Growing up, my family loved grits (a food made from coarsely ground corn boiled in water) served with eggs for breakfast. Fresh grilled corn on the cob in the summer was also a treat. But it wasn’t until I cut gluten out of my diet that I began to really explore the uses of corn as an alternative to gluten containing grains. I was surprised to learn that corn has many health benefits and can even help with weight loss.
Corn is considered a whole grain that does not contain any gluten and is certainly not new on the scene of whole grains. Corn meal has been a staple food in North and South America for centuries, as it was the most important cultivated plant in ancient America. Corn meal is made from grinding dried corn kernels into fine, medium or coarse particles. It can be yellow, blue or white, depending on the type of corn used, and it is a favorite because it of its sweet flavor. Common uses for corn are many – tortillas, tamales, corn chips, popcorn, corn muffins, polenta, grits…
My first impression of corn is that is is an empty food – a filler food – packed with calories but coming up short in the nutrient category. But corn meal actually contains a long list of nutrients: niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate and vitamins B-6, E and K. It contains 18 amino acids and valuable minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Especially important to those trying to lose weight is milled yellow corn, like corn meal, grits and corn flour products, because it is rich in antioxidants called carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids belong to a group of antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which according to a study done in Japan, have a strong affect against the function of fat cells and help in the prevention of metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.
Corn meal is also high in dietary fiber which is important for colon health, lowers cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, and helps with weight loss. Fiber helps with weight loss because we feel satisfied and full for longer periods of time after eating it, which prevents us from overeating and unnecessary munching. Also, foods high in fiber are less energy dense, so we are filled up on fewer calories. One cup of whole grain corn meal contains about 10 grams of dietary fiber. Recent research has also shown that fiber from corn encourages the growth of friendly bacteria in our large intestine which boosts our immune system and helps lower our risk of colon cancer.
So add corn meal to your list of gluten free grains as a healthy whole grain alternative, and enjoy its robust, sweet flavor while also taking advantage of its nutrients, fiber, and benefit for weight loss. This sweet potato green chili cornbread disappeared quickly in my house when I served it with my pumpkin and pear soup last week.
sweet potato green chili cornbread
Recipe type: bread
1 cup Gluten Free Classic Brown Rice Flour Blend from Authentic Foods
1 cup corn meal
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
3½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup agave nectar or honey
¼ cup raw coconut oil
1 cup cooked sweet potato
½ cup almond or coconut milk
4 ounce can chopped green chilis
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.
In a small bowl, mix together gluten free brown rice flour, corn meal, xanthan gum, baking powder, and sea salt.
In a large bowl, mix together agave nectar, coconut oil, sweet potato, milk, green chilis, egg, and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.