‘From plate to poop’: Why corn survives digestion and what it means for your health

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Corn has a way of staying intact from plate to poop. The bright yellow kernels found in our favorite summer dishes can show up — seemingly undigested — in the bathroom hours later. How does corn survive the digestive system? And maybe more importantly, should you even eat a food that’s hard to digest?

It turns out that your digestive system is doing more work than you think, so don’t skip the maize just yet. The yellow kernels in your poo are really just the corn kernel’s outer coating, according to Andrea Watson, a ruminant nutritionist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Corn kernels are seeds carrying precious genetic material. The key to the seed’s survival is the waxy, yellow outer coating that protects the genetic material from weather, pests and transport. The fact that it’s hard to break down is actually ideal for the plant. The outer coating owes its resilience to a tough fiber called cellulose, which humans don’t have the proper enzymes or gut bacteria to digest.

Related article:  Will sugar, sweetener, salt, cholesterol, fat, HFCS, (fill in blank) kill you?

The good news is that cellulose makes up only about 10% of corn …. So, the other 90% is useful nutrition.

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