Think of corn and you probably think of the Native American Indians or the South American Indians and maize or cornmeal. Long before we were eating corn on the cob cornmeal was a staple in the diet of early humans. For thousands of years before Europeans arrived in the Americas natives were grinding corn into cornmeal.
It was the Indians who taught the first North American settlers how to make cornmeal. It is believed that cornmeal is one of the foods that kept the first settlers alive when they first arrived.
Cornmeal has many uses from making bread, to tamales, grits and something called corn pone. Now corn pone is sometimes a terms used to describe a rural person with little sophistication. Actually corn pone is a thick malleable bread that is cooked in a frying pan over an open fire. Frontiers men cooked this cornmeal concoction. If we delved a little deeper into the health benefits of cornmeal we’ll see that these rural people were no “pones!”
Cornmeal is easy to store and easy to use. By just adding a little butter and water a pancake, flat bread and a cake can be made from cornmeal. During the Aztec rule the peasants lived on cornmeal and beans which provided a complete protein. A gruel made from cornmeal was used to treat diarrhea and other digestive disorders.
Corn is a great source of folate and thiamin or vitamin B1 and B5. Folate is a B vitamin that is known to help prevent birth defects. Folate is also good for cardiovascular health. Folate lowers homocysteine, an amino acid that is a byproduct of the metabolic process. Homocysteine can directly damage blood vessels, so elevated blood levels of this dangerous molecule are an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease. It has been estimated that consumption of 100% of the daily requirement of folate would, by itself, reduce the number of heart attacks suffered by Americans each year by 10%. Folate-rich diets are also associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Corn is also good for lung health because it is rich in beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid. As well, the thiamin or B1, is necessary for proper brain functioning and memory. This is because thiamin is needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory. A lack of acetylcholine has been shown to be a significant contributing factor in age-related impairment of mental functioning such as senility and Alzheimer's disease. In fact, Alzheimer's disease is clinically characterized by a decrease in acetylcholine levels.
In addition to its thiamin, corn is a good source of B5 or pantothenic acid which is an especially valuable B-vitamin when you're under stress since it supports the function of the adrenal glands.
Further it has been discovered that corn meal is a rich source of antioxidants. This all adds up to make corn and cornmeal a healthy inexpensive and versatile food; with no “pone” about it!