If you grew up in America, you probably remember family picnics as a child where you and your family ate corn-on-the-cob. When you visit a movie theater, it might seem strange not to order the giant tub of popcorn. But did you know those boxes of candy you bought have corn in them? With food allergies becoming commonplace in our country, it’s become important to know what we’re eating. If you have a corn sensitivity, or worse, a corn allergy, you probably want to avoid corn and all its derivatives. Keeping a food diary and practicing an elimination diet are helpful strategies, but you have to know what to look for.
How Do I Avoid Corn?
Avoiding corn involves more than simply looking for words that include “corn.” Some corn derivatives are easy to spot, like corn starch, corn meal, and corn syrup. Soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi, and Mountain Dew are loaded with “high fructose corn syrup,” which obviously comes from corn. Other food products, however, which are derived from corn may be difficult to identify because manufacturers find ways to avoid using the word. If you have a corn sensitivity or a corn allergy, use your discretion when consuming these products.
How Do I Recognize Corn?
Because of its sweetness and ability to thicken foods, manufacturers sneak corn into all kinds of consumables. Corn hides in foods like peanut butter, processed snacks, and dozens of boxed cereals, even healthy oatmeal. As you might guess, hidden corn is difficult to avoid unless you learn the “secret words.” And, when a food item includes corn as part of its preparation or packaging process, companies have no legal obligation to list corn as an ingredient. So, it’s up to you to become a conscientious consumer and discern the ingredients derived from corn.
Below is a list of corn derivatives to help you recognize the secret words:
- Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C: often added as a coating on fresh fruits
- Baking Powder: also know as corn starch
- Caramel coloring: used in “brown” soft drinks, comes from cane sugar
- Decyl Glucoside: used in shampoo, made from glucose (corn starch) combined with decanol, derived from coconut
- Maltodextrin: this thickening agent is found in so many processed foods, but it is corn!
- Dextrose: and most other foods ending in “ose” come from corn sugar, and are found in packaged cookies, ice cream, and hospital IVs
- Ethanol: made by fermenting sugars produced from corn starch
- Flavoring: found in artificial or even “natural flavors” in certain spices, colorings and flavorings
- Iodized Salt: surprisingly, this contains dextrose
- Lactic Acid: this product can be made from chemicals or from a byproduct of corn fermentation
- Polysorbates: including Polysorbate 80, an oily liquid derived from sorbitol (corn)
- Saccharin: in powder form it contains dextrose, found in your artificial sweeteners on cafe tables
- Polydextrose: synthesized from dextrose, contains sorbitol, and citric acid. Although it’s used to increase the non-dietary fiber content of food and replaces sugar, and reduces calories and fat content, all three ingredients are corn derivatives
- Monosodium Glutamate(MSG): so few people realize this flavoring is made from corn
- Lauryl Glucoside: used in cosmetics as a foaming agent. It’s made from glucose, or corn, and lauryl alcohol
- Mannitol: naturally occurring alcohol often combined with corn-derived sugars to create a diuretic used in hospitals
- Starch: unless the ingredients specifically say potato starch, starch is corn starch
- Vinegar (distilled white): the most common method used to make this comes from a process where corn is converted from starch into sugar
- Vanilla Extract: most brands contain corn syrup
- Xanthan Gum: thickening agent used in packaged gravies and sauces, secret word for corn
Where Can I Find Out More?
Below are some links to other resources to give you more information on how to avoid corn and corn derived products.