Q: I was recently diagnosed with diabetes and am now trying to lose weight. One of my favorite summertime foods is corn on the cob. Can I still have corn since it is so high in carbohydrates and calories?
A: If you have diabetes, well-meaning friends or family might have warned you away from corn as a starchy, carbohydrate-rich food you shouldn't eat. But corn offers plenty of nutritional benefits that make it worth the extra effort to include it as part of a balanced diabetic diet. The trick to including corn in your diabetic eating plan is to count it as a source of carbohydrate rather than a low-carb vegetable. Being mindful of what you are serving with the corn is equally as important. An ear of corn averages between 70-80 calories (about the same as an apple), but adding several pats of butter and dashes of salt can quickly turn this golden vegetable into a more indulgent food.
Moderation is key with any food and this holds true with corn. For diabetics, eating too large a portion of corn (or other carbohydrate-containing food) can cause issues with blood sugar control. Corn does bring a lot to the table nutritionally. It is a source of iron, vitamin A, B vitamins and several minerals, and has 3 grams of protein per ear. The combination of the amount of fiber and protein in corn can regulate the absorption of carbohydrate into your bloodstream, minimizing a steep rise in blood sugar. A portion of corn would be 1 ear or ½ cup kernels.
A healthy diabetes diet plan should consist of balanced portions of starches, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, protein, dairy and healthy fats, according to the American Dietetic Association. Corn belongs to the starchy foods category, as it is considered a starchy vegetable. You can make corn a part of a healthy diet tailored to your diabetic needs.
Corn comes in many forms, including canned, frozen or on-the-cob. If you choose canned corn, be careful to select a variety that contains low amounts of sodium. Remember that the way in which you prepare your corn affects its healthfulness. Corn, in its natural state, does not contain any saturated fat, sodium or cholesterol. To keep it a healthy choice, avoid salting or buttering corn. Instead, try spritzing with a “buttery spray” or basting it with olive oil and sprinkling it with ground pepper or other spices for added flavor.
April Graff, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian at both Mankato Hy-Vee stores and can be reached at AGraff@hy-vee.com or call 625-1107 or 625-9070. Send her questions about food and nutrition, recipes, meal planning and healthy shopping.