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Is It Safe To Eat Corn During Pregnancy?

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Maize, also known as corn, is one of the most extensively consumed cereal grains in the world. Packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, craving for crunchy corn is quite common during pregnancy. But is it safe to eat corn during pregnancy?

This MomJunction post answers the question and discusses the value corn adds to your diet, risks, if any, storage tips, and recipes.

Can You Eat Corn During Pregnancy?

You may eat corn during pregnancy but in moderate amounts, as it helps improve digestion, and supports immunity. But excessive consumption might lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as indigestion.

Nutritional Value Of Corn

The nutrients present in 100g of raw corn are as follows (1):

NutrientRDA (2)(3)Per 100g of corn
Total folate600µg46µg
Dietary fiber28g2.7g
Protein60g (3)3.22g
Carbohydrate175g19.02mg
Thiamine (vitamin B1)1.4mg0.2mg

[ Read: High Fiber Foods For Pregnancy ]

What Are The Health Benefits Of Corn During Pregnancy?

1. Constipation

The fiber content in corn might help address digestive problems, such as constipation, that you may experience during early pregnancy (4).

2. Macular degeneration

Corn contains a carotenoid substance called zeaxanthin that has oxidative properties. Zeaxanthin may help prevent macular degeneration of the eye (3) (5). However, further studies are needed to establish the carotenoids’ role in preventing certain disorders that affect infants (6).

3. Birth defects

Corn has folic acid that is necessary during pregnancy to reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural malformations in the baby (7).

4. Muscle and nervous system

Corn contains thiamine that plays a role in energy metabolism and is essential for muscle and nervous system functioning (8) (9).

5. Immunity

The beta-carotene in corn provides vitamin A required for immune system functioning and healthy growth and development of the baby (10).

Possible Side Effects Of Overeating Corn When Pregnant

Potential side effects of corn may occur due to over-consumption.

  • According to one small group study in mice, intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids such as corn could alter the behavior and activity of the baby (11).
  • It may cause indigestion; therefore, it is better to have fresh corn in limited amounts.

From fresh raw corn to cooked and baked and popped, corn is available in a variety of edible forms. But are all of them good for you to eat during pregnancy?

Corn Products To Eat And Those To Avoid

Not all corn products may be safe during pregnancy. The following list can help you get an idea of what could be taken and avoided. However, it is not exhaustive.

EatAvoid
Fresh corn from the cob (gluten-free)Microwavable popcorn (contain toxic chemicals, diacetyl, and perfluorooctanoic acid)
Labeled GMO-free cornCorn syrup (contains high-fructose sugars)
Organic corn (rich in nutrients)Cornstarch (non-food substance)
Plain popcorn (butter, salt, and caramel-free)Corn oil (full of fat and calories)
Frozen corn (contains fewer calories and less sodium)Canned corn (goes through a lot of processing)

So, how can you enjoy the allowed forms of corn in pregnancy?

[ Read: Constipation During Pregnancy ]

Ways To Consume Corn During Pregnancy

You may have corn as a snack.

  • Sweet corn is a delicious addition to salads, soups, toast, and sandwiches.
  • Add to pizzas, pasta, and other dishes to enhance their taste.
  • Grill or barbecue the cob and eat corn directly from it.
  • Boil corn and add seasoning of your preference.

Choose the right variety of corn to enjoy the taste of these dishes.

Tips For Buying and Storing Corn

Follow the below tips while buying corn:

  • Look for husks that are green in color.
  • Choose only fresh corn. You may check the freshness by pulling off the husk and piercing the kernel with a fingernail.
  • If the corn kennel is firm but soft and releases a little juice on being punctured, it is fresh. On the other hand, if it is discolored or dented, it is not.
  • Corn exposed to high temperatures can lose a bit of its sweet flavor, as the sugar gets converted to starch.
  • Let the corn remain in the husk; put it in the refrigerator.
  • If you have husked the corn, put it in a plastic bag, and refrigerate it.
  • If you want to eat fresh corn, eat it as soon as you bring it home.

Fresh corn has a certain appeal that might compel you to have more than what you should. And that can be a bad thing.

[ Read: Benefits Of Corn Flakes In Pregnancy ]

Is Craving Cornstarch During Pregnancy Related To The Pica Syndrome?

Sometimes, you may crave for cornstarch during pregnancy. This might be because of a condition called the Pica Syndrome, which involves the craving of non-food substances such as clay, ice, dirt, and more (12). If you experience such symptoms, talk to your doctor.

Why Is Microwave Popcorn Not Safe During Pregnancy?

You may want to avoid microwave popcorn for these reasons (13).

  1. They contain a chemical called diacetyl, which is used to imitate the butter flavor. The research shows that the workers at a popcorn manufacturing factory developed a lung disorder called bronchiolitis obliterans (popcorn worker’s lung) as they inhale this chemical every day for a long period.
  1. A toxic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, which is known to be found in the microwavable popcorn bags, breaks down upon heating. It is a carcinogen and likely to cause several types of cancer.

Next, we answer a few common queries about eating corn during pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you eat corn if you have gestational diabetes?

You may include corn in your food even if you have gestational diabetes, as it is known to be a low glycemic food (14). Low GI foods are likely to slowly and steadily release glucose, which might help in managing blood glucose levels (15).

2. Is overeating popcorn harmful during pregnancy?

Too much of anything is harmful. The same is the case with popcorn, as it may contain condiments such as butter, salt, or caramel. Excess of salt could lead to water retention, blood pressure fluctuations, and more, and excess of sugar could result in a host of other health issues. Likewise, the excess butter might lead to fat and sodium level buildup in the body.

3. Does eating cornstarch during pregnancy cause amylophagia?

The compulsive eating of cornstarch in large quantities during pregnancy may lead to amylophagia, a form of pica disorder. The book Nutrition Through the Life Cycle by Judith E. Brown talks about its complications such as elevated blood sugar levels, preterm labor, abnormalities in baby development, and high birth weight.

4. Can corn cause weight gain during pregnancy?

Corn is rich in carbohydrates and nutrients and is a significant source of energy that may lead to weight gain during pregnancy.

[ Read: Benefits Of Folic Acid During Pregnancy ]

5. Is eating undercooked corn on the cob dangerous for pregnant women?

It may not be dangerous to have undercooked corn on the cob. Prefer the organic variety and be careful not to have it in excess quantities.

In case you feel uneasy after taking corn, get in touch with your doctor. If you plan to include corn in your diet, discuss the benefits and probable risks with the doctor. As long as you use moderate amounts of corn, you could enjoy a wide range of delicacies to satiate your pregnancy cravings.

Tell us about the different ways you have tried adding corn to your pregnancy diet. Use the comments section to share your opinion.

References:

1. Basic Report; Corn, sweet, white, raw; USDA
2. Pregnancy and Lactation; Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University
3. Michelle A. Kominiarek and Priya Rajan; Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation; Med Clin North Am (2017)
4. Dietary Fiber; University Health Sciences Tang Center (2009)
5. Olaf Sommerburg et al.; Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes; British Journal of Ophthalmology, BMJ Journals
6. Monika A. Zielińska et al.; Health Effects of Carotenoids during Pregnancy and Lactation; Nutrients (2017)
7. Folate; Home & Garden Information Center; Clemson University (2005)
8. Thiamin; National Institutes Of Health (2019)
9. Sir Peter Gluckman et al.; Vitamin B1 (thiamine) in pregnancy and breastfeeding; Oxford Medicine Online (2015)
10. Carotenoids; Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University
11. Raygada M et al.; High maternal intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids during pregnancy in mice alters offsprings’ aggressive behavior, immobility in the swim test, locomotor activity and brain protein kinase C activity; J Nutr. (1998)
12. Sera Young and Jean Tiffany Cox; Pica in pregnancy; UpToDate
13. Thomas Tatem Moore.; Is Microwavable Popcorn bad for you; The Pennsylvania State University (2016)
14. Glycemic index for 60+ foods; Harvard Health Publishing (2018)
15. Healthy Eating For Gestational Diabetes; Health Care and Education Committee of Diabetes Australia Ltd (2009)

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