Is Corn on the Cob Healthy?
It's a classic summer side, but is corn on the cob healthy? Corn is an incomplete protein source as well as a carbohydrate. However, it can easily become a source of high sodium and fat depending on how you dress it up.
To make corn on the cob healthier, there are two simple steps you can follow.
How to Make Corn on the Cob Healthier
Step 1 - Swap your butter for a plant-based spread
Instead of butter, which comes with about 7g of saturated fat per tablespoon, spread a plant-based substitute over your corn on the cob.
Plant-based spreads vary by brand, but whipped margarine can have as little as 1.7g of saturated fat, whereas butter-flavored brands like Earth Balance range from 2g-5g per tablespoon.
With the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommending getting less than 10% of calories from saturated fat (about 22g for those on a 2,000 calorie diet; less for those with lower calorie intakes), a good heart-healthy strategy is to reduce saturated fat however possible. Why waste a third (or more) of your daily saturated fat on one condiment?
How to Choose Your Plant-Based Spread
To figure out which butter substitute to buy, look at the nutrition label while you're at the store or online before you go shopping. Compare the saturated fat in the brands your store carries to pick one lower in saturated fat.
One thing to keep is mind is that sodium levels can fluctuate in these spreads. If you're watching your blood pressure, make sure the sodium levels are less than 150mg per tablespoon (14g).
Some popular makers of plant-based spreads you're likely to find in your local grocery store include:
Smart Balance (2.5g sat fat/90mg sodium for Original)
Earth Balance (3g sat fat/100mg sodium for Original Buttery Spread)
Country Crock (4g sat fat/105mg sodium for Olive Oil tub spread)
Miyoko's (4g sat fat/75mg sodium for Oat Milk Cultured Vegan Butter)
Kite Hill (4g sat fat/60mg sodium)
Step 2 - Swap Your Salt for Another Herb or Spice
As mentioned above, one of the reasons Americans love corn on the cob so much is because of the addictive salt sprinkled on top. Again, if you're focused on keeping your blood pressure low, enjoy the sodium from the plant-based spread and corn itself. Or try another herb or spice to sprinkle over top.
For a mild flavor, squeeze lime juice and sprinkle chopped cilantro over the cob. Cilantro is a traditional topping for Mexican-inspired elote (street corn).
Black Pepper Corn
Ground pepper is a simple addition to corn on the cob that gives a subtle spice to the corn without adding sodium.
MSG or Mrs. Dash
Although MSG had a bad reputation associated with people who were sensitive to it, most people can tolerate MSG. MSG is a salt substitute and a very small amount goes a long way. If you really like that salty taste, try a small sprinkle of MSG on your corn. It is addictive like salt, but you don't need nearly as much (and is actually the addictive ingredient used in most ultra-processed cheese snacks like Doritos and Cheetos.)
Or try Mrs. Dash, another salt substitute. Today there are many flavor blends of the Dash brand that satisfy people who are watching their salt intake.
Other Herbs and Spices
Experiment with different flavors. Try fresh cut basil leaves, parsley, or paprika for a unique taste. Most herbs and spices will add to the nutritional benefits of your corn, including antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
How to Prepare Corn on the Cob
If grilling, soak the corn with the husk on in water for at least 20 minutes so the husk doesn’t burn over the open flame. (Read more about the effects of eating grilled food on your health in my blog: Is Grilled Food Safe to Eat?)
Then, place the corn with husk still on, on a pre-heated grill and turn it every five minutes. The corn takes about 20 minutes to soften enough to eat.
Alternatively, you can remove the corn husk and boil the cob for about 5 minutes.
Once cooked, and any remaining husk is removed, use a tablespoon of plant-based buttery spread or margarine and slide it over the warm corn. Then, sprinkle some ground pepper or other herb or spice over the cob for extra flavor.
Did you know? Corn silk may be beneficial to your health.
Research is limited, but corn silk has been used in Native American and Chinese medicine to treat everything from urinary tract infections, to heart disease, to malaria.
Corn silk is edible and considered non-toxic.
Corn silk supplements are not regulated by the FDA and their safety and benefits are unknown. According to Healthline, although corn silk supplements may be beneficial for reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation, people taking the following medications should not take corn silk supplements due to drug interactions:
blood pressure drugs
People who have cleared it with their health care provider could dry the leftover corn silks and steep them as a tea to try to benefit from the following corn silk properties:
potential blood sugar management
potential blood pressure management
potential LDL cholesterol-reducing properties
Pro Storage Tip:
Store uncooked corn on the cob with the husk on inside a plastic bag. You can wrap a paper towel around the husk to absorb any moisture. Place the bag of corn in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to three days.
Make a virtual appointment with a Registered Dietitian that you can do from home at:
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
Hill, A. (2019). What is corn silk, and does it have benefits? Healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/corn-silk#benefits