This section is from the book "Practical Dietetics With Special Reference To Diet In Disease", by William Gilman Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Practical Dietetics with Special Reference to Diet in Disease.
Maize, or Indian corn, is very extensively grown in temperate and warm climates all over the world. It may be dried, parched, and roasted whole, or ground into meal of various degrees of fineness.
There are some 300 varieties of corn, but the common kinds are known simply as white, yellow, and red.
The chief preparations of corn are hominy, samp, cornmeal, cracked corn, cerealine, and maizena (a South American cornmeal, used in the manufacture of a drink called "chicca ").
Chittenden and Osborn have made an elaborate research into the chemical composition of the "proteids of the corn or maize kernel "
(American Chemical Journal, vol. xiii, Nos. 7 and 8, and vol. xiv, No. 1). These consist of "three globulins, one or more albumins, and an alcohol-soluble proteid " called maize fibrin or zein.
Corn is a wholesome cereal, for it contains considerable fat and proteid as well as starch, and it furnishes abundant energy' producing heat. It is very fattening for both the lower animals and man. In the Southern States and in France it is largely fed to horses.
As a vegetable, corn is less used in Europe than in America, perhaps on account of the prevalent idea that it is a hog's food, although cornmeal is employed for baking into cakes and to mix with flour in bread-making. Eaten as a vegetable, unless very young and tender, corn is one of the least digestible foods, and canned corn is notoriously so. This is chiefly on account of the toughness of the husk of the kernel, which often is found in the feces practically unaltered by its transit through the body. Hence it may cause flatulency, indigestion, and diarrhoea.
Cornmeal, on the other hand, is quite digestible, and, like oatmeal, is somewhat laxative. As compared with wheaten flour, it contains more fat, having about 9 per cent, but it is deficient in salts. It makes a dry, friable bread.
Samp is a very digestible form of corn when well boiled.
When maize becomes mouldy it causes the disease known as pellagra. (See Diet in Pellagra).
Polenta is a maize meal extensively used in Italy.
Cornstarch is very white and soft. It contains 53 per cent of starch. The best grades are used as a substitute for arrowroot, and make a wholesome invalid food, being very white and soft.
Indian meal is yellow, granular, and coarser than cornstarch.