Is corn good for diabetics?

Many people wonder – is corn good for diabetics? Corn is a starchy vegetable that can be cooked as is or it can be milled into flours and other types of grains.

So, can diabetics eat corn? The good news is that people living with diabetes can enjoy corn in their diet. How it is prepared matters and so does the quantity consumed. 

It is always important to remember that there is no one ideal diet for every diabetic. We must take into account individual culture and preferences when making dietary recommendations for patients with diabetes. Diabetes comes in all shapes and sizes with various cultural backgrounds and dietary preferences, thus there is no one-size fits all dietary approach in diabetes that is effective for everyone living with diabetes.

Corn products are central to certain cultural diets, for example in our Mexican and Latinx populations. Diabetes is highly prevalent in this population, so finding ways to enjoy corn in a healthful way can help many people living with diabetes. 

Asking people to completely remove their cultural foods is impractical and it can contribute to worsened diabetes distress and even diabetes burnout. Diabetes is challenging. It is with patients all day every day. It can be overwhelming. When overwhelmed, many people give up, especially when they see no improvement or end in sight. 

In populations where corn is important to the diet, we can help prevent this diabetes related distress and burnout by finding ways to help people living with diabetes enjoy their cultural foods in healthful ways.

In some cases corn can be a healthier alternative. Corn flours, for example in corn tortillas, can be lower in calories and a more healthful option compared to white flour tortillas. By removing lard and butter from tortillas we can make them healthier, regardless of the flour used.

On the other hand, highly processed corn products and fried corn products such as tortilla chips should be limited. When carbohydrates and fats are eaten together, they can cause a prolonged elevation in blood sugar and weight gain.

Minimally processed foods that are closest to their natural form are typically the healthiest. Processing often removes healthful fiber and adds sugar, fat and salt, overall deteriorating the quality of the original food. Thus fresh corn found in the produce section and frozen corn are typically the healthiest forms. If canned corn is the only option, looking at additives on the label is helpful to ensure that sugar, salt and fat is not added to the food thus deteriorating it’s quality. Fresh produce is not always available for people living with diabetes, thus we must find practical options for our patients’ time, resources and budgets.

Per the American Diabetes Association’s 2022 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, carbohydrate intake should emphasize nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources that are high in fiber (at least 14 g fiber per 1,000 kcal) and minimally processed. Eating plans should emphasize non starchy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, as well as dairy products, with minimal added sugars.

For more information on diet in diabetes watch the video below!