Millions and millions of acres in the United States are dedicated to corn, because frankly, America has a love affair with corn. And that’s not surprising, since corn goes back through the ages. But the truth is, most corn grown in America is not for human consumption. Instead, it’s reserved for animals and even automobiles. Some naturally finds its way to your dinner table, but the rest is churned into high fructose corn syrup, sweeteners, and starch used in processed and fast foods. Now If that doesn’t shock you, here are six truths that just might.
Corn is a human invention
Here’s a surprising truth about corn — it’s manmade. Unlike many other vegetables, corn does not occur naturally in the wild. In fact, history suggests that corn can only survive if planted and protected by humans. Apparently, people living in central Mexico refined corn 7,000 years ago from a wild grass called teosinte — also known as maize. But it was not the corn we know today. Ancient kernels were small and far apart, unlike the kernels on modern-day corn. In a way, corn was the ancient man’s attempt to mass-produce processed food.
Only one percent of 90 million acres grown, is eaten “whole”
Fast forward to today…More than 90 million acres of land in the U.S. is devoted to corn, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). That’s approximately 69 million football fields of corn! And while you’re likely familiar with popcorn and sweet corn, that’s really not the bread and butter of the industry. In fact, only one percent of corn production actually makes it “whole” to the dinner table. Most of the crops planted in the U.S. are used to feed livestock, fuel cars, and export. The rest is turned into high fructose corn syrup, sweeteners, and starch that adds bulk and calories to your processed and fast foods.
Corn disrupts the body and contributes to a host of ailments including cancer
In case you didn’t know, corn is not really a veggie, but rather a grain. Out of all the grains, corn has the poorest Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid ratio. Here’s the kicker though, while omega 3 fatty acids produce hormones that are anti-inflammatory in nature, omega 6 fatty acids produce hormones that sustain inflammation. According to expert research, when omega 6 fatty acids begin to outnumber the omega 3 fatty acids in a food, they disrupt the body’s ability to control the inflammatory response. This chronic inflammation may create many health issues, such as:
- Cardiovascular disease,
- High cholesterol
- Immune disease
It makes you fat
While eating more fruit and vegetables, in general, promotes weight loss, corn, unfortunately, does not fall into that category. Corn is a carbohydrate, high in starch, and with a high glycemic index. So, what does that do for your waistline? Well, according to a study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, people who ate more starch, like that found in corn, tended to gain weight easily. Alternatively, non-starchy foods such as green leafy vegetables, string beans, apples, pears, and berries have lower glycemic loads, which helps you lose weight.
Trying to avoid corn is like trying to avoid the plague
By now, you’re probably thinking that the best solution for avoiding inflammation and weight gain is to eliminate corn from your diet altogether…well think again. It’s not that easy. Corn is everywhere these days! Trying to avoid it is like trying to avoid the plague. It’s in foods, drinks condiments, and even salad dressings. Since so much corn is turned into high fructose corn syrup, you can’t help but consume it. It’s an additive in so many of the foods and beverages you find at the grocery store and restaurants. For instance, when it comes to dining out, corn is the most widely used ingredient in America’s fast foods. Not only are you consuming corn as a filler in your burgers, it also provides food for the animals whose meat makes up the burgers. the oil for frying potatoes, and the syrup that sweetens your soda.
Corn by-products cause obesity in everyone!
Here’s the thing about high-fructose corn syrup and obesity. While some claim it’s no different than other sweeteners when it comes to gaining weight and obesity, studies paint a different picture. When rats consume high-fructose corn syrup at amounts far below those found in soda pop, they become obese, according to late Bart Hoebel, Princeton professor of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience. And it’s not just one or two, it’s every single rodent, across the board. In fact, you don’t even see that kind of weight gain when rats are fed a high-fat diet.
Another point to note is that the rodents in the study that were fed water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup packed on a lot more weight than rodents that were given water sweetened with regular table sugar. In addition, the amount of table sugar in the solution was similar to what you normally get in soft drinks. However, the solution made with high-fructose corn syrup contained only half of what you’d find in most commercial soft drinks. But still the rats gained significantly more weight drinking high-fructose corn syrup. Not only do studies show significant weight gain in lab animals that consume high-fructose corn syrup over the long-term, it also seems to lead to a rise in abnormal blood fats and body fat — particularly around the middle section.
Maybe it’s time America gave up its love affair with corn
So how does someone give up corn, particularly since it’s in so many of the foods you eat? Avoid processed foods, and read labels to reveal ingredients, such as:
- Corn flour, cornmeal, corn gluten, cornflakes
- Cornstarch (also listed as starch or vegetable starch)
- Corn oil
- High fructose corn syrup or corn syrup
- Fructose or crystalline fructose
- Hydrol, treacle
- Free fatty acids
Remember, just because it appears to be healthy, you can’t assume it’s void of corn. Corn and its byproducts can be found in cereals, soft drinks (regular and diet), candies, peanut butter, condiments, confectioners’ sugar, baked goods, brewed beverages, gravies, canned vegetables, cheese spreads, ice cream — and the list goes on and on and on. You can still enjoy the occasional corn on the cob, popped corn, or corn products. But like everything, moderation is key.