In Illinois, for many Americans, highly processed foods are on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even when the raw materials – grains, for example – are high in vitamins and health-promoting phenolic compounds, processing can rob the final product of these nutrients. In a set of recent studies, University of Illinois scientists found what happens to cancer-fighting phenolic acids in corn when it is processed into cornflakes.
“What we found was not particularly good news, but it was interesting. Regardless of the concentration in the grain at the beginning, the dry-milling process removes the majority of phenolics,” says Carrie Butts-Wilmsmeyer, lead author of the two studies and research assistant professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I.
The phenolic compounds in corn are primarily concentrated in the bran, or the outer covering of the corn kernel, which is removed in the first steps of the dry-milling process.