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Corn

by Carly Neubert, BA, NC on October 12, 2022

When I went gluten-free and low-carb about 20 years ago, I stopped eating wheat and everything made from wheat. That meant cutting out many of my staple foods such as bread, pasta, cookies, chips, cake, crackers, and tortillas. The logical option was to switch to prepared foods that were gluten-free---which was a tall order at that time. The “gluten-free” movement didn’t have a lot of momentum and it was rare to find any food that was labeled “gluten-free.” So I learned to rely on foods made from corn, rice, and potatoes. My favorite snack foods were corn chips, salsa, and fresh avocado.  

Technically, corn is considered a cereal grain, a vegetable, and a fruit. When you eat corn on the cob, you are eating a vegetable. When you eat corn kernels, you are eating a cereal grain. And when you eat popcorn, also the kernel, it is considered fruit. Anytime you eat the seed or flower of a plant, you are eating the “fruit.” Corn is also called “maize” and is native to the Americas.  

Although corn is delicious and nutritious, there are some drawbacks that will have you thinking twice about your favorite corn chips or tortillas. 

FAQ

Is corn gluten-free?  

Corn that is freshly picked off the stalk is gluten-free. However, because it is a cereal grain it is often processed in the same factory and machines that are used for wheat. Corn ends up cross-contaminated with wheat and gluten.  Additionally, corn can also be cross-reactive. Basically, the protein in wheat (gluten) and the protein in corn (zein) can look the same to your immune cells and you can have a food allergy or intolerance to both. So if you know you are gluten-sensitive, you may want to limit your corn intake.  

Is corn on the Paleo diet?  

Because corn is a cereal grain, it is not a part of the standard Paleo DietAlthough it has far less fiber and carbohydrates than most cereal grains, it is NOT recommended on a standard Paleo Diet. 

Can I eat corn on the keto diet? 

No, because corn is both a cereal grain and starchy vegetable, it is not recommended on the keto dietNon-starchy green vegetables, such as broccoli and lettuce are the foundation of vegetable intake on a ketogenic diet. 

Is corn hypoallergenic?

If you are following an elimination diet, rotating foods, dealing with Leaky Gut, histamine intolerance, dealing with MCAS (mast cell activation syndrome) or on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet (AIP), you know that corn is not hypoallergenic. It is considered an allergen, although not a major allergen.  

Is corn non-GMO?

Most of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified (GMO)If you are buying corn products, such as cornstarch, tortillas, chips, or popcorn look for the Non GMO Project certification and emblem on the packaging. 

Non-GMO Project

Logo courtesy of NonGMOProject.org, 2022. 

Is corn organic?

Yes, you can find organic corn in the United States. Even if the corn is organic, it may not be free from GMOs. Always choose Non GMO Project verified corn products to avoid GMOs in your foods made from corn. When you eat non-organic corn, you are sure to ingest Monsanto Roundup, otherwise known as glyphosate. This horrid chemical has been proven to cause cancer. Want more proof? Google round-up and cancer and you will see dozens of class-action lawsuits in full swing. Glyphosate is also known to cause damage to the human microbiome which results in any number of disease not limited to Leaky gut, GERD, and dysbiosis.  

Is corn a carbohydrate?

Yes, it is a starchy vegetable, a fruit, and a cereal grain which fall in to the carbohydrate category. 

Is corn good for a low carb diet?

Yes and no. Even though it moderately low in carbohydrates compared to rice, potatoes, and wheat, it is still not low enough in carbohydrates to qualify as “low carb.” 

Can I eat corn on a low lectin diet?

No, corn is not an approved food for the low lectin diet. Corn is high in lectins. 

Is corn good for people recovering CIRS or mold exposure?

No, corn is not a good food if you have had a mold exposure or are recovering from CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Respiratory Syndrome). Corn contains the mold toxin fumonisin which contribute to overall inflammation within your body. 

Is there corn in HFCS high-fructose corn syrup?

Yes, high-fructose corn syrup is made from corn. Some people and commercials claim that because high-fructose corn syrup comes from a plant, it must be “natural.”  There is nothing natural about growing corn that is inedible for humans, and boiling in a list of chemicals and astringents in order to make a syrup out of it. Check out the documentary King Corn for more details and the hilarious experience of 2 guys trying to learn how to make HFCS. It involves them getting permits for industrial chemicals and wearing HazMat suits.  

What are some obvious and hidden sources of corn?

According to Mast Cell 360, here are the most likely places you will find corn in your diet or lifestyle

What are some healthier way to consume corn? 

Always choose organic and Non-GMO verified corn products. Look in ingredient lists for corn or corn derivatives.  

Native culture fermented or slow cooked their corn meal to make it more digestible. The soaking process creates nixtamalization. That is a scientific word to describe soaking a grain in an alkaline solution (lime water) to release improve the nutrition content. Soaking corn makes it easier to digest, reduces mycotoxins (mold), makes it easier to grind, more flavorful, and increase B3/niacin absorption. Another option is to soak your corn meal or other corn products in lime water as suggested in Nourishing Traditions

The Non GMO Project website has a search function that allows you to search for brands or products that are verified. Arrowhead Mills has several products that are Non GMO project verified.  

Buy products that are made from heirloom corn. All “heirloom” foods and seeds are non-GMO. Heirloom foods are non-GMO but not always organic. 

Grow your own!  You can source organic Non GMO seeds from many reputable sites like High Mowing or Baker Creek Seeds.

As in all things, moderation is the key. If you are gluten-free and eat a lot of processed foods, the chances are high that you are eating more corn than you suspect. If you have digestive issues, corn could be a major culprit in your symptoms for numerous reason I discussed above. As I learned about the pros and cons of corn and how to choose corn products more carefully, I noticed my hands swelled and ached after eating corn chips. After years of eating many corn products, I eliminated corn for 6 weeks. I found that many of my digestive symptoms reduced or disappeared and my swollen hands were a thing of the past. Nowadays, I am more selective about the quality and quantity of corn or corn products that I consume.  

If you’re looking for a new way to address your digestive discomforts, Schedule a consult with me, Carly Neubert BA, NC.

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