Why You Should Give Up Eating Corn Immediately
Approximately 30% of the population is gluten intolerant. Corn, oft touted as a safe and healthy alternative for gluten-avoiders, may not be so safe. Studies show gluten intolerant individuals often “cross-react” to corn protein. We're not just talking about kicking your soda habit. Corn derivatives can be found in everything from soda pop to shampoo. Eliminating the ever-so-ubiquitous grain from your lifestyle entirely can be a tricky endeavor, but one well worth considering. Keep scrolling to find out why.
Unless meat is listed as grass fed, it’s fed a grain- or corn-based diet. A common “filler food,” corn is a mainstay among farmers for fattening livestock, and with good reason. The lectins (antibody-sized proteins) contained in corn directly stimulate fat production. When lecithins attach to tissue cells in the body, they cause the cell to duplicate or hypertrophy. Corn-feeding cattle causes fat to deposit directly into the animal’s muscle tissue, yielding more tender meat. Corn can also lead to insulin resistance and damage the villi (small, finger-like projections in the intestinal wall) within the small intestine. Villi contribute to digestion but mostly help with nutrient absorption in the body, transporting different types of nutrients into the bloodstream. The consumption of high-fructose corn syrup is linked to a litany of health problems, from hypertension to metabolic syndrome and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The liver metabolizes fructose more quickly than glucose. An overabundance of the sweet stuff triggers the metabolic pathways to flood, leading to triglyceride synthesis and increased fat deposits in the liver.
About 90% of corn is genetically modified. The cross-pollination that occurs between wind, birds, and bees ultimately means the remaining 10% is not guaranteed to be GMO-free. In addition, corn additives and derivatives often contain pesticides and harmful chemicals. Converting corn into corn starch often requires the use of toxic chemicals such as glutaraldehyde, an embalming chemical used to sterilize medical equipment by killing off living cells. Glutaraldehyde is, in fact, so toxic it can burn a hole in your stomach. Researchers at the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy found high levels of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup—in some cases, over five times the maximum recommended upper limit for an adult female. Not all HFCS products contain mercury; it’s up to the food companies to push for ingredients free from contamination.
Grown for human and livestock consumption, corn is also harvested to supply the growing demand for ethanol. A shallow-root monoculture crop, corn is grown with the same species of plant growing on thousands of acres of field at a time. Longer-root crops stabilize nutrient-rich soil against wind and water erosion. In his book Prairie Dog Empire, author Paul Johnsgard writes, “Plowing up such fragile lands to raise wheat or corn for a few decades, often until the topsoil blows away and the land is abandoned, is like throwing away a treasure trove of potential biological riches.” In short, corn requires so much water, herbicides, and pesticides to survive that precious few species can survive in its wake.
Although corn is often trotted out as a classic American dietary staple and health food, it holds a title spot with gluten as one of the most likely culprits in causing leaky gut syndrome. Gluten-intolerant individuals often “cross-react” to corn, since the proteins appear to be similar to the body. Corn ranks among the most common food allergies and sensitivities. A predominant reason for this may be the ubiquity of GMOs in corn. Genetically modified crops routinely alter existing protein levels or manipulate the components and shapes of existing proteins. The body doesn’t always recognize these brand-new proteins, which may be the root cause of severe allergic reactions.
Eliminating corn from your diet completely can be a tough prospect. From fillers to syrups, it’s hiding in quite a lot of foods. If you have a sweet tooth, reach for raw, local honey; raw coconut nectar; or agave nectar instead. Stevia-flavored sodas are a great alternative to corn-syrup-filled colas. In lieu of cornstarch, substitute arrowroot or tapioca starch. Cook with clarified ghee, olive oil, or coconut oil instead of corn oils. There is one version of corn that remains untouched by the GMO controversy: popcorn. All (that’s right all) popcorn comes from a different seed that has not been genetically modified. If you are going to indulge, invest in an air popper. We recommend topping your popcorn with melted ghee and Himalayan sea salt. It’s decadent, delicious, and far healthier than the microwaved equivalent (bonus: no highly processed oils).
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Opening Image: Anson Smart
Food52 Vegan by Gena Hamshaw ($13)
In August, my father had to go on a vegan diet—doctor’s orders. Since then, I’ve been trying to cook more vegan food but often lack inspiration. Enter Food52’s new cookbook. From New Veganism column creator Gena Hamshaw, the book is full of beautiful photos and accompanying recipes that run the gamut from breakfast to dessert.