Is corn fattening or good for weight loss?
Corn (also known as maize) is eaten the world over and is a major food source in Africa, the US and Europe. It can be be grilled, roasted or boiled and then eaten on its own, used in a variety of recipes or dried and pulverised into flour.
But what about when you are watching your weight, should you be eating it? The short answer is yes; so long as you eat corn in reasonable quantities, it is perfectly fine to include it in your diet.
What causes weight gain and how does corn fit in?
The weight of a person can be influenced by many factors, but at the end of the day, weight management comes down to a short and simple equation: calories in – calories out.
Calories are units of energy and all foods have them, but in differing amounts. Foods that contain a lot of water and fiber (like vegetables and fruits) tend to be low in calories, whereas those that contain a lot of fat (like nuts and seeds) tend to be much higher in calories.
‘Calories in’ represents the energy that is introduced into an individual’s body, via the food that he or she eats. ‘Calories out’ represents the energy that the individual burns, via metabolic processes and through physical activity.
The balance between these numbers determines whether a person will gain weight or not. When a person consumes more calories than he or she burns, the excess calories are stored as fat in the body. Over time this leads to weight gain. The opposite is also true; consuming fewer calories than you burn will lead to weight loss because fat stores in your body will be utilised as an energy source.
In general, the more active an individual is, the more calories he or she can eat. This is the reason why professional athletes like Michael Phelps are able to eat upwards of 5000 calories and still not gain weight.
Calorie requirements will vary from person to person, depending on the individual’s age, height, weight, gender, activity levels and overall goals. To get an approximation of your own calorie needs, use the tool below.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 27 year old lady who weighs 80 kg (176 lb), is 165 cm tall and exercises 3 – 5 days a week would need to consume approximately 2400 calories to maintain her weight, 1900 calories to lose weight and 1400 calories to lose weight fast.
So how does corn fit into all of this? Well, a medium sized ear of sweet yellow or white corn (103 g) that has been cooked in boiling water has slightly upwards of 100 calories. This means that on a 1400 calorie diet, the corn would account for roughly 8% of total calories. For this reason, corn can be included even in low calorie weight loss diets, provided it is eaten in moderation.
Can corn be beneficial for weight loss?
Besides being a source of vitamins and minerals, corn also contains other nutrients that may be beneficial for weight loss.
Corn is a good source of fiber, providing you with 4.4 g per cup (164 g) of boiled white corn. Studies such as this have shown that making a simple change and eating more fiber can help with weight loss. One reason for this is thought to be because fiber absorbs water and forms a thick gel that slowly moves through your digestive system, which keeps you feeling satisfied for a longer. As a result, you are likely to feel less hungry and therefore eat less food throughout the day.
Corn is one of the best vegetable sources of protein, providing you with 5.4 g per cup of boiled white corn. Numerous studies have shown that out of the three macro-nutrients (the other two being carbohydrate and fat), protein is the most beneficial for weight loss. This is because not only does it fill you up, it also boosts your metabolism and increases energy expenditure, thereby helping on both ends of the calories in – calories out equation. That said, it is important to keep in mind that the majority of calories in corn come from carbohydrates, a lot of which is in the form of starch.
Can corn cause weight gain?
Any food if eaten in abundance can cause weight gain, simply because an excess number of calories will be consumed. However, since corn is both filling and low in calories, most people would find it difficult to eat excessive amounts of it. That said, the way in which you prepare corn and the foods that you eat it with can make all the difference.
For example, a tablespoon of butter has around 100 calories, which means that boiling a medium sized ear of corn and then drizzling it with two tablespoons of butter will turn a 100 calorie snack into a 300 calorie snack. Also, creamed corn (which is prepared from corn, cream, sugar, cheese and butter) is much higher in calories than corn eaten on its own.
If you enjoy eating corn that has been prepared with other ingredients, you can continue to do so, but just be wary of portion sizes.
Corn does not have to be feared when you are watching your waistline. So long as you prepare it well and eat in reasonable portions, it can be a part of your diet, even when you are trying to lose weight.