The Confusing World of Corn

I love corn on the cob!

It’s one of the best things about summer.

So simple, yet so good, slathered with butter and sprinkled with salt.  Either boiled or grilled, it is delicious!

Sadly, I have steered clear of this treat for the last several years because of GMOs.  You see, as of 2012, approximately eighty-eight percent of all corn grown in America had been genetically modified.

Until I (just) learned that there are two categories of corn.

  • Sweet corn and
  • Field corn

Did you know that?  And do you know the difference?

Two Types of Corn

Field corn is harvested when the kernels are hard and dry.  Think of those decorative ears you see in the fall.  It cannot be eaten directly from the stock, it must be processed through a mill where it is converted into various corn products. And it is very likely to be genetically modified.

Sweet corn is harvested when the kernels are young and moist.  They are plump and juicy with more natural sugars than field corn.  And sweet corn is not as likely to be genetically modified.

Although that is changing...

GMO Corn

Monsanto has introduced two genetically modified sweet corns into the marketplace.

  • One is engineered to repel insects.
  • While the other is engineered to withstand higher doses of Glyphosate, a commonly  used herbicide that is a potential carcinogen.

So for a quick moment I thought I could eat sweet corn and not have to worry about possible GMO contamination.  But I guess not.  I think it is still wise to find fresh corn on the cob that is certified organic or with a non-GMO label.

As for field corn, it is definitely wise to look for either certified organic or a non-GMO label.

Corn Products

Some of these corn products will be very obvious…

  • Popcorn
  • Corn chips
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn starch
  • Tortillas
  • Animal feed

And others not so forewarned, when you click on this link you will likely be overwhelmed.  Remember, this list was created for people with corn allergies, but I’m sharing it with you so you can see how pervasive corn is in our processed foods.  And that corn has probably been genetically modified.  So if you don’t want to think about this overwhelming list and the thoughts it brings to mind, do yourself a favor and avoid processed foods as much as possible. But if you are eating something that is packaged, go for the organic choice because the ingredients will not be GMO.

Corn and Health

With all that being said, it’s easy to forget that corn can be (and is in many impoverished countries) a nutritional staple. Especially when combined with beans, vegetables and avocados.

Organic corn is full of Vitamin C and is rich in magnesium.  It has B Vitamins (B6 and Thiamine), potassium and antioxidants linked to eye and skin health.

For some, however, it can be difficult to digest and is best avoided by those with food allergies, IBS, diverticulitis  or leaky gut.


So at the end of the day what do we know?

  • There are 2 kinds of corn, sweet corn and field corn.
  • Field corn is processed and used in many different products.
  • Sweet corn is eaten off the cob and is delicious.
  • Field corn is likely a GMO food so it’s important to find it as certified organic or labeled as non-GMO.
  • Sweet corn may or may not be a GMO food so it’s also important (to be on the safe side) to find it as certified organic or labeled as non-GMO.
  • It’s very wise to avoid processed foods as they will probably contain ingredients that are derived from field corn and are genetically modified.
  • If you do eat processed foods find the ones that are certified organic as none of the ingredients would be genetically modified.
  • Since corn is a main ingredient in animal feed it’s important to find certified organic meat, chicken and eggs, as these animals will not have eaten any GMO foods.

I hope this has helped you to know your food by having a better understand of the corn you buy!

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