Corn is in Nearly Everything We Eat. Does It Matter?

Dr. Linda Dahl
5 min readSep 27, 2022
Photo by Mockup Graphics on Unsplash

This summer, the Corn Kid went viral on TikTok when he was interviewed by a YouTube show called Recess Therapy. In the video, Tariq, aka the Corn Kid, shared his passion for corn while chomping down on a buttery ear. He really loves corn. He thinks everyone just has to try it. It turns out, whether we know it or not, we already have.

Considered a fruit, vegetable, and grain, corn is everywhere. It is the second most produced crop in the world. The U.S. is the largest producer, with corn accounting for 36% of its exports. In the U.S, it’s incredibly easy to grow and produces high yields, as evidenced by the vast expanse of the corn belt, which stretches across the Midwest and Great Plains and as far south as the panhandle of Texas. Since 1950, the corn harvest has increased from 2 billion to 10 billion bushels a year.

Fine, you say. Just because we can grow so much, it doesn’t mean we should. Why are we producing so much corn? And what is all this corn used for anyway?

The why question is a practical and political one. If you want the whole story, read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The short version is that in the early 1970s, food prices soared. Nixon, who was president at the time, began subsidizing corn to feed the masses. Monsanto, an agricultural biotech company, did its part by genetically engineering corn seeds to make them more hearty, and before we knew it there was plenty of corn. No one went hungry. Yee haw. But then there was too much corn. Since there’s only so much corn-on-the-cob people can eat, the powers-that-be had to figure out what to do with the rest.

Lucky for them, corn is incredibly versatile.

First, let’s talk about its edible versions. I like to break it down into obvious corn and stealth corn.

Obvious corn is, well, obvious, because it’s regular corn prepared in different ways, like popcorn, canned corn, and the cob variety. This version may or may not get digested, and often comes out whole, doing little more than polka-dotting your poop. It can also be ground into a meal to make treats that still taste like corn, such as cornbread, polenta, and corn tortillas. In moderation, obvious corn has a lot of health benefits because it contains…

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Dr. Linda Dahl

Physician. Author of Tooth and Nail:The Making of a Female Fight Doctor & Better Breastfeeding, http://www.drlindadahl.com @doctorlindadahl