corn

Corn, be it on the cob, canned, or in corn chowder, is a staple in American households. Eating buttered and salted popcorn while watching a movie or a sports event brings back nostalgic memories to many people.

Corn is a type of whole grain that is widely consumed around the world and can be included in a healthy diet for people living with diabetes. There are different types of corn available, including yellow, white, and blue, which can vary in nutrient content.

Corn is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which can help with blood sugar control and contribute to overall good health. It is important, however, for people with diabetes to pay attention to the portion sizes and overall balance of their meals, as well as the type of corn they are consuming, and even how it is prepared.

It is also important for people with diabetes to work with a healthcare team, including a Registered Diabetes Nutritionist, to help develop a personalized meal plan which can include corn in different forms, and all vegetables, for that matter, that still meets your individual needs and goals. 

Diabetes and Corn Consumption

But first, let’s address one of the most frequently asked questions among people living with diabetes: “To corn or not to corn?” and discover the answers while reading this article.

Glycemic Index of Corn

People with diabetes often have to consider whether or not they can eat a particular food, where the glycemic index and glycemic load become deciding factors.

The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how QUICKLY sugar from any food gets absorbed into your bloodstream, and how quickly the food can raise blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI are absorbed and digested quickly, leading to a rapid increase in blood sugar. Foods with a low GI are absorbed and digested more slowly, leading to a slower and smaller increase in blood sugar. The Glycemic Load (GL) indicates how MUCH sugar from any food gets absorbed into your bloodstream. 

Corn, in general, has low to moderate GI and GL, depending on the variety and how you cook it. One ear of corn contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate, which needs to be accounted for in the daily carbohydrate intake of someone with diabetes. The GI of boiled corn is 52, making it a low-GI food suitable for people with diabetes. A recent NIH study even suggested that individuals with insulin resistance significantly improved their gastrointestinal health and glycemic response after consuming corn. Eating corn in moderation, therefore, may not cause any significantly unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar levels.

Sweet corn, however, is a slightly different story.  Also known as butter and sugar corn, sweet corn is a type of corn that is sweeter and more tender than other varieties, due to its higher natural sugar content.  It is generally considered to have a moderate glycemic load value of 15 and a medium to high GI value of 60-85. Every 100 grams of sweet corn offers 19 grams of carbohydrates, 3.2 grams of proteins, and 1.18 grams of fat.  This means that sweet corn may cause a moderate-to-rapid increase in blood sugar levels after it is eaten. A person living with diabetes should take this into consideration before consuming this type of corn. The glycemic index of corn varies depending on the type of corn and how it is prepared. 

Types of Corn – GI Range:

  • Corn On The Cob 55-79
  • Canned Corn 55-64
  • Frozen Corn 55-62
  • Cornmeal 48-69

Corn on the grill - Is corn for diabetics?

Benefits of Corn for People Living With Diabetes

Vitamin Rich

Corn contains vitamins B1, B3, and B6. These B complex vitamins are essential for turning food into energy and keeping your brain, immune and nervous system healthy.

Good source of fiber

Corn is a good source of dietary fiber, which can help with blood sugar control and contribute to overall good health. As an example, air-popping corn kernels without oil make a tasty, high-fiber, low-calorie snack.

Low in fat

Corn is low in fat and cholesterol, which can be beneficial for people with diabetes who may also be at risk for heart disease.

Nutrient-rich

Corn is a good source of several nutrients, including minerals, which can help support overall health.

Versatility

Corn can be included in a variety of dishes and can be a tasty and convenient addition to meals.

How to Enjoy Corn If You Have Diabetes

If you have diabetes, it is important to be mindful of portion sizes and the overall balance of meals when including corn in the diet, as well as the type of corn being consumed. Even how corn is prepared should be taken into consideration.

A great way to track the foods you eat is by using “the plate method”. Fill a moderate-sized plate with sections of different kinds of food.  For example, put corn in the section for starchy vegetables. Add corn without other fats, like butter or salt. But feel free to add as many spices as you like and maybe a sprinkle of olive oil. Make sure to fill most of the other sections of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, which are lower in carbohydrates. Fill the last section with lean proteins, which are low in fat and a healthier choice than higher-fat meats, like red meat.  Adding a lean protein to your meal in combination with a higher carbohydrate item, like corn, may help mitigate blood sugar spikes, as well.

You can eat some corn alongside your salad, either with raw vegetables or some boiled ones. To make it even healthier, how about adding some vegetables to the pan you will use to boil your corn?  It will make the meal more wholesome while reducing the GI of the corn at the same time!

Another delicious choice is plain popcorn! YUM! Popcorn is 100% unprocessed corn with a healthy amount of plant fiber. Eating air-popped corn without adding extra butter, cheese, caramel, oils, or other taste-enhancers, which may cause high blood sugar levels, is the healthiest way to consume popcorn. 

If you do decide to go ahead and have some sweet corn, it’s best to eat it when the body’s energy demand is at its peak, maybe right before going for an extended walk, or other strenuous exercise, like strength-training.  You can enjoy sweet corn in its raw form as a snack or add them to stews, soups, curries, and salads after boiling. 

Nothing beats eating preservative-free, fresh corn when it is in season. Canned and frozen corn are perfect alternatives when fresh corn is not available or is not in season. However, ensure to choose low-sodium options. Or, discard the liquid in canned corn and rinse it to minimize the sodium content. In addition, start making it a habit to read nutrition labels to check the number of carbohydrates per serving if you typically limit carbohydrates as a way to manage your blood glucose.

Concerns Of Consuming Corn And Corn-Related Products With Diabetes

Here are some notes to consider when eating corn as part of a healthy diet for people with diabetes:

      • It is generally recommended to choose whole corn kernels over processed corn products, such as corn chips or cornbread, as these products may contain added sugars and other ingredients that can affect blood sugar levels.
      • Preparation: Consider how the corn is prepared when choosing a recipe. Boiling or grilling corn on the cob may be a healthier choice than deep-frying it or adding high-fat toppings.
      • Balance is key: Make sure to balance your meals with a variety of nutrients, including protein, fiber, and healthy fats. This can help with blood sugar control, preventing blood sugar spikes and promoting overall good health.
      • Blood sugar control: If you have blood sugar control issues, it may be important to work with a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan that meets your individual needs and goals. Your dietitian may help you avoid the following:
  1. High-fructose corn syrup: This is a sweetener made from corn and is usually found in processed foods. High-fructose corn syrup doesn’t stimulate the release of insulin, leaving people with diabetes in need of insulin to regulate their blood sugar. Also, it can lead to leptin-resistance. Leptin is a hormone that triggers satiety, letting your brain know that the body doesn’t need to eat and to burn calories at a normal rate.
  2. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOS): GMO foods are risky. Research has not been done to see how the changes in the genetic makeup of foods are impacting our bodies. Preliminary testing done on animals has revealed GMO’s may have an impact on the immune system and may speed up aging and may change the function and size of various organs. GMO foods may also cause an allergic reaction. People with diabetes have a chronic condition that affects the immune system. It is important to have a diet that boosts your immune system rather than one that may compromise it. Often these foods are also high in sugar, fat and salt; these are all ingredients people with diabetes should try to avoid, anyways.

So…To Corn Or Not To Corn?
Corn, in all its delicious varieties, can be a nutritious and tasty addition to a healthy diet for people living with diabetes.  Corn is great raw, in stews, salads, toppings and soups, so long as it is consumed in appropriate portion sizes, cooked with healthy ingredients, and in balance with other nutrient-dense foods, like lean proteins and lower-carbohydrate vegetables. The moderate glycemic response of corn means its ability to increase blood sugar is directly related to the consumption amount.

Keeping blood glucose within target levels is essential, so try to eat in moderation regardless of which form of corn you eat. If you go a little overboard on the serving, since it is a starchy food, it can lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.  Therefore, paying attention to serving size is key to stable and healthy diabetes management. 

With a little planning and guidance, you can feel free to enjoy corn as part of your diabetes management meal plan without the guilt! 

Manage Your Diabetes With CopilotIQ!

If you’re looking to simplify your diabetes treatment, CopilotIQ can help. Our team of trained experts monitors your glucose and other important variables to ensure you are healthy and happy. Get in touch with the team at CopilotIQ today!

Join the 1000’s of CopilotIQ members reversing their diabetes and blood pressure.