When it comes to culinary, America is a country of fast food. There are many types of fast food, from delicious hamburgers to crispy fried chicken. And there are a lot of different ingredients incorporated into it.
But, did you know that there is one specific ingredient that goes into almost every type of fast food? Yes, it is cornstarch, also known as cornflour.
As you can easily conclude from the name itself, this ingredient is made from corn, more specifically from the endosperm of corn, i.e. one of the parts of the corn kernel.
The stretch in the endosperm lacks nutrients and it is highly processed for the purpose of making cornstarch.
But then why do people eat cornstarch? There are several reasons for that and one is very interesting because it is related to our health.
If you want to find out more, continue reading.
Why Do People Eat Cornstarch?
There are several reasons why people eat and use cornstarch in general. Most of them are quite obvious because cornstarch is a type of ingredient that can serve you well in many culinary actions.
But, there is one reason that is directly related to a human’s health and it mostly makes people crave raw cornstarch.
Below, those specific reasons are listed and explained.
1. Thickening Agent
The most popular way to use cornstarch in cooking is as a thickening agent or thickener. Cornstarch is best for thickening sauces, as well as many other liquids. It can also be used in soups and stews.
All you have to do is to mix a little bit of cornstarch with some cold water and add that mix to the desired liquid and it will thicken in no time.
Just make sure that you don’t overdo it because cornstarch is a very powerful ingredient.
2. Anti-Sticking Agent
Although it is not so common for amateur and home cooks to use cornstarch as an anti-sticking agent, many processors in their food factories use cornstarch to keep other foods from sticking.
And it worked quite well for many years in the food industry.
So, nowadays, most foods that you buy from the grocery store or supermarket contain cornstarch because of this reason.
And, want it or not, you consequently consume it as well.
3. Egg Substitute In Baked Goods
If you don’t have eggs or if you are avoiding for some reason, for example, because you are vegan (although eggs are not meat, they are meat by-products) or because you have an egg allergy or intolerance, you can use cornstarch instead.
All you have to do is to mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of warm water and you have the perfect substitute for eggs in all sorts of baked goods.
Cornstarch works perfectly well as an egg substitute in brownies.
4. Substitute For Cake Flour
As the name suggests, cake flour is one of the main ingredients in almost every cake and we all bake a cake from time to time. However, it can happen that you run out of cake flour and don’t know what to do.
In that case, cornstarch can come to the rescue!
All you have to do is to mix cornstarch with a bit of baking powder and use that amazing mixture instead of cake flour in your favorite cake.
As you can see, cornstarch can be a solution to almost every problem in the culinary world.
5. Perfect Coating For Fried Food
I assume that you all know about the juiciness and crispiness of perfectly coated and fried chicken. Well, the key player in the process of making your delicious fried chicken is cornstarch itself.
Making the batter is very simple. All you have to do is to add a bit of cornstarch to the flour and your batter is ready for that juicy and delicious chicken of yours.
This is one of the main reasons why hardcore fast-food lovers consume a lot of cornstarch.
6. Health Condition Known As “Pica”
This one is very interesting and it is quite different from the previously explained reasons because, in this case, people tend to eat cornstarch raw.
And they dont just eat it. They crave it and they need to eat it almost every day. Of course, both these facts, eating raw cornstarch and craving it, are not some characteristics of healthy individuals.
Behind this phenomenon is a specific eating disorder known as “pica”.
It is an eating disorder that involves eating non-food items or items that are not typically thought of as food or that do not have significant nutritional value.
One of that food is raw cornstarch and it can be very dangerous for your overall health.
Is It Safe To Eat Raw Cornstarch?
Generally speaking, eating a small amount of raw cornstarch from time to time won’t cause you any significant health problems.
However, there are no good reasons for eating cornstarch raw because it doesn’t have any major nutritional value, i.e. starch from the endosperm of the corn is low in nutrients and, since cornstarch is highly processed, it is even more nutritionally invaluable.
But, if you eat high amounts of cornstarch every day, i.e. if you have an eating disorder “pica” and, alongside that, nutritional deficiencies like iron or zinc deficiency, raw cornstarch can cause you some unpleasant health problems.
Eating raw cornstarch in high amounts can cause some digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and constipation.
The main reason for that is the fact that your stomach is unable to properly break it down, so it goes to the digestive system unchanged.
Finally, there is one more safety concern about eating raw cornstarch. Since it is stored in many places before it comes to your pantry, raw cornstarch can easily be contaminated with bags that bear harmful bacteria.
And if you incorporate that harmful bacteria into your system, especially in high amounts, it can do severe damage to your health in terms of food poisoning and foodborne illness.
Are There Any Benefits Of Eating Cornstarch?
As I already said, cornstarch is not a type of food that can provide you with some exceptional nutritional benefits because its nutritional value is quite low. But, before I explain anything, let’s see the nutrition profile of cornstarch first.
Nutritional Value Of Cornstarch In 1 Tablespoon:
• 25 calories
• 6 g carbs
• 0 g proteins
• 0 g fat
• 0 g fiber
• 0 g cholesterol
• 0 g sugar
• Very low amount of vitamins and minerals
As you can see, aside from carbohydrates, there are zero other nutrients in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
However, if you consume cornstarch in low amounts from time to time, those carbs can be beneficial because they can provide your body with the necessary energy.
Well, since there is no fiber or fat, those carbs transform into glucose quickly which gives you a quick burst of energy.
However, it is scientifically proven that, if you rise your glucose quickly too often, it can cause long-term insulin sensitivity that can lead you to a pre-diabetic state or to type 2 diabetes.
If you just want a quick energy boost, go for it, but in a small amount and not very often.
And there is one benefit that can be truly beneficial for those people who suffer from celiac disease or are intolerant to gluten. It is a fact that cornstarch is gluten-free.
That said, cornstarch can be an excellent substitute for wheat flour for those of you who can’t consume gluten due to the above reasons.
What Are Some Other Ways To Use Cornstarch?
Cornstarch is not just used in the world of cooking. However, it can be very useful outside the kitchen as well. Below are listed and briefly explained some of the most important non-culinary uses of cornstarch.
• Deodorant: By combining a bit of heated coconut oil with baking soda and cornstarch, you can make yourself a thick paste that can be used as a great natural deodorant alternative to decrease sweat and bad odor.
• Skin Relief: All you have to do to make a paste with cornstarch for your sensitive skin is to mix cornstarch with a small amount of water in a bowl and stir it a bit. You can apply the paste to the part of your skin to reduce itchiness and sunburn.
• Milk Bath: Although it is not proven that milk bath made from cornstarch has any major benefits for your body, some people claim that it works for them.
All you have to do is to mix 1 cup of cornstarch, ½ cup of baking soda, and 2 cups of powdered whole milk and shake the mixture well.
By adding a few drops of the essential oil of your preference, you will have yourself a perfect relaxing bath that you can enjoy.
• Matte Nail Polish: This one is a little surprising, to be honest. But yes, you can make matte nail polish from cornstarch, believe it or not.
All you have to do is to drip a few drops of nail polish on a plate and add a small amount of cornstarch. You can then mix it with a paintbrush and apply it to your nails.
Final Verdict On Eating Cornstarch
Cornstarch is really the type of ingredient that can be found in almost any food nowadays, especially in those highly-processed foods that many of us consume almost on daily bases.
However, there are some people who have a cornstarch craving and tend to eat it in large amounts, even on its own. So, the question is “Why do people eat cornstarch?”.
Well, most of those people who crave cornstarch have a quite rare health condition known as pica.
That condition is mostly related to a lack of nutrients like zinc or iron deficiency and it pushes them to crave some non-food items and ingredients including raw cornstarch.
If you recognize yourself in this, it is best to go to the doctor and do a blood test in order to know if you are also suffering from this specific medical condition.