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Sweet corn nutrition facts

Sweet corn is a special maize variety in which its sweet kernels eaten as vegetable. In contrast to traditional field corn, sugar corn variety is harvested when the ears just reach milk stage and used fresh as the sugars in the kernels convert quickly to starch. Sugar corn is native to Central American region.

Genetically, it differs from the field corn by mutation at the sugary (su) locus. The crop has achieved success as one of the important commercial cash crop in many tropical and semi-tropical countries.

Scientific name: Zea mays var. saccharata.

Sweet corn grows to about 7-10 feet in height. It grows quickly under sunny, fertile, and well-drained soil supplemented with good moisture conditions. Each plant bears about 2-6, long husked ears filled with rows of tooth like seeds surrounding a central woody core (cob). Optimum pollination is essential for full kernel development.

Several different sweet corn cultivars with many variations in their sweetness, color, and maturation time are grown according to the local and regional requirements. Depending upon the cultivar type, the crop may ready for harvesting in 65-90 days. Harvest sweet corn when the silk end of the ear is completely filled out, the silk has turned brown and the kernels are firm but in the milk stage. Oftentimes, farmers check the kernels by pricking them with the thumbnail in order to ascertain timing of harvest.

Baby corns are very young, miniature ears harvested when they are very small. The kernels are in incipient stage and its core is sweet and tender enough to eat raw. Baby corns measure about 3-5 inches in length and weigh about 20-50 g.

Health benefits of sweet corn

  • At 86 calories per 100 g, sugar corn kernels are moderately high in calories on comparison to other vegetables. However, fresh kernels have much lower in calories than field corn and other cereals like wheat, rice etc. Their calorie mainly comes from more simple carbohydrates like glucose, sucrose than complex sugars like amylose and amylopectin as in cereals.

  • Sweet corn is gluten free cereal and may be used safely much like rice, quinoa etc, in celiac disease individuals.

  • Corn features high quality phyto-nutrition profile comprising of dietary fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants in addition to moderate proportions of minerals. It is one of the finest source dietary fibers; 100 g kernels provide 2 g or 5% of daily-requirement of dietary fiber. Together with slow digesting complex carbohydrates, moderate amounts of fiber in the food regulates gradual rise in blood sugar levels.

  • Yellow variety corn has significant levels of phenolic flavonoid pigment antioxidants such as ß-carotenes, and lutein, xanthins and cryptoxanthin pigments along with vitamin A. 100 g fresh kernels provide 187 IU or 6% of daily-requirement of vitamin A. Altogether, these compounds are required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes, skin and vision. Consumption of natural foods rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

  • Corn is a good source of phenolic flavonoid antioxidant, ferulic acid. Several research studies suggest that ferulic acid plays vital role in preventing cancers, aging, and inflammation in humans.

  • It also contains good levels of some of valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folates, riboflavin, and pyridoxine. Many of these vitamins functions as co-factors to enzymes in metabolism.

  • Further, it contains healthy amounts of some important minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Sweet corn (Zea mays var. saccharata.), raw,
Nutrition Value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 86 Kcal 4%
Carbohydrates 18.70 g 14%
Protein 3.27 g 6%
Total Fat 1.35 g 7%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 2.0 g 5%

Folates 42 µg 10.5%
Niacin 1.770 mg 11%
Pantothenic acid 0.717 mg 14%
Pyridoxine 0.093 mg 7%
Riboflavin 0.055 mg 4%
Thiamin 0.155 mg 13%
Vitamin A 187 IU 6%
Vitamin C 6.8 mg 11%
Vitamin E 0.07 mg <1%
Vitamin K 0.3 µg 2%

Sodium 15 mg 1%
Potassium 270 mg 6%

Calcium 2 mg <1%
Copper 0.054 mg 6%
Iron 0.52 mg 6.5%
Magnesium 37 mg 9%
Manganese 0.163 mg 7%
Selenium 0.6 µg 1%
Zinc 0.46 mg 4%

Carotene-ß 47 µg --
Carotene-? 16 µg --
Cryptoxanthin-ß 115 µg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 644 µg --

Selection and storage

Sweet corn is a summer season crop in the temperate regions. However, it may be cultivated around the seasons in tropical belt. In the US markets, fresh corn ears appear on the shelves by May and lasts until September. Fresh packs in the form of cobs or kernels can also be sold kept in the freezer section in the super markets all around the year. These markets also feature them as canned. The cobs are generally available as yellow, white, or bicolor seeds types. One may also collect them from local retailers or for even more enthusiasts may collect from the pick-your-own farms from the local farmers.

Fresh baby corns are usually comes in small packages wrapped in plastic paper like button mushrooms. Choose to buy medium sized, firm, and fresh arrivals.

While buying, look for the well-formed ears with light green colored tight husks and clean, just about dry golden brown silks. Gently pull down the husk from the tip-end to check for color as well as milk-stage of kernels. You may buy fresh-husked cobs wrapped in plastic paper. Look for the harvest date; buy only if they are fresh as the kernels soon turn sugars to starch and lose their sweet, juicy flavor. Avoid if the husk is dry as it indicates the stock is old and hence out of flavor. Do not buy overtly matured cobs either.

Once at home, use them as early as possible. If you have to store, keep them in refrigerator, preferably in the husk, to maintain flavor, taste, and moisture. They stay well for up to two to three days if stored at 90 percent humidity 32 °F.

Preparation and serving methods

To prepare, organic produce would not necessitate washing. Just remove the husk and silk and used as vegetable. However, you may wash the de-husked cob in cold running water or dipping them in salt-water for about 15-20 minutes. Mop them dry using paper towel.

Sweet corn kernels used much like a vegetable rather than as a grain. In general, the whole cob is served with main dish. If you desired so to use individual kernels in cooking, then using a paring knife slice through the kernels base all along the central woody core to remove the kernels. Otherwise, you may remove individual kernels using thumb in a much traditional way.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Farm fresh, raw milky sweet corn can be eaten as it is even without boiled or steamed.

  • The whole corncob may be grilled and served with salt and pepper seasoning.

  • The whole cob may be steamed, or boiled in salt water and served with butter or oil.

  • Boiled kernels are an excellent accompaniment in salads, pizza, pasta, risotto, stews, omelets, fried-rice, rice pulav etc.

  • Sweet corn soup and chowder are favorite starters in almost all corners of the world.

  • Do not discard the water used for boiling the cob. It can be used along with onion, carrots, parsnip, celery stalk etc in the preparation of vegetable stock.

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