Whether you’re an avid culinary master or a reluctant cook, you can always find cornstarch in your pantry. Cornstarch has been a kitchen essential for many years, but you will also see it in other parts of the house every once in a while. What makes cornstarch so versatile and why do people eat cornstarch? Keep reading to learn more.
What Is Cornstarch?
Cornstarch, sometimes called maize starch, maizena, or corn flour, is a carbohydrate derived from the endosperm of corn. The endosperm is the corn kernel’s white center, which is ground until it becomes white powder.
As cornstarch is made only from corn, it is a pure source of carbohydrates and s also gluten-free. While cornstarch is a good source of vitamins and minerals, it has no proteins.
Cornstarch is mostly translucent and slightly sweet and is primarily used as a thickening agent in soups, sauces, stews, and custards. Surprisingly, cornstarch is also used outside the kitchen because, when used correctly, it can be used to treat certain health conditions.
It is also a reliable cleaning agent as you can use it for pest control, to remove grease splatters from your wall, untie knots, polish your silver jewelry, use it as dry shampoo, make bath bombs, and even make slime.
Widely available in any supermarket, you can usually find cornstarch in the baking aisle, with the usual 16-ounce container costing only a couple of dollars. A single container can easily last an entire month or more since the usage of this powder is generally limited to just a tablespoon or two.
History Behind The Rise Of Cornstarch
Cornstarch was invented in 1842 by chemist Thomas Kingsford when he found a way to isolate the corn kernels’ endosperms while working in a New Jersey wheat starch factory. However, Kingston had an entirely different purpose for cornstarch, and it is not in any way related to food.
Back then, the purpose of cornstarch then was purely industrial. Cornstarch was initially used for laundry, and it continues to be used for the same purpose even today since cornstarch can effectively remove stains as well as the smell of cigarette smoke.
Eventually, the purpose of cornstarch was further explored and it was found to be equally efficient in cooking. This was when cornstarch brands started advertising the product through collectible trading cards in the Victorian era.
These trading cards featured an image on one side and a recipe or an ad on the opposite side. Homemakers would collect these recipes, and now, these cards are considered collector’s items priced between $1 and $60.
Today, cornstarch is widely produced in many countries including the US, Brazil, China, and India. Its use has also expanded significantly, such as being used as an anti-caking agent for packaged merchandise like shredded cheese. Cornstarch also helps absorb condensation and moisture to prevent the goods from clumping. It is also used as a base for creating sugar like corn syrup.
Can You Eat Raw Corn Starch, And Why Do People Eat Corn Starch?
Yes, you can eat raw cornstarch, although it is not recommended for several reasons. Consuming cornstarch raw can cause digestive problems like bloating and gas. This is why cornstarch is typically heated to make it easier for your digestive system to process it.
Eating raw cornstarch can also increase your chances of contracting foodborne illnesses and developing severe medical conditions like kidney failure and pancreatitis.
Cornstarch continues to be a popular ingredient as it is a fast, effective, and cheap thickening agent that can be added to any type of recipe.
Health Benefits Of Eating Cornstarch
#1. Improves Low Sugar Level
The carbohydrates in cornstarch have a high glycemic index, which can boost and stabilize your sugar levels.
#2. Delivers Instantaneous Energy
When cornstarch is processed, the fiber that is a natural part of its components is minimized, if not wholly removed, to achieve that fine powder texture and composition. With low fiber content, cornstarch is digested quickly by your body, thus giving you instant energy. The carbohydrate content of cornstarch can also fuel your body faster, allowing you to feel energetic.
#3. Can Help With Constipation
Cornstarch works as an excellent natural laxative and can help ease constipation. It can also help soothe a bad stomach as it can absorb excess water from your digestive system.
#4. Reduces Skin Irritation
A paste made from cornstarch and water can soothe skin irritations when applied directly to the affected areas. This organic paste can also be used to treat insect bites, diaper rash, chafed skin, sunburns, and other skin infections to reduce pain, redness, and itchiness.
#5. Help With Athlete’s Foot And Athlete’s Itch
Athletes’ feet and athlete’s itch are caused by the buildup of sweat in the shoes or in the groin area that leads to the development of dermatophytes or mold-like fungi. You can use cornstarch to keep the areas dry and keep moisture away.
Potential Risks Of Eating Cornstarch
#1. Poor Nutritional Profile
Cornstarch doesn’t have much nutritional value as it does not contain any protein, healthy fiber, or minerals. So, you can’t rely on cornstarch to meet any of your daily nutritional needs. If your diet is heavy in cornstarch, you can face nutritional deficiency if you do not include other nutrient-dense foods.
#2. Dangerously Spiked Glucose Levels
Cornstarch has extremely high carbohydrate content and calories, which can cause your glucose levels to shoot up and put you at a higher risk of diabetes. If you have a pre-existing diabetic condition, the sudden sugar rush that cornstarch can cause may worsen your symptoms.
#3. Increased Risk Of Heart Diseases
Since cornstarch is technically refined carbohydrates, consuming too much cornstarch can increase the danger of diabetes and heart-related conditions by up to 20%.