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  • Writer's pictureThe Dietitian


Maize is the Spanish name for Corn. It is often served as a vegetable, however it is botanically considered a grain. Corn has been a stable in the North and South American diets for centuries. Cultures in the southern US and south of the border have relied heavily on this grain to provide nourishment.

Corn is mostly comprised of starch, along with other vitamins and minerals. The husk which surrounds the outside of the grain, is not digestible. While most of the nutrients and the starch in the corn is digested by the body the outer part, the husk, is not. It is composed of cellulose which cannot be digested by our gastrointestinal system. It does add bulk to the stool.

In addition to the husk of the seed not being readily digested the vitamin B3 or Niacin is not readily bioavailable. The process of soaking corn in water or water with lime juice has been a long known practice in the process of making tortillas. This soaking of corn in lime infused water helps release the niacin in the corn to make it available for use in the body. A diet otherwise high in corn which has not been treated in this way may lead to a niacin deficiency, which is known as Pellagra.

Our diets today do include corn, however we also typically eat a variety of other foods thus the risk of a deficiency in vitamin B3 (niacin) is rare. Niacin is a water soluble vitamin, meaning the body does not store the vitamin and intake of foods containing niacin needs to occur regularly. Other foods high in vitamin B3 or Niacin include: mushrooms; potatoes; legumes (beans) such as navy, kidney and great northern; grains such as tortillas, oatmeal, breads and cereals; most meat and fish; as well as almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds.

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