Cornstarch, otherwise known as corn flour, is not a healthy product and has very few nutritional benefits. Used often as a thickening or binding agent for soups, stews, puddings, casseroles or desserts, cornstarch is the starch of the corn grain and does not contain the same whole-grain benefits of pure corn.
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High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup, commonly known from nutritional data as a "bad" substance to eat, is a major ingredient in many processed foods and foods that contain preservatives to extend their shelf lives. Most people do not think of cornstarch in conjunction with high-fructose corn syrup, but high-fructose corn syrup is made by processing glucose that comes from cornstarch.
High-fructose corn syrup is definitely not a health food and should be avoided whenever possible. As cornstarch is related to this corn syrup, it's also not a health food and should not be consumed in any quantities larger than the small amounts it takes to thicken the texture of a dish.
Cornstarch can more accurately be called a food-like item than an actual food. It's used in many inedible products including lotions and body powders. In the process of creating cornstarch, pure corn is steeped for about a day and a half, then starch is removed from the germ and endosperm of the corn and separated from gluten. For this reason, cornstarch is sometimes used in gluten-free baked goods.
This condition involves compulsively eating large quanitities of starch. Many amylophagia patients crave cornstarch and go through several boxes of it every week.
Eating cornstarch in these extreme quantities is dangerous and a serious health issue. Cornstarch is a refined starch produced through chemical processes and has negligible nutritional benefits. For this reason, amylophagia is considered to be a form of pica, a disorder that causes patients to crave large amounts of non-nutritive substances such as clay or chalk. Amylophagia traditionally affects pregnant women more than any other demographic.
In soups, stews and other dishes, cornstarch is often called for as a thickening agent. Usually, no more than a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch is required to thicken the consistency of the dish. In these small quantities, especially when divided into individual servings, cornstarch is still not a healthy option, but it's not harmful in the same way that consuming large quantities of it is.
Use plain flour as a thickening agent and a substitute for cornstarch. Arrowroot is another common thickener and is nutritionally more healthful than cornstarch. Try using tapioca and potato starch or potato flour, which can also be used to thicken in recipes. All of these ingredients are healthier than cornstarch, but check conversion tables, as they may not substitute in even quantities.
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