13 Ways Corn Is Used In Our Everyday Lives

Corn is most often thought of as a food. Perhaps if you’re an avid cook, you might even think of cornstarch or corn-based food additives, or perhaps those who follow the oil and gas news might think of ethanol. However, recent years have seen this dinner staple’s uses expand greatly. In fact, the bulk of corn that’s produced today does not go to food production. You’re probably using corn in ways that you don’t even realize as you go about your daily business. The countless uses of corn have prompted some interest in corn as an investable asset, and prices have surged in recent years as demand has increased [for more corn new and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].

How Corn Is Used In Plastic

Plastics aren’t entirely made up of synthetic substances – in fact, corn-based plastics have become very popular in recent years as companies strive to find methods for reducing the environmental impact of plastics. Corn-based plastics use up to 68% less fossil fuels in production than traditional plastics, and are estimated to emit 55% less greenhouse gases. Additionally, many of these plastics are also biodegradable. You’ll find corn plastics used in food containers and plastic food packaging, disposable dishware and gift cards.

Yes, Corn Is In Your Batteries

Ethanol isn’t the only form of energy derived from corn. Some batteries also contain corn derivatives found in the form of “bioelectricity.” In batteries, cornstarch is often used as an electrical conductor.

It Even Makes You Smell Better

Cornstarch is a common ingredient in many cosmetic and hygiene items, including deodorants. Many natural or homemade deodorants include cornstarch as an ingredient because of its absorbent nature; however, many gel deodorants also contain a corn derivative in the form of denatured alcohol, also known as ethanol. Similarly, hand sanitizer also typically contains ethanol.

Or Eases The Common Cold

Corn syrup is one of the main ingredients in cough drops. It provides the sweetness that is found in most cough drops, and also helps provide the shape and candy-like texture of cough drops. Corn syrup is used in this capacity because traditional sugars often form crystals or dust-like particles while blending. Luckily, corn syrup doesn’t share this undesirable trait in the manufacturing process.

Where Would Babies Be Without Corn?

You can thank the absorbent nature of cornstarch for its assistance in the production of diapers. Though the absorbent layer found in modern-day diapers is typically made with acrylic acid, which is a component of ethylene – another derivative of corn, you’ll also find traditional cornstarch used in diaper production. Baby powder, an item which is often used along with diapers, also typically contains cornstarch thanks to its absorbent nature.

Corn Helps Matches Burn Bright

Corn, and more specifically cornstarch, is a common ingredient used in the production of matchsticks. Additionally, matchsticks that are formed on paper or cardstock may include corn products in the paper itself to increase the rigidity. Additionally, you can also purchase pellet stoves that burn corn-based pellets to heat your home.

From Crop To Medication

Many medications and vitamins contain corn products, particularly cornstarch. The starch is often used as a binder or within the tablet’s coating, and helps drugs to hold their form. Additionally, cornstarch is used as an agent that helps the tablets to disintegrate after they are ingested. Cornstarch is an appealing ingredient for these uses because it is a safe and natural product that’s generally quite easily digested by humans.

Corn Is Beneath Our Feet

Carpets and other textile products now make wide use of corn in their production. This is often found in petroleum-based textile production, but can also be found in colorings or dyes. Corn-based products are often preferable to petroleum-based products in textile production because they are typically better for the environment.

Vitamin C(orn)

The vast majority of commercially distributed vitamin C is derived from corn. Corn is rich with vitamin C (half a cup of corn contains roughly 33% of your suggested daily intake of vitamin C), which makes it an appealing source for adding vitamin C to enrich various products, or in the production of vitamin C tablets.

Corn For Crayons

Those colorful crayons that children play with can also attribute their form to the inclusion of corn-based derivatives. Dextrin, which is made from cornstarch, is used to assist with removing crayons easily from their molds. Corn products also help the paper labels to adhere to crayons.

Yogurt And Corn

Though perhaps you’re not likely to see corn-flavored yogurt lining the grocery store shelves any time soon, you may be surprised to learn that corn is an ingredient in many types of yogurt. You might find corn syrup used as a sweetener in yogurt, and cornstarch is often used to help get the right consistency in both yogurt and ice cream.

Corn Holds Our World Together

Glue and other adhesives commonly contain cornmeal or cornstarch. The adhesives used on envelopes include cornstarch, which becomes sticky once moistened. Additionally, corn germ, which is the leftover substance after the oil has been removed from corn, is used to increase the adhesive qualities of industrial glue. The use of corn germ allows many of these high-intensity glues to be less expensive, as corn germ replaces some of the resin that’s typically used in fabrication.

A Sweet Tooth For Corn

You’ll generally find corn used in candies and other confectionary items in two ways. First, corn syrup is often used as a sweetener in beverages, candies and other sweets. Also, candies that are formed in molds often contain cornstarch in order to get the fine details to hold their shape – think of gummy candies that have fine details, like character shapes or imprinted logos. Additionally, corn products are used to give some types of candies a chewy texture. You’ll find corn used in virtually any type of sweetened product.

The Bottom Line

Toothpaste, dish detergent, paper, clothing dyes, explosives and soaps; there is a vast list of products that contain corn products. In fact, it is estimated that one quarter of items found in a grocery store contain corn in some form. You may not always see it on the ingredient listing for food products, but if you see such ingredients as xanthan gum, polyols (artificial sweeteners) or fructose, there’s a chance corn is hiding away somewhere in those food items. Outside of foods, many petroleum-based production processes are now including corn products in an effort to make manufacturing more environmentally friendly. So, whether you’re for it or against it, the wide range of uses for corn has expanded well beyond the usual suspects. In fact, it’s become rather hard to imagine our world without this diverse and dependable staple.

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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.

About Janet Fowler

Janet Fowler is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s Business Education program. In the time since graduating, Janet’s career has developed in a variety of areas, particularly in the area of publishing, but also in teaching, human resources and recruiting. Janet learned at a young age that real estate could be a valuable tool in building a financial empire, having bought her first house on her own at the age of 24. In addition to Janet’s work experiences, she has developed a deeper understanding of people, finances and life in general through her world travels, which have allowed her the opportunity to travel extensively through North America, Europe, and the South Pacific. Janet’s stay in the South Pacific also provided Janet the opportunity to work for the Australian government, assisting her to develop a more global view of the working world. Additionally, Janet is a devout yogi and a movie enthusiast with a passion for all things Star Wars.
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  • Sage

    Thanks! You helped me out a lot on a school project!

    • Dave

      same

  • colonie high

    great

  • observer

    very interesting i basically been eating corn all my life apparently

  • Justin

    u helped with my work thanks

  • SJ

    Makes it really hard for those with corn allergies to avoid it completely. I also have to wonder how safe it is to be so sensitized to something like that, especially something that is so commonly genetically modified.

  • Melanie Lamere

    Since I’ve recently developed a corn intolerance, this is so scary. Add the fact that 88% of Corn is Genetically modified and we have a bigger problem than we will ever be able to comprehend.

    • steve

      corn GMO’s wont hurt you but having that corn intolerance must suck, sorry to hear about that.

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