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Everything You Need to Know About Cornstarch

Cornstarch, often called maise starch or corn flour, is just a form of carbohydrates extracted from the endosperm of dried corn kernels. It is a white powdery substance with various uses in your kitchen, household, and industries. Since cornstarch comes from the endosperm only, it offers no protein. However, despite being made from corn, pure cornstarch is gluten-free. 

Invented in New Jersey in 1844 by factory worker Thomas Kinsford, cornstarch is now widely available in corn-growing countries such as the United States, China, Brazil, and India. Cornstarch has a bland, floury taste and is used as a thickener rather than for its flavour. It helps to thicken marinades, sauces, gravies, glazes, soups, casseroles, pies, and other sweets. Moreover, cornstarch’s clear and flavourless nature won’t alter the balance of flavours or make your dish look cloudy.

Nutritional Profile of Cornstarch

As per the USDA, 100 grams of cornstarch contains the following nutrients:

Calories: 381 kcalCarbohydrates: 91.3 gFat: 0.05 gProtein: 0.26 gFibre: 0.9 gPhosphorous: 13 mgCalcium: 2 mgSodium: 9 mg

Nutritional Facts

Cornstarch has around 30 calories every tablespoon, most of which come from carbs. Starch is the source of carbohydrates in cornstarch.

Despite the higher starch content, raw or uncooked cornstarch is a low-glycemic meal. According to studies, it is absorbed slowly by the digestive system. However, cooked meals containing cornstarch (such as stew or pudding) have a high glycemic index. Unfortunately, the research regarding cornstarch’s glycemic index and carbs is sparse, and the data that are accessible are often short and limited in scope.

The HealthifyMe Note

Cornstarch has no vitamins or minerals in substantial amounts. Therefore, a moderate consumption does not provide you with any significant micronutrients. However, it is high in calories and carbohydrates. 

Cornstarch vs Flour

Flour comes from wheat, while you get cornstarch from corn. Cornstarch is a great gluten-free option for flour thickeners in gravy or sauce recipes. In addition, it’s frequently used as a thickening agent instead of flour since the resultant gel is transparent rather than opaque. In comparison, it has a milder flavour and has nearly two times more thickening power.

For fried food batters, flour, as well as cornstarch, can be used interchangeably. However, you wouldn’t use the same amount of cornstarch as flour. Cornstarch is a more powerful thickener than flour, so you’ll need less. For example, you might only require half as much cornstarch for the flour listed in the recipe. Cornstarch is a mostly flavourless powder, but the flavour of flour varies based on the type of grain used. It is generally more robust and sweeter, with an earthy taste. 

Potential Benefits of Cornstarch

Ensure Safe Swallowing for Individuals with Dysphagia

People with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) might be able to enhance the viscosity of their beverages with cornstarch to make gulping easier. Thickened liquids also aid in the prevention of aspiration and improve the safety of swallowing. Corn starch is a thickening agent that thickens drinks for dysphagia sufferers. 

A study shows that texture-modified food using cornstarch provides a safe swallowing experience for individuals with dysphagia. In addition, gum-based thickeners have become more prevalent in recent years, although some worry about their safety, particularly in newborns.

Unfortunately, thickeners, such as cornstarch, can result in unpalatable drinks. In addition, these thickened beverages also enhance the sense of fullness, which might lead to a lack of appetite. 

Gluten-Free Substitute 

Cornstarch can replace flour in recipes for those with wheat allergies, celiac disease, non-celiac gluten intolerance, or who maintain an allergen diet for other reasons. Corn is naturally gluten-free because no other ingredient gets added in its making. However, most packaged ones are susceptible to cross-contamination because many companies that create cornstarch make flour. Therefore, if cornstarch and a gluten-containing grain are manufactured and processed on the same equipment, the cornstarch may not be gluten-free. It’s vital, though, to pick your cornstarch wisely and search for one that says gluten-free on the label. 

Treats Skin Yeast Infection

A study shows that cornstarch does not enhance the growth of yeasts on human skin. As a result, you can use it to minimise or provide protection against frictional injury. The progression of yeast like C. Albicans on human skin occurs when sufficient moisture is present. Cornstarch is a natural drying agent that keeps skin yeast infections at bay. It also dries out the water or sweat to stop yeast growth. You can combine cornstarch with tea tree oil and apply it as a soothing balm to relieve irritation and itchiness.

Reduce Mild Nocturnal Hypoglycemia

Nocturnal hypoglycemia is when blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dl while sleeping at night. A study shows that an uncooked cornstarch supplement, taken at bedtime, can lower the number of hypoglycemic episodes. It acts as a bedtime carbohydrate supplement to prevent nocturnal hypoglycemia without altering metabolic control in type 1 diabetes patients.

Potential Side Effects of Cornstarch

Cornstarch is safe for most individuals when taken mindfully and in moderation. When using cornstarch slurry as a thickening agent, you typically require a 1 to 2 ratio of cornstarch to water. Or one tablespoon of cornstarch and two tablespoons of water. To be safe, stick to 8–16 grams or 1–2 tablespoons at a time. But exceeding that limit will leave harmful effects on your health. 

Some potential side effects of cornstarch are:

Allergies

Anyone who has a corn allergy must avoid cornstarch. The allergy symptoms can range from moderate to severe. Vomiting, stomach issues, wheezing or trouble breathing, a weak pulse, skin changes such as hives, swelling of the lips or tongue, disorientation, or confusion are all possible symptoms. Anaphylaxis can develop in extreme situations.

Increase Blood Sugar

Cornstarch is low in fibre but contains a high glycemic index and carbohydrates. For this reason, it gets digested very quickly in your body. The rapid digestion of cornstarch slows down sugar’s assimilation into the bloodstream, increasing your blood sugar levels. Hence, type two diabetes patients must strictly avoid cornstarch.

Affect Heart Health

Overeating cornstarch does not guarantee any additional nutrient value. Instead, it only provides more refined carbohydrates and calories. In addition, since it is a processed food from corn’s endosperm and contains refined carbohydrates, cornstarch can increase the risk of coronary heart diseases. Moreover, a study shows that uncooked cornstarch intake leads to severe cardiomyopathy. 

Alternatives to Cornstarch

Rice Flour

Rice flour made from ground rice has half the thickening power of cornstarch. So you need to double the amount added. Sometimes, you’ll need to use three tablespoons of rice flour for every tablespoon of cornstarch. It is popular in Asian cuisine. 

Arrowroot Flour

Arrowroot powder is gluten-free flour. It is an equal substitute for cornstarch. Since it has the same thickening power, there is no need to adjust the amount added.

Potato starch

Potato starch extracted from potatoes has very few calories. Therefore, it is a perfect alternative for cornstarch if you want to make a leaner dish. Like arrowroot powder, potato starch has the same thickening power as cornstarch. However, potato starch can lose its thickening power if overheated. 

Tapioca Starch

Extracting starch from cassava root by soaking, washing, and pulping gives tapioca starch. However, you must use two tablespoons for one tablespoon of cornstarch because tapioca starch has only half the thickening power. Moreover, it has a lower glycemic index than cornstarch. 

The HealthifyMe Note

Since cornstarch does not provide enough nutrients, essential minerals and vitamins, it has no significant health benefits. Instead, it might lead to various side effects and cause harm. Hence, choosing a healthy alternative to get your daily dose of healthy food is best.

Storage and Cooking Tips for Cornstarch

Cornstarch tends to absorb moisture, so keeping it in an airtight container is necessary. Please keep it away from ambient humidity and extreme heat. To ensure your cornstarch stays fresh for a more extended period, store it in a cool, dry, dark cupboard or pantry. Cornstarch does not require low temperatures. Therefore, avoid refrigerating cornstarch. In addition, the moisture in refrigerators is not ideal for cornstarch. 

While cooking, do not add cornstarch straight into a hot mixture as it forms lumps. Instead, mix cornstarch with a slightly cool liquid to form a slurry, and then stir it into the hot liquid. Adding it in the slurry form will allow the even distribution of the cornstarch molecules and prevent lump formation. If the cornstarch lacks proper gelatinisation, it will release the moisture once cooled and become thin. Therefore, bring the foods containing cornstarch to a full boil before cooling. Further, do not freeze sauces and other mixtures thickened with cornstarch. Freezing can break down the gelatinised cornstarch matrix. 

Conclusion

Cornflour is a popular thickening ingredient that comes from the endosperm of corn. It gets primarily added to sauces, gravies, marinades, and soups. Cornstarch is gluten-free, but it contains refined carbohydrates and no protein. Therefore, it lacks beneficial nutritional properties like vitamins, minerals, fibre, and protein. Since it does not have many health benefits and has a poor nutrient profile, cornstarch is a non-food material. 

If you are intolerant to gluten, cornstarch can be a good alternative. When stored properly, cornstarch will last indefinitely. And you should avoid adding it directly into the liquid. However, eating cornstarch comes with its adverse effects as well. People with type 2 diabetes and corn allergy must strictly avoid cornstarch. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is cornstarch good for the diet?

A. You can add cornstarch to the diet. However, it can not be a regular component of your diet. Cornstarch primarily contains refined carbs and calories, with no significant content of protein, fibre, and essential vitamins. Eating cornstarch mindfully and in moderation is fine, but it is not nutritious for your diet. 

Q. Is cornstarch healthier than flour?

A. One ounce of cornstarch has 107 calories, one ounce of white flour has 102 calories, and one ounce of whole-wheat flour offers 95 calories. Therefore, calories-wise, they are almost the same. But cornstarch provides roughly two times the thickening power and is also relatively flavourless in comparison. However, both lack a good amount of healthy nutrients. 

Q. How many carbs are in 1tb of cornstarch?

A. Cornstarch (1 tablespoon) has 7 grams of total carbohydrates. However, these refined carbs have no valuable dietary fibre. Therefore, cornstarch is a high-carb thickening agent.  

Q. What benefits does cornstarch have?

A. Cornstarch does not have any exceptional health benefits. However, it can be a soothing balm for skin yeast infections. Cornstarch is also a better thickener than flour. Some research is ongoing to use cornstarch as a supplement for reducing nocturnal hypoglycemia. 

Q. Will cornstarch make you fat?

A. Adding moderate amounts of cornstarch to your food will not make you fat. Moreover, it is low in fat and cholesterol. But overeating raw cornstarch will enhance calorie intake quickly, which might result in weight gain. 

Q. Does cornstarch cause belly fat?

A. Cornstarch does not give a lot of fat. However, it can be a sole source of calories and refined carbs. But cornstarch alone is not a contributor to belly fat. Nonetheless, you might want to avoid cornstarch while following a weight loss diet to reduce belly fat. 

Q. Why is cornstarch unhealthy?

A. Cornstarch is heavy in carbs and calories but lacking in nutrients. More calories in your body might cause weight gain and excessive blood sugar or cholesterol levels. The refined carbs in cornstarch can also increase the risk of coronary heart diseases. 

Q. Is cornstarch inflammatory?

A. Cornstarch can induce inflammation if eaten in large amounts. Cornstarch, for example, raises glucose levels and leads to excessive diabetes, an inflammatory disease.

Q. Is cornstarch a keto?

A. Cornstarch is manufactured from corn, a green vegetable that is not keto-friendly. Moreover, it is high in carbohydrates. You get around 91.3 g of carbohydrates from 100 grams of cornstarch. Therefore, it is not a keto food. 

Q. Does cornstarch have glucose?

A. Yes, cornstarch does contain a chain of glucose molecules. Moreover, a spoonful of glucose is chemically equivalent to a spoonful of cornstarch. As a result, cornstarch might not be the best for people with diabetes.

Q. Can Type 2 diabetics have cornstarch?

A. No, cornstarch is not a good addition to type 2 diabetic diets. It is a rapid digestive item that can increase blood sugar. Moreover, cornstarch contains a high glycemic index and carbohydrates. 

Q. Is cornstarch a complex carbohydrate?

A. Cornstarch, uncooked, is indeed a complex carbohydrate with negligible amounts of fat and protein. However, despite being a complex carb, cornstarch is not a healthy source of carbohydrates. 

Q. Is cornstarch high glycemic?

A. Corn starch has a Glycemic Index of 97, which is considered high. The high GI score and carb content of cornstarch affects your blood sugar levels. It suggests that cornstarch can spike blood sugar to unhealthy levels if eaten in large portions.

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