Ask Leah! The Ingles Dietitian

Sponsored: What is the difference between field corn and sweet corn?

ingles dietitianQUESTION: What is the difference between field corn and sweet corn?

ANSWER: First, let’s start with the fact that there are 6 different types of corn and they fall into two categories – SOFT or HARD corns based on the amount of hard or soft starch in the kernel.

Field, sweet corn and flour corns are considered SOFT corns.  

Field or Dent corn – zea mays indentata - Most of the large cornfields you would see in the United States are planted with field corn.  Field corn is used for animal feed, fuel (ethanol) and to make ingredients for food companies. Some field corn is used to provide seeds. If you picked an ear of field corn and tried to eat it you would find it to be dry and not sweet. 

Sweet corn – zea mays saccharata or zea rugosa - Also known as “sugar corn”, sweet corn has been bred  to contain a higher natural starch amount giving it more sweetness so it was more appealing to eat and could also be used for canning.  Most of the sweet corn grown today are hybrids that fall into 3 categories: standard (normal sugar), sugary enhancer and supersweet. 

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Flour corn – zea mays amylacea – Used to make corn flours for baked goods.

HARD corns:

Flint corn – zea mays indurata – Similar uses as field corn has less soft starch than the soft corn.  Hominy and grits are made from flint corn. 

Indian or ornamental corn -  A multicolored corn used primarily for decoration is a type of flint corn. 

Popcorn - zea mays everta – Popcorn, the oldest and hardiest variety of corn is planted only on about 184,000 acres throughout the U.S. The state with the largest amount of acreage in popcorn is Nebraska. Popcorn is the only variety of corn that will pop.


Leah McGrath, RDN, LDN

Ingles Markets Corporate Dietitian


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