It’s summertime, and that means it’s also barbecue season. There’s nothing better than sitting down with your family and friends to enjoy some delicious pulled pork, mac and cheese, and, of course, corn on the cob. But what you probably didn’t know about your plate is that your corn cob is not the only corn product you’re consuming—and it’s most likely not the first corn product you came in contact with that day.
Corn has become the secret staple to America’s everyday food and household products. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, author Michael Pollen puts it simply: “Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes your steak. Corn feeds the chickens and the pig. Corn feeds the catfish raised in a fish farm. Corn-fed chickens laid the eggs. Corn feeds the dairy cows that produce the milk, cheese, and ice cream. Chicken nuggets are really corn wrapped up in more corn. If you wash down your chicken nuggets with almost any soft drink, you are drinking corn with your corn.”
It’s true: Corn is the most widely planted crop in America, covering more acres of the country than humans do. And it’s in almost everything. According to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, of the approximately 45,000 items in the average grocery store, more than a fourth of them contain corn, including non-food items such as toothpaste, cosmetics, diapers, trash bags, and batteries.
In short, corn is a cheap and easy resource to produce products for the masses, which is why it’s found its way into almost everything. And while corn could serve as a useful resource to increase production in preparation for the estimated 9 billion world population by 2050, we also have to be conscious of the diversity in our diets. Corn has some great nutritional value, including several vitamins and minerals, as well as lots of fiber, but too much of one thing is never good.
While it’s close to impossible to completely avoid corn, you can try to mix things up by incorporating non-corn, vegetable-heavy dishes into your family meals, as well as cut back on sodas, juices, and breads that contain high-fructose corn syrup. Your body will thank you for the variety of nutrient sources.
For some corn-free recipe ideas, check out this list from Angela’s Kitchen.