Is Blue Corn Healthy?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Anthocyanins are a type of plant-based antioxidant found in abundance but not exclusively in berries.

Take, for instance, blue corn, which is regular yellow corn that has a high level of anthocyanins. The anthocyanins are actually what give it a bluish hue.

Fortunately, anthocyanins are good for you from any source including corn. Just take a look at this short list of benefits that are commonly attributed to anthocyanins:

  • Enhance glucose metabolism and reduce glucose absorption.1-3
  • Induce cancer apoptosis (programmed cell death) in several cancer cell lines.4-7
  • Metabolize toxins and inhibit DNA damage.8,9
  • Inhibit inflammatory gene expression and reduce inflammation.2
  • Reduce capillary permeability and fragility and boost nitric oxide.2,10
  • Metabolize carcinogens.11
So this is why we’re interested in both blue corn and anthocyanins. See where we're headed now?

What is Blue Corn?

Blue corn is one of the oldest varieties of corn. The Pueblo Indian tribe in the Southwestern United States was using it at least as far back as 1540 when Spanish explorers discovered the region. But this type of corn certainly goes back to the pre-Columbian era.

Blue corn is open-pollinated, so its growth is not as easily regulated as that of commercial hybrid yellow or white corn. It is a floury corn, and it has about 30 percent more protein than the average hybrid corn. It is still widely used in the Southwest and Mexico where it is a staple food.

The Downside of ALL Corn

Most of the corn available today is genetically modified and we know this is a serious concern for many of our customers. However, it is easier to find non-GMO blue corn than a non-GMO yellow or white variety.

But because the United States Department of Agriculture (and other agencies) doesn't require GMO labeling, it is impossible to be 100% certain that you’re eating non-GMO blue corn. Trusting the source of the corn is very important.

Blue corn supplements, standardized to anthocyanins, are probably a better way to go if GMO is a concern for you. Ask the manufacturer for a certificate of analysis (COA) proving a non-GMO source for their product.

Is this foolproof? No. But a COA documenting the raw materials is reliable coming from most reputable companies.

Lastly, eating too much corn can result in post-meal sugar spikes and insulin dysfunction down the line. So it’s probably best to limit corn in your diet (some respected health advocates believe in eliminating corn completely) and, in that case, consider a blue corn supplement.

Blue Corn May Help Protect Against Cancer and Diabetes

Blue corn is botanically identical to yellow corn but with one important difference. Its deep blue-purple color is the result of its rich anthocyanin content — with a concentration equal to or greater than the anthocyanin concentration of blueberries and a higher antioxidant capacity.12

Blue corn benefits seem to fall under two categories: anti-cancer and anti-diabetic.

First, blue corn possesses anti-cancer effects by reducing expression of genes involved in the proliferation of tumor cells, as well as suppressing the development of colon cancer cells in rats.13-15

Second, scientists studied rats on a high-fat diet, and divided them into two groups. The test group’s diet was supplemented with purple corn pigment, and these subjects were found to be less likely to develop early signs of obesity and diabetes than the controls.16

Recipe: Blue Corn Tortilla Soup

One of my favorite recipes is for tortilla soup but made with non-GMO (if you can find it) blue tortilla chips. Before you judge me for enjoying tortilla soup, take a look at the ingredients. This is a healthy soup that I enjoy on occasion — mainly because I am not the best cook.


  • 1 tablespoon of real butter or a butter spread made with olive oil
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons crushed fresh garlic
  • 2 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes & 1 cup green chilies, both undrained
  • 1 can vegetarian chili
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 60 blue corn tortilla chips
  • 6 lime wedges

  1. Heat butter or butter spread in large saucepan over medium-high heat; add onions and garlic; cook 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add broth, undrained tomatoes and chilies, chili and cilantro. Bring to a boil.
  2. Break 4 chips into the bottom of each serving bowl. Ladle soup over chips. Squeeze lime over soup.
  3. Divide and arrange remaining tortilla chips equally around rim of each soup bowl to create a sundial effect; serve.
  4. Calories: 353 per serving (1-1/2 cups each).

The Bottom Line

Yes, I know what you're probably thinking - the amount of anthocyanins in blue tortilla chips is minimal, at best. You're 100% correct.

So if you really want to benefit from blue corn, then supplements are probably your best bet. That being said, this really is a delicious soup. Try it anyway - enjoy!


  1. J Nutr.2003 Jul;133(7): 2125-30.
  2. Nutr Rev. 2010 Mar;68(3):168-77.
  3. Pharamacol. 2007 Dec 3;74(11):1619-27.
  4. Cancer. 2009 Nov;61(6):816-26.
  5. Int J Oncol. 2009 Dec;35(6):1499-504.
  6. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug;1171:137-48.
  7. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Feb 11;57(3):826-31.
  8. Cell Biol Toxicol. 2003;19:243-52.
  9. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(3):630-5.
  10. Adv Nutr. 2011 Jan;2(1):1-7.
  11. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(3):630-5.
  12. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 May 21;51(11):3313-9.
  13. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Jun 28;54(13):4557-67.
  14. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Sep;99(9):1841-6.
  15. Cancer Lett. 2001 Sep 28;171(1):17-25.
  16. J Nutr.2003 Jul;133(7): 2125-30.


Anonymous said...

Are the anthocyandins still active after cooking the corn?

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Cooking can degrade some of the anthocyanins found in blue corn.

Anonymous said...

There is no blue GMO corn yet...

Anonymous said...

The Garden of Eat has Blue corn toritilla chips made with organic blue corn. It also has no gmo's, it's gluten free, kosher-certified and delicious with mango salsa.

Anna Wright said...

Thank you for this fantastic info. The tips listed above are insightful and will help me a lot. The article is well written as well.

Life Extension said...

Anna Wright - We appreciate your continued support!

Bdenza said...

Yes..i've tried this in regular..really good..

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