You can get health-supportive antioxidant benefits from all varieties of corn, including white, yellow, but recent research has shown the antioxidant benefits from different varieties of corn actually come from different combinations of phytonutrients. In the case of yellow corn, it’s the antioxidant carotenoids leading the way, with especially high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin.
In research on carotenoid antioxidants in food, there has been ongoing debate over the availability of all carotenoids in any particular food if one or two specific carotenoids are present in unusually high amounts. Because yellow corn is a high-carotenoid food that contains highly differing amounts of individual carotenoids, researchers have long wondered whether it is possible to get health benefits from all of the carotenoids in yellow corn when their concentrations are sometimes so different. In yellow cornmeal, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin fall into the high concentration category and reach a level of 1,355 micrograms per 100 grams. That level is nearly 14 times as high as the level of beta-carotene (97 micrograms per 100 grams). But thanks to recent research, we now know that absorption of beta-carotene from yellow cornmeal is only mildly compromised by the high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the cornmeal. In other words, in terms of carotenoid nourishment, we appear to get health benefits from all of corn’s diverse carotenoids!
We correctly think about corn as a good source of fiber. Corn is a food that gives us plenty of chewing satisfaction, and its high ratio of insoluble-to-soluble fiber is partly the reason. Past researchers have not been clear, however, about the ability of corn fiber to nourish our lower digestive tract. When you look at foods as a whole, they contain many different types of fiber, and when certain types of fiber reach the lower part of our large intestine (especially certain types of soluble fiber) they can be metabolized by intestinal bacteria into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs).