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Is Corn A Vegetable? And Other Misconceptions About Some Foods We Eat (Part I)

Updated on March 11, 2014
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Corn? A Vegetable?

Have you ever been to a restaurant and saw that the "Vegetable of the Day" was corn? I have! Once I asked the waitress what their vegetable special was and when she said it was corn, I asked if there was a "better" choice, and she didn't know how to respond.

I start this article with corn because it seems we are surrounded by corn everywhere. Literally and figuratively. I live in a area where it seems that the only crop people grow is corn. In addition, it is far overused in our processed foods, which has led to the genetically altered version of corn (which I will get to in a minute). When people have cookouts, corn is a staple!

Now, don't get me wrong, corn is great! Especially if you either grew it yourself, or you know that it is GMO free. And by GMO free, I mean that it is REAL corn, not a crop that was produced from a seed where the DNA was merged with the DNA from another source. This is what a genetically engineered crop is. Yuck.

So what IS corn then?

It is a grain. And it's a vegetable. And, sometimes, it is considered a fruit. Kind of like how tomatoes are.....what?!

I'll explain.

Corn is a complex carb (like all vegetables and whole grains respectively), but corn's carbohydrate level is much higher than those of other green and red vegetables. If the corn is harvested once it's dried, then it is considered a grain.

When looking at a vegetable perspective, if it is harvested early enough to be eaten fresh, then it is a vegetable.

As for fruit, well, it simply gets that title because corn (botanically speaking) is the dried fruit of a plant.

But, who cares? What really matters, is what you are getting out of it when you eat it.

Some nutritional values of from 1 cup of corn are:

  • 4 grams of fiber
  • 132 calories
  • 4-5 grams of protein
  • 29 grams of carbs
  • 2 mg of Niacin
  • 70 mcg of Folic acid
  • 10 mg of Vitamin C
  • 58 mg of Magnesium
  • 416 mg of Potassium

Unfortunately, corn has some negatives as well. It can be seen as an allergen and may contribute to some autoimmune issues (rheumatoid arthritis for example) and irritable bowel syndrome.

In addition, farm animals who are fed too much corn (to fatten them up) have digestive issues as well. These animals are the ones that are given the antibiotics to help "fix" their digestive stress.

Bottom line, I feel that corn is okay every once in a while, but I would put other vegetables and grains at the top of your list first!


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What About Beans and Peas?

Once again, we venture into the topic of whether beans and peas should be placed in the vegetable category. And once again, you may ask, who cares? And I agree! The important thing is to know the difference and what the nutritional content is.

Beans and peas are great foods! However, they are considered both vegetables AND legumes! Because they are high in fiber, they get thrown into the vegetable category. Their high protein content puts them into the "meat" category on the Food Pyramid.

Legumes consist of foods like chickpeas, black eyed peas, kidney beans, lentils (all colors), peas (split peas too), and pinto beans to name a few. Green beans are tricky. While I tend to put green beans into the legume category, their protein values are much lower than that of their cousin beans. In addition, their green color also links them closer to the vegetable family.

A basic run down of the nutritional values for 1 cup of green beans are as follows:

  • 3-4 grams of fiber
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 735 IU's of Vitamin A
  • 40 mcg of Folic acid
  • 17 mg of Vitamin C
  • 41 mg of Calcium
  • 27 mg of Magnesium
  • 230 mg of Potassium

For every cup of green Peas, you get:

  • 7-8 grams of protein
  • 7 grams of fiber
  • 934 IU's of Vitamin A
  • 95 mcg of Folic acid
  • 58 mg of Vitamin C
  • 36 mg of Calcium
  • 2 mg of Iron
  • 48 mg of Magnesium
  • 357 mg of Potassium

There are differences between green Peas and split Peas. Split peas have a higher protein content and nearly double the fiber.

In addition, the legume family is known for it's high protein, good fiber, decent calcium levels, and absorbable iron content. While I will not list every single legume there is (a lot!), I will share a few values of lentils.

1 cup of cooked lentils provide:

  • 15 grams of protein
  • 15 grams of fiber
  • 2 mg of niacin
  • 358 mcg of Folic acid
  • 38 mg of Calcium
  • 6-7 mg of iron
  • 71 mg of Magnesium
  • 730 mg of Potassium
  • 5 mcg of Selenium


Keep in mind that there are many more nutrients in these foods; however, I chose the above ones because they have a significant amount. Protein is vital and is usually thought that plants lack protein (which is a myth). For vegetarians, legumes are typically the primary source of protein. As for fiber, we benefit from the fiber found in plants since it is more absorbable than fiber that is "added" to foods. Calcium and magnesium both support bone health. The calcium in plants once again, is absorbed better than the calcium found in dairy. In addition, magnesium supports muscle health and even helps maintain good blood pressure.


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Sweet Potatoes and Yams ARE different!

I've run into this problem at the grocery store more than once! It is especially challenging when the prices are different! (Except when the cashier adds in the cheaper item, that is!)

Sweet potatoes and yams ARE from the same family and BOTH have good nutritional properties. You may find that many sweet potatoes are lighter in color than yams, but the nutritional values are what carry the differences.

Remember, the sweet potato and yam are both healthier choices over the white potato. I'm not saying to give up the white potato, but I would choose them in moderation. The white potato is higher on the glycemic index, which means that it is converted to sugar much quicker than the sweet potato and yam. Those with blood sugar issues are better sticking to only sweet potatoes and yams.


Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams

Per 1 cup
Sweet Potatoes
Yams
Fiber
3.9 grams
6 grams
Vitamin A
26,082 IU (wow!)
0
Folic acid
18 mcg
42 mcg
Vitamin C
30 mg
18 mg
Calcium
29 mg
8 mg
Magnesium
14 mg
62 mg
Potassium
265 mg
1508 mg
 
 
 
Products that say "All Natural" or "100% Natural" can be misleading.  It is important to read the ingredients first!
Products that say "All Natural" or "100% Natural" can be misleading. It is important to read the ingredients first! | Source

"All Natural" doesn't always mean "Healthy"

This is a big pet peeve of mine. When I see "All Natural" or "100% Natural" on a food label, I want to cringe. Sure, it is great that foods are going a little more natural and I'm sure that the ingredients ARE natural, but what is NATURAL isn't always truly natural.

I'll explain.

As of right now, there are no regulations over the words "All Natural." Unlike the USDA Organic label, the All Natural Label can be put on a bag of chips, Oreos, and Snickers bars and it wouldn't mean anything.

I've seen "All Natural" on chicken before and this baffles me. Sure, I realize that they are cloning animals left and right, but how can a chicken NOT be natural? It's not a robot chicken. But thinking that getting the "All Natural" chicken is good is quite misleading. Often, this chicken will still be fed antibiotics or given hormones. In addition, sodium can still be added, since salt is NATURAL!

You will also find "All Natural" on a lot of packaged foods; however, you will still see the following ingredients:

  • Sugar and salt
  • Hydrogenated or un-hydrogenated oils
  • Soybean by products
  • Corn and it's by products
  • Preservatives that are "natural"
  • "Natural Flavors," "Yeast Extract," and the like (all of them mimic MSG)

So, looking at that above list, I see many problems. Yes, they ARE all natural ingredients, but they are no good for you. Too much sugar and salt create blood sugar and heart issues. Hydrogenated oils are trans fats and create heart issues as well. Both soybean and corn by-products are likely to be genetically modified (which is obviously NOT natural). Preservatives and MSG-like ingredients are never good. Preservatives often do not leave our bodies and are stored in our tissues. In addition, MSG-like ingredients create over-excitement in the brain contributing to problems like migraines, attention disorders (especially in children), and nervous system imbalances to name a few.


Added fiber in yogurt is a good example of synthetic fiber.  Yogurt is an animal protein, which does not naturally contain fiber.
Added fiber in yogurt is a good example of synthetic fiber. Yogurt is an animal protein, which does not naturally contain fiber. | Source

"ADDED FIBER!" Should You Eat It?

To put it simply: no.

However, I like to add that every once in a while doesn't hurt you. The problem is, not too many people like the "every once in a while approach."

What you should know is that not all fiber is the same. If a food has to "add" fiber to it, then it never had any fiber to begin with. Instead, you should venture into the "real" fiber foods, such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables.

Added fiber, is synthetic. In other words, it's fake. Eat too much of it, and we create an imbalance in our bodies. Truthfully, our body recognizes it as fake and tries to purge it, or detox it. Your digestive system will be the first to let you know of this, since you will have some nasty gas.

The problem with added fiber, is that often times, it is add to foods that are already unhealthy. Some high sugared cereals are a good example. Just because fiber is added, doesn't make it healthy. (And just because it says "Gluten Free" doesn't make it healthy either, but that's for another hub!).

It is best to stick with real fiber. Your body will digest it much better! Real fiber helps the colon stay healthy, as it keeps foods moving along your digestive tract.

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Until We Meet Again......

There are far more misconceptions about the foods we eat, but I will have to begin a Part II of this hub.

I plan to touch on tomatoes, spinach, meats, and eggs.

In the mean time, educate yourself. Make smart choices, and stay healthy!


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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      This was excellent information -- very helpful. I've always thought that the whole yam vs. sweet potato thing was just a word choice issue, mainly depending on where you were from.

    • vandynegl profile image
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      vandynegl 3 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Hello FlourishAnyway!

      Thank you! I also once thought that the word choices were based on where you were from! There ARE some veggies that go by different names, but mean the same thing (maybe that will be another hub!). Thanks for reading!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      An interesting read with some good reminders and new-to-me info on fiber to keep in mind--thanks.

    • vandynegl profile image
      Author

      vandynegl 3 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Hi RTalloni, Thanks for reading!!

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