Is Corn a Whole Grain?

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I’ve been asked recently by a few people if corn is a whole grain. According to the Whole Grains Council, fresh corn is usually classified as a vegetable and dried corn (including popcorn) as a grain.

Corn is a whole grain if the bran, germ, and endosperm are all left intact, just like whole wheat. If the corn is milled or degermed to remove the bran and germ, then it is a refined grain.

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When buying products made with corn, such as corn tortillas, taco shells, or cornmeal, be sure to look for words in the ingredient list like ‘whole corn’ or ‘whole grain corn’ to identify that it is a whole grain. Another way to identify whole grains is to look for the whole grain stamp that was created by the Whole Grains Council and is found on many whole grain products. Some products may also have their own symbol identifying the product is made from a whole grain. However, it is always best to look at the ingredient list to be sure the product is made from a whole grain and that it is the first or one of the first couple ingredients in the product.

Some products might say ‘limed whole grain corn’ or ‘limed corn’ in the ingredient list. Limed corn is corn that has been soaked in limewater as part of the process in preparing it to be used for food preparation. Some benefits of limed corn are that it is more easily ground, the flavor and aroma are improved, and the food safety of the corn is improved. Limed corn can be a whole grain or refined grain so it is still important to look for products made from whole grain corn.

Popcorn is also a whole grain and is a healthy snack, as long as it isn’t covered in butter and salt!

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Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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18 thoughts on “Is Corn a Whole Grain?

  1. Thanks for your question. Yes, cornmeal and enriched cornmeal would be considered a grain. If you want a whole grain, you would want to choose stone-ground cornmeal, which retains some hull and germ. Regular corn-meal is degermed and is not a whole grain.

  2. My husband has been diagnosed with an allergy to cobalt chloride. Is corn considered a whole grain that would contain cobalt chloride? I haven’t been able to find out if things like fresh corn on the cob, canned corn or popcorn fall under the whole-grain category. Is it considered a whole-grain flour? It has been very difficult. Thank you for any assistance you may be able to provide.

  3. Thank you for your question. I would encourage you to talk to your husband’s doctor about sources of cobalt chloride. As far as corn being a whole grain, fresh corn like corn on the cob and canned corn would be considered a vegetable while dried corn, including popcorn, would be considered a grain. Popcorn is a whole grain. The Whole Grains Council has good information on grains. Visit this link for more information on corn

  4. I’m looking for Corn Tortillas that are a whole grain. but reading the packages are so confusing they mostly say Ground Corn Treated with Lime, Water, or Stone Ground White Corn Masa Flour and a Trace of Lime are any of these a whole grain?

  5. It can be tricky determining if a product made from corn is a whole grain. In order for it to be a whole grain, it needs to say ‘whole corn’ or ‘whole grain corn’ in the ingredient list. Looking for the word ‘whole’ is the key. So the Ground Corn or Stone Ground While Corn Masa Flour are not whole grain since they do not have the word whole.

  6. So does “whole grain corn” as an ingredient make a food unsuitable for the pre-colonoscopy “low residue diet”?

  7. Yes, items made with whole grain corn would not be suitable for a low residue diet. However, We would encourage you to talk with your doctor or a dietitian who works in this area about a low residue diet.

  8. Corn can be milled without removing the bran and germ but it would then say ‘whole corn’ or ‘whole grain corn’. Since it just said ‘milled corn’ it is likely a refined grain.

  9. I thought that “Corn” was the colloquial name for the whole lot ie, Barley, Rye, oats etc?

  10. Apparently, whether or not corn on the cob is a whole grain depends on when it is picked. Is there any way to know that? Is frozen corn on the cob always picked too early to be considered a whole grain? Is there any way to know while shopping?

  11. Abba, Thanks for your question. Corn on the cob, including frozen corn on the cob would be considered ‘fresh’ corn. Dried corn would be things like popcorn or things made from dried corn such as cornmeal, corn flour, grits, or polenta.

  12. Hi Paramjit – It depends on your body’s needs and the reason for your grain free diet. I would suggest you talk with your health care provider if you are concerned about the safety of any food.

  13. Hello, I have seen an ingredient called Ground Corn on a bag of chips. Do you know if this is the same thing as Stone Ground Corn/is it a whole grain? Thanks!

  14. Hi Hillary – I am going to send your question along to our friends at ISU AnswerLine. Watch for a response in your email. Thanks!

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