Corn or commonly known as maize is a plant that has been domesticated by humans centuries ago and has been used as food.
The botanical name of corn is Zea mays and it belongs to the botanical order of Poales and the botanical family of Poacae.
It forms a staple part of our diet and has been consumed widely all over the world. It is also used for industrial purposes and to obtain fuel.
The domestication of corn is believed to have occurred during the era of the ancient Mayans who ruled over Mexico thousands of years ago. Since then, its mention has occurred across all major civilizations including the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Chinese.
The name maize has its origins from the Spanish vocabulary for Mahiz. It is also known across the world as corn and the terms are synonyms for each other.
The kernels of the maize are mainly made use of for various purposes and are consumed for food.
It is an excellent source if fiber, vitamins, minerals also also contains generous amounts of Manganese, Thiamine or Vitamin B1, Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5, Vitamin C and Folate.
The yellow type of corn is believed to be more beneficial as it is has a higher concentration of lutein and carotenoid.
Biochemically, it has extremely rich amounts of carbohydrate, fats and proteins and is thus beneficial to the body.
Uses of corn
Corn finds a variety of uses both as food as well as in various industries. We shall now glance on the same in detail.
Use as food
Corn is a staple food that is consumed widely in many parts of the world.
It is one of the mains ingredients in practically every dish in the Mexican cuisine. These include tacos, tortillas, pozole and atole to name a few recipes that make use of corn.
A fungus that grows on corn which is known as huitlacoche is also consumed as a delicacy, thus showing the importance of the same in regards food.
Cornmeals are popularly consumed all over America and form an important part of their diet too.
With the advances in technology, wheat flour was invented which is one of the most important ingredients for many a recipes including those of breads and cakes.
Corn flour has also emerged as a substitute to wheat flour and can also be consumed by those who might have wheat related gluten allergies.
Kernels of corn when heated to a certain temperature burst open or pop, this resulted in the invention of the most widely consumed snack called as pop corn. Pop corn is consumed all over the world and is a extremely common snack used at theaters and at movie screenings and other public gatherings. Owing to its simple recipe and the variety of flavors that can be added to it, pop corn has become one of the most popular and widely consumed foods all over the world.
The northern Indian state of Punjab is responsible for the largest production of corn in the country and also is home to the famous bread prepared using corn that is popularly referred to as makkai di roti that translates into roti bread made of corn. This is a common feature during festivals and other important occasions and celebrations of the state and is a popular dish all over the country.
America went on to produce corn flakes which are flattened, dried and baked or roasted using corn and this went on to become one of the most popular breakfast meals to be consumed all over the world.
Corn flakes are now an important component of a staple breakfast all over the world and are found in a variety of flavors which are enriched with a variety of components.
As we have already mentioned above, starch forms an important component of corn and thus helps in the preparation of corn starch also referred to as maize flour.
With the advances in technology, we are now able to extract oil from the kernels, thus known as corn oil. This is widely used for cooking purposes in many parts of the world.
Use in preparation of alcoholic beverages
Corn starch is now also treated enzymatically and it hydrolyzed to prepare syrups and other forms of sweeteners. The same is also further distilled and fermented so as to produce a grain alcohol.
This grain alcohol thus forms the source of bourbon whiskey which is an alcoholic beverage.
Corn is also the main ingredient used to prepare beer which is an alcoholic beverage consumed popularly all over the world.
The stem and dried kernels of the corn plant and the other parts are often ground and are used as feed for domesticated animals.
This is known to improve the yield especially in regards the quality of meat of the animals used in the poultry industry.
Certain other parts of the plant are dried and used as fodder, for bedding purposes and also added to soil to improve its quality and fertility.
Preparation of Industrial chemicals
The starch component from the corn is also used to make certain fabrics, plastics and adhesives among other items used daily.
Corn steep liquor is a byproduct obtained by fermenting corn and is extremely useful to grow certain bacteria and micro organisms which are beneficial and helpful to mankind.
A genetically type of modified corn which is purple in color contains the compound chrysanthemin which is used to color food.
Use as bio fuel
Our increased and advanced understanding of the environment by the years and the green house gases effect has lead to discovering newer ways of finding fuel that we can produce from those substances available to us without damaging the environment and the usage of the same not leaving a large carbon foot print that may further deteriorate the balance of our eco system.
As a result, corn was used to produce ethanol fuel which is now being used in a range of industries and has replaced earlier used commercially available fuels such as coal and petrol.
Ethanol fuel is much cheaper than other fuels available and has a much lower carbon foot print and is thus being inculcated into other industries for its benefits.
Maize plantations and its packages for growth are sold in the American Markets as a future commodity where in one can bid and buy a certain proportion of land to plant maize and make use of its benefits for a stipulated period of time. This is sold and traded by the Chicago board of Trade and the symbol for corn is C.
Corn is now used to make maze which is used as a form of outdoor and gaming purpose. This is specially seen in America where mazes are a popular attraction as a means of recreation.
The stigmas from the female corn flowers are believed to have certain medicinal benefits and are thus used as herbal supplements. They are commonly referred to as corn silk.
Corn is also used as bait for catching fish, it is made into dough balls and attached to the hook of the fishing net to attract and catch fish. Similarly, it is also used as a bait food for those that hunt wild hogs and deer.
As has already been mentioned above, corn is rich in certain vitamins especially that of the vitamin B group as well as certain essential minerals. These have a positive effect on the body thereby benefiting the same.
Owing to the high concentration of phytonutrients found in corn, it is also a good antioxidant which helps maintain good health.
Corn which is specifically yellow in color is rich in carotenoids and also contains good proportions of zeaxanthin and lutein.
Corn is also rich in fiber and thus a good source of the same. Recent studies have helped determine that certain components in corn are converted in to the short chain fatty acids within the intestine by the presence of friendly bacteria there.
These short chain fatty acids are essential as they supply energy to the intestinal lining thereby promoting the growth of healthy bacteria which directly aids and improves bowel health, and motion formation as well as prevents the growth of unhealthy bacteria and formation of colonic cancer.
The presence of fiber and proteins in corn is extremely essential as it helps maintain a certain pace when the food is digested. As a result, it avoids a sudden surge in the levels of the blood sugar which would have happened if the food were to pass through the same extremely quickly and thus the slow and gradual digestion also helps obtain the best nutrients from the food ingested. Owing to this property, corn is a good food for diabetics and studies have proven that the intake of corn is good to control blood sugar and reduces the same and thus can be used in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The high content of folic acid in corn is helpful in females who are pregnant as it provides as a good source for the same. Deficiency of folic acid during pregnancy is known to lead to defects of the neural tube and also hamper the weight gain of the baby.
Carotene which is found in yellow corn is a component that directly acts on the eyes and the skin thereby keeping them healthy. Lutein, another component found in corn is essential for the heart and also prevents against macular degeneration, a condition of the eye that commonly occurs in older people.
Oil which is extracted from corn is known to have extremely beneficial properties on the blood as it helps lower the levels of LDL cholesterol thus reducing the risk of heart ailments and also the risk of arteriosclerosis.
A scientific study carried out on the effect of corn in cases of HIV and those suffering from AIDS have shown that the lectin component of the corn helps bind with sugar which together binds on the virus cell membrane thereby preventing its spread and growth. Thus corn can also termed to be having anti-HIV properties.
Corn consists of lipid transfer protein which is indigestible in nature and also survives the cooking process. This is known to cause an allergy in humans with symptoms ranging from a mild rash to asthmatic reactions to severe anaphylactic shock reaction. Thus people suffering from known allergy to corn should be advised not to consume the same.
Thus we can see and study the properties and the large number of benefits corn has to offer.