Healthier Swaps for Corn

It’s pretty amazing: The average American eats 98 pounds of corn every year — mostly from corn-derived ingredients in food along with 42 pounds of corn syrup.  (42 pounds!!!)

Why is that bad news? Modern corn is such a genetically modified Frankenfood that it’s hard for our bodies to digest. Plus, its sugars are now so concentrated that it spikes your blood sugar like crazy, which shuts off your metabolism like a light switch, making it harder for your body to burn fat — in fact, corn can MAKE you fat.

Up to our ears in corn and corn syrup

From The Fast Metabolism Diet: “I have many actor clients, and occasionally one will ask me to help him or her gain weight for a part in a movie, when they need to look chubby. Corn is one of my best tricks.” — Haylie Pomroy

Corn is everywhere—and it’s making you fat.  It’s what farmers use to fatten pigs and cattle—not exactly the look we’re going for. Even if you don’t pig out on Doritos, you’re probably getting “sneaky corn” in the form of corn-based fillers added to packaged foods, along with corn syrup that seems to be in everything. In fact, 93% of the beef in a fast-food burger is actually derived from corn (thanks to all the corn the cattle eat)—and when we eat that, we build our bodies out of corn, too.

We’re like corn chips walking,” says Todd Dawson, a University of California-Berkeley scientist. Even health nuts aren’t safe: Dawson tested a hair from CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta for corn’s carbon marker. Sixty-nine percent of Gupta’s carbon came from corn.

Corn lurks in everything from baby formula to frozen pizza, usually under assumed names. Luckily, once you have a little knowledge, it’s easy to avoid corn-derived foods and ingredients and make healthier substitutions.


These hit your body with a double whammy—corn plus sugar, another metabolism-killer. Corn syrup, dextrin, maltodextrin, dextrose, glucose, fructose, and invert sugar all come from corn. They lurk in all kinds of processed foods—and not just sodas and sweets, either. Check the labels on your bread, cold cuts, canned soup, processed cheese, ketchup, cereal, yogurt, nuts …pretty much everything.

Better bets: Go for whole, unprocessed foods like raw nuts and fresh meats—these won’t contain unnecessary corn sweeteners. You can get sweetener-free versions of things like ketchup, too.

ŸOils and fake fats

Corn oil is obviously derived from corn, but vegetable oil, margarine, and shortening also may contain corn oil, plus a bunch of other metabolism-busters like soy and hydrogenated fats. Basically, you really don’t want to eat these. Skip the fast food and processed foods, which are typically drowned in corn fat.

Better bets: Use olive, grapeseed, sesame, and coconut oils for cooking.


Cornstarch, modified starch, or just “starch” on an ingredient list—all come from corn. Manufacturers sneak these into cold cuts, yogurt, soups, sweets, condiments, pre-shredded cheese, and pre-seasoned meat.

Better bets: Go for natural meats, yogurts (nut-based), etc., and replace that box of cornstarch in your cabinet with arrowroot powder.

The obvious corn stuff

You know, corn chips, tortillas, popcorn, etc.  — things that obviously come from corn.

Better bets: Opt for tortillas made from brown rice or sprouted grains or make your own. Serve brown rice or more adventurous whole grains (like teff, quinoa, or amaranth) instead of polenta. Snack on nuts, hummus, and gluten-free pretzels instead of corn chips. If you really miss the crunch of popcorn, try popping sorghum instead. Here’s how (recipe at the bottom of this article).