One of the best things about late summer is the piles and piles of sweet corn that turn up at grocery stores and farmers markets. You shuck them, grill them, or cut the kernels off the cob and saute them in butter, and they are absolutely perfect. Except for one thing... And here I’m going to be blunt, because who among us has not devoured sweet corn and seen little flecks of yellow in their poop the next day?
If you’re like me, you may fear that you have some sort of physiological shortcoming that makes it impossible to digest corn. And you go ahead and eat more anyway, because life is short and corn is sweet.
But the good news is, according to a recent article from Live Science, it’s not just you. It’s everybody, even cows who have a diet exclusively of corn.
The yellow flecks that turn up in your poop aren’t actually the kernels. They’re just the outside covering. (Praise to the scientists who performed the investigation that figured this out.) Kernels are really seeds, and they need to be hardy so they can travel. Hence the tough outer covering, made of a protein called cellulose that humans lack the gut bacteria and enzymes to digest. Turns out cows don’t have them, either; cow pies are just full of undigested kernel parts that lucky researchers get to pluck out and study.
However, as Andrea Watson, a ruminant nutritionist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln told Live Science, that cellulose covering makes up only 10% of each kernel of corn. The other 90% contains valuable nutrients, as well as fiber, starch, and antioxidants. So keep eating that corn! It’s good for you—though, as Watson felt moved to remind Live Science, not as healthy as a nice pile of leafy greens that doesn’t taste nearly as good. Such is life.