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Cooking sweet corn boosts disease-fighting nutrients

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Hurrah for hominy. Cooking sweet corn, whether you cream it, steam it or keep it on the cob, unleashes beneficial nutrients that can substantially reduce the chance of heart disease and cancer, according to Cornell University food scientists.

Writing in the Aug. 14 issue of Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry , published by the American Chemical Society, the Cornell researchers say that cooking sweet corn significantly boosts the grain's health-giving antioxidant activity.

"There is a notion that processed fruits and vegetables have a lower nutritional value than fresh produce. Those original notions seem to be false, as cooked sweet corn retains its antioxidant activity, despite the loss of vitamin C," says Rui Hai Liu, Cornell assistant professor of food science, the lead author on the article, "Processed Sweet Corn Has Higher Antioxidant Activity." Veronica Dewanto, a Cornell graduate student from Indonesia, and Xianzhong Wu, a visiting scholar from China, joined Liu in the research.

The researchers purchased sweet corn and cooked the kernels in batches at 115 degrees Celsius (239 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10, 25 and 50 minutes. Liu says that the cooking increased the antioxidants in sweet corn by 22, 44 and 53 percent, respectively. The scientists measured the antioxidants' ability to quench free radicals, which cause damage to the body from oxidation, increasing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Free radicals also have been linked to aging-related diseases like cataracts and Alzheimer's.

In addition to its antioxidant benefits, cooked sweet corn unleashes a phenolic compound called ferulic acid, which provides health benefits, such as battling cancer. "It's not a free acid," says Liu. "It's bound to the cell wall and in the corn's insoluble fibers. We found that ferulic acid was substantially increased after the sweet corn was cooked at high temperatures and by cooking it at the same temperature over a longer
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Contact: Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
bpf2@cornell.edu
607-255-3290
Cornell University News Service
9-Aug-2002


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