University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Corn Research Essay
Throughout my life I always had an idea that corn played a pretty large roll in our diets, but never gave the topic very much interest or investigation until this assignment. I found myself shocked by a lot of the information that I came across in the assigned reading, supermarkets, internet, and my own home. I immediately learned that I had many different misconceptions of both raw corn, and the foods that it is an ingredient of. This assignment had questions running through my mind regarding the healthiness of corn, the versatility of corn, and whether or not corn is even a vegetable.
My investigation included a small notebook of mine, my kitchen and bathroom, two very well known supermarkets in Foods Co. and Smart & Final, and the world wide web. Searching through my own home, I found plenty of items that I never would have guessed to have corn in them. I was not too surprised with anything that I found in my kitchen or inside my refrigerator, but in my restroom were things that definitely caught me off guard. Both my toothpaste and tooth brush contain some type of corn product.
My toothpaste bottle/tube stressed that the sorbitol in their product was sourced through the hydrogenation of corn oil, and that if the user has any sensitivity to corn he or she should see a doctor before using. The bristles of my sister’s tooth brush is filled with corn starch, for the purpose of creating a soft brushing experience for sensitive gums. Although both of those products surprised me greatly with their being made with corn, that was not my biggest shock. I found that even my deodorant was produced with corn-derived ingredients. I went on to read an article that says all natural deodorants are made with corn starch.
The fact that corn is something that we use to both help restrain perspiration, and to generally keep a nice odor to ourselves really had me scratching my head. After explaining to my mother why I was wandering around the house gazing at random things and their ingredient labels, she pointed me in the direction of a few more corn involved products in her room. I soon discovered a few unexpected items such as hairspray, perfume, and nail polish remover. Never did I expect to see so many things that we use in our every day lives, outside of food products, to be created from, or influenced by corn-derived ingredients.
The next area of my corn investigation was Supermarkets; specifically Foods Co. and Smart & Final. There were a few things that shocked me greatly in these places, but not quite as much as the search through my own home. Walking through the isles of Foods Co. and Smart & Final, I found quite an unpredictable corn filled product in both Wonder Bread and Pepperidge Farm Bread. Turns out that both of these brands run high in fructose corn syrup, being each of their fourth ingredient. As well as most breads, probably the most well known brand of ketchup, Heinz, is high in both corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup.
Apparently I grew up pretty naive in believing that ketchup was made purely of tomatoes and possibly a little bit of salt. One thing that I found to be strange is that high fructose corn syrup is an ingredient in both protein/nutrition bars and candy bars. I was scratching my head for a good while trying to figure out if corn syrup was actually a healthy ingredient or an unhealthy one. Power Bars might have misunderstood the word “nutrition”, because the very famous Hershey Chocolate brand and Life Savers gummy candy are both very high on their amounts of corn syrup.
The contrast of Power Bars claiming to be a healthy alternative to sugary snacks left me a bit confused. Overall I wasn’t completely blown away by most items found in supermarkets that use different forms of corn in their production, but there were a few that definitely made me scratch my head and think for a second. My investigation concluded after my venture to the supermarkets. Once I was home and reflected on my entire page of notes on what I discovered, my eyes were opened to the importance of corn in today’s culture.
I began to realize that corn is much more than a bunch of kernels that feed our stomach and help create other basic foods. I always knew that corn played a large role in the production of common foods such as tortillas, chips, candy, and believe it or not I also knew that it was used in some brands of yogurt. Never did I expect to find it in condiments such as ketchup, or nutrition bars like the popular brand “Power Bars”; and I don’t think anybody would have guessed that corn is used in the production of in-home items like some hairsprays, toothpaste, and deodorants.
I still think it is strange that corn is something that takes part in cleansing our bodies of odor and cleaning our teeth. The exploration throughout local supermarkets and my home helped me gain proper knowledge of corn’s versatility. I discovered that corn is not purely an edible product, but that it is something that can be used as an ingredient for cleansing tools such as toothpaste, and odor removers such as deodorants. Also, I learned of the different ways that corn can be altered to be a proper ingredient for certain products.
When we say that corn is all around us, we certainly do not mean that there are yellow kernels in our soda cans, or that solid corn has been mixed into our toothpastes. There are different subdivisions of corn, or derivatives. When we say corn is all around us, we could mean corn starch, sweet corn, corn syrup, or others. As my in-home and supermarket exploration reached an end, my online investigation was about to begin. I decided to first answer the question that had me most intrigued: How healthy is corn for your body?
I quickly found a very informative and factual blog website that provided exactly the information that I was hoping to learn. Eatingwell. com contained two articles written by separate authors, in two different years. The first article answered my question with two strong points, while the other brought to light five different myths about sweet corn. The first article, “What’s Fresh: Is Corn Healthy Or Not? ” explained that corn is indeed a healthy ingredient. The author, Carolyn Malcoun, made it known that corn is a starchy vegetable.
Like most other starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and peas, it contains a solid amount of fiber. Specifically speaking, corn contains four grams of fiber per one cup of kernels. Fiber, like most of us probably realize, is an indigestible portion of plant foods that is extremely healthy for us. Fiber is known for lowering blood sugar, reducing cholesterol, and very well could help prevent colon cancer. As well as containing fiber, corn is also filled with a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, like most yellow or green colored vegetables are.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are both well known for reducing risk of chronic eye diseases such as cataracts, especially as you begin to age. So ultimately, this article was written to prove the fact that corn can very well be a part of a healthy diet. One note that was made very clear was that the corn this author was writing of was corn that is to be bought on the cob, not corn that makes enthol and high-fructose corn syrup, which is definitely not the same. Unfortunately, that is the type of corn that is found most common in the American diet.
In fact, of the ninety-four million acres of corn that was grown in the United States in the year 2007, about one percent of it was sweet corn. It was a high recommendation to support your local farmers and receive your corn and other plant and ground-grown vegetables fresh. The next article that I examined was written by Matthew Thompson, in July of last year. Thompson is the associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine that brought to light five different but common myths about sweet corn, the corn that is found most commonly used in the American diet.
The first myth that he tackled was the myth that most sweet corn is genetically modified. In the year of 2011, only three to four percent of the sweet corn grown on United State’s soil was genetically modified, which is planned to be a much different number in the summer of 2013. Monsanto, a giant sustainable agricultural company, is approving new genetically modified performance sweet-corn seeds. Although there has not been much word on how many of the new seeds will be planted throughout the summer, USDA (United States Department Of Agriculture) organic corn has been proved to be the way to go.
The second myth was that corn is both fattening and sugary. The truth is that one ear of corn contains the same number of calories and even less than a quarter of the amount of sugar. Although that might mean that corn is one of the healthier choices at your family get together doesn’t mean that we should decide to scarf down a corn on the cob that is smothered in butter and other condiments of that nature. The third myth was that corn is made less nutritious when cooked. Although you might be thinking to yourself how much that makes sense (much like I id), cooking the corn actually increases antioxidant activity; which helps protect the body from diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The fourth myth is that corn has zero healthy benefits, which was quickly verified as an invalid assumption when I learned that one mid-sized ear of sweet corn offers a three-gram dose of dietary fiber which we earlier discovered to be extremely nutritious for our bodies. The fifth and last myth that was brought to light was that the best way to choose corn is by color.
Turns out that the variety of the corn is far less important than the freshness of the cob. The color of the kernels actually doesn’t matter. Preferences will vary, just like choosing your flavor of ice cream. Curious as to how to choose the corn that would be considered most fresh? Simple. Don’t purchase corn that has been out of the field for over twenty-four hours. A quick Google search answered my last question: Is corn a vegetable? I had assumed that since corn is something that grows from the ground that it must be a vegetable, which I now know as not to be true.
I learned that corn is actually considered to be a grain. Corn indeed grows from the ground, but is not attached to a stem, leaf, or root. However, this is a highly debated topic throughout America, ask the US State Senators of New York. They had the liberty of deciding the state vegetable. Despite the fact that the state of New York is the second largest onion producer in the United States, the popular vote went to corn. How can corn be the official vegetable of a state when it is actually considered a grain rather than a vegetable? I never found the answer to that one.
Once my study of corn had completely reached an end, I finally realized how much I actually did not know about corn. A large number of different facts were brought to light, and the air was cleared referring to the different misconceptions and assumptions that I too have made about corn, as well as many of the people around my every day life. This is an assignment that I am happy I tackled on full force, because it had to do with my every day life. I am glad that I was able to have an assignment that was so relevant to the American lifestyle.