Maize | Definition, Types, History, Uses, Health Benefits And Amazing Facts

7 Amazing Health Benefits Of The Corn Maize
The corn maize is undeniably one of the most popular crops in the West African region. It is eaten in two different ways:- roasted and boiled.
There are many amazing health benefits of the maize crop that every lover of the crop deserves to know. The maize plant is very nutritional and delicious when eaten. It can be eaten in many different ways, as popcorn, chicha morada, corn flakes, canjica, and many others. Maize flour (cornstarch) is also a major ingredient in home cooking and many industrialized food products.

What Is Maize?

 Maize (also known as corn) is a cereal grain that was first domesticated by the indigenous peoples in southern Mexico about 10,000 years ago. It has however over the years spread to many parts of the world and has become a staple food.
Maize | Definition, History, Uses, Health Benefits And Amazing Facts
According to Wikipedia, the total production of maize in the world has surpassed the production of rice or wheat, probably because of it's good number of uses. Generally, just a little fraction of the maize is consumed directly by humans, a good percentage is used in producing many things like animal feed, corn ethanol, corn syrup and the corn starch.

Types of Maize

There are around six different types of maize:
  • Dent corn: The dent corn can also be called field corn, Reid's yellow dent corn, yellow dent corn or white dent corn. It got its name because of the small indentation at the crown of each kernel.
    Photo of the Dent corn
    The dent corn is mostly used in industrial products, as livestock feed, or in making processed foods. It is not normally eaten by humans because of its very thick outer skin that doesn't soften up to an edible point if when cooked for hours.
  • Flint corn: The flint corn is likened to being hard as flint because each kernel of the flint corn has a hard outer layer to protect the soft endosperm. It is a variety of maize that has hard and slightly translucent grains.
    The flint corn originated from India where it was used as a grain for making flour. In the United States and other North American countries, the flint corn is grown as an ornamental and for livestock feeding.
  • Flour corn: Flour corn is is a variety of corn primarily used to make corn flour and it has a soft starchy endosperm and a thin pericarp.
  • Pod corn: Also called the wild maize, the pod corn is a variety of maize that that forms leaves around each kernel. The pod corn is used for ornamental purposes and is not grown commercially.
  • Pop corn: Popcorn is a variety of corn kernel that expands and puffs up when heated.
    Maize | Definition, Types, History, Uses, Health Benefits And Amazing Facts
    A popcorn kernel's strong hull contains the seed's hard, starchy endosperm with 14–20% moisture, which turns to steam as the kernel is heated.
  • Sweet corn: This is a variety of corn with a high sugar content and sweet taste. It is the result of a naturally occurring recessive mutation in the genes which control conversion of sugar to starch inside the ENO of the corn kernel.

Uses and Health Benefits of Maize

Maize is a crop that is widely used in many parts of the world for several purposes. Although majority of harvested corns are used for feeding livestock, it's also worth mentioning that the maize plant has been a source of food to humans over the years.

The uses of maize include:

  • Maize flour: Maize flour or meal is a type of food eaten in many different cultures like angu (Brazil), polenta (Italy), mãmãligã (Romania), mealie pap, ugali, sadza and nshima (Africa). It can also be used as a replacement for the wheat flour in the production of the cornbread and other baked products.
  • Corn syrup: Corn syrup is used as a replacement of sugar in thousands of products like candy, soda, bread and cookie.
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch is gotten from maize and due to its high content of starch, used as a thickening agent in soups.
  • Masa: Masa is cornmeal treated with lime water and is the main ingredient for atole, tortillas and many other dishes in the Mexican recipe.
  • Kitty litter: Kitty litter made from maize is environmentally-friendly.
  • Maize mazes: This is a fun use of the maize plant.
    Maize | Definition, Types, History, Uses, Health Benefits And Amazing Facts
    Rows of maize are planted in the shape of a maze. This is popular in the United States and any day you pay a visit to the country, you should try visiting one.

Health Benefits of Maize

  • Maize is helpful for the development of healthy eyes.
  • Due to its high amount of carbohydrates, corn is a great source of energy required for the normal functioning of the body and mind.
  • They help in the prevention of diverticular diseases.
  • It has been observed to help non-insulin dependent diabetes without spiking blood sugar levels too much. 
  • They help in the reduction of the risk of cancer in humans.
  • They help in the prevention of anaemia.
  • Maize is very helpful for people that want to lose weight.
  • Maize is a good source of fibre.
  • Corn and corn flour are naturally gluten free and a good option for people suffering from gluten intolerance.

History of Maize

Although land plants have been in existence for nearly 500 million years, maize plants in their present forms have only existed for approximately 6000 years. According to scientists, the maize plant was derived from the teosinte, an earlier ancestral plant.
Maize was domesticated in MesoAmerica and because of its rich nutrients and ease in being stored and carried, adapted to the diverse growing conditions. it also provided food and fuel and became a staple food for most Caribbean and American cultures.
It was however spread to other parts of the world after the Europeans arrived in America and took it home with them.

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