a good choice for heart patients.
The proteins in maize are incomplete. They lack essential amino acids. Add legumes (pulses),nuts,dairy products or animal protein,which contain the missing amino acid (lyseine).
Traditionally,Indian preparations use the entire grain as in makkai ki roti made from corn meal,bhuna bhutta (corn on the cob),popcorn and most sweet corn preparations.
The difference lies in the lack of dietary fibre in the refined form. Fibre is of two types: soluble and insoluble. The soluble type is known to lower blood cholesterol and blood glucose. The insoluble fibre is known to be beneficial for bowel function. Deficiency of dietary fibre has been linked to constipation,cancer,high cholesterol,diabetes,obesity and hypertension. Corn meal provides 15 per cent fibre,of which nine per cent is soluble.
The glycemic index (ability of food to raise blood sugar) of corn is fairly high and therefore,diabetics and weight-conscious people should take it in moderation. Being gluten free,it is suitable for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being,one should integrate physical,mental and spiritual health. According to her: To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.