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.
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!