If there’s one near-irresistible temptation when watching a movie, it’s to go and grab some popcorn. In the warm months of summer, who can resist the call of corn on the cob at the barbecue? Or perhaps your Thanksgiving meal just can’t go on without a big scoop of creamed corn. Regardless of how it’s eaten, there’s no doubt that corn is a big part of the standard American diet. If there’s so many different ways that people eat corn, there’s got to be some sort of health benefit in the little yellow kernels, right? Or should we be trying to push corn off the Paleo plate?
I remember that when I was growing up, my life was dictated by corn. In fact, our household timeline revolved around corn, because I was raised in a largely Amish community. Early in the year, “Is the corn planted?” and later, “How’s the corn going?” That was our timeline in that tiny town. Biking down the street took me past acres and acres of cornfields, and this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise—corn has been a staple in American society since the colonial days.
Some of the most well known health benefits of corn include its fiber and its levels of phosphorus and vitamin B3, which assists in the DNA repair process. As a water-soluble vitamin, B3 (also called niacin) is a valuable ingredient for our bodies, and we use it to convert food into energy. That’s important, right?
But on the other hand, corn’s also sporting some not-so-good features. Many people don’t realize it, but corn is NOT a veggie! Somewhere along the line it started being called such, but we need to acknowledge it for what it is—a grain. Paleo has had a history of rejecting grain-based food, and corn has many of the same toxic properties that prompted this reaction from the Paleo standpoint. A single ear of corn could have upwards of 15 grams of sugar, and corn contains a storage of phytates worth noting.
Phytates are toxins that affect how bioavailable nutrients are after you eat them. In other words, when you eat, you’ve got lots of nutrients hanging around in your intestines waiting to get absorbed so they can do their awesome things. But if you consume phytates like those present in corn, the phytates will bind to those nutrients, keeping them from being absorbed. That’s no fun for anybody.
Are the health benefits of corn enough to outweigh the grain-based toxins?
Mark Sisson says: “We’ve told you countless times but we’ll tell you again. CORN IS NOT A VEGETABLE IT’S A GRAIN!! Our advice? Treat this GRAIN like any other GRAIN in your diet and bump it to the bottom of your shopping list!”
The Whole9 Team says: “Based on the science as we understand it today, and our vast clinical experience with the tens of thousands of people who have completed our Whole30 program, we make some general recommendations as to which food groups may make you less healthy—including grains….Don’t include grains of any kind. This includes…corn.”
There are no health benefits in corn great enough to exceed the damage to your body by consuming this grain, and any nutrients remaining are in danger of binding to the phytates, preventing them from being absorbed. There are lots of great places to get nutrients in the Paleo lifestyle, so choose something else and leave no space on your plate for corn!