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Cornstarch: Good or bad?

Is cornstarch bad for you? Nutrition and health effects

Cornstarch is a thickening agent often used to improve the texture of soups, sauces, marinades, and desserts. This article determines whether you should include cornstarch in your diet.

Evidence-based
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Last updated on November 1, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on September 28, 2022.

Cornstarch is a popular ingredient used to thicken soups, stews, sauces, and desserts.

It can also be used in various other recipes and help hold together fruit-based pie fillings, soften certain baked goods, and add a crisp coating to veggies, meats, and crusts.

However, despite the versatility of this everyday kitchen staple, many people wonder whether it’s good for you.

This article looks at cornstarch’s nutrition facts and health effects to determine whether you should include it in your diet.

Cornstarch nutrition

Cornstarch is high in calories and carbs but lacks essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

One cup (128 grams) of cornstarch contains the following nutrients:

Remember that amount is much more significant than what most people consume in a single serving.

For example, suppose you’re using cornstarch to thicken soups and sauces. In that case, you may only use 1–2 tablespoons (8–16 grams) of cornstarch at a time, which is unlikely to contribute any significant nutrients to your diet apart from calories and carbohydrates.

Summary: Cornstarch is high in calories and carbs but low in other essential nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Downsides of cornstarch

Cornstarch may be associated with several adverse side effects.

Cornstarch may increase blood sugar levels

Cornstarch is rich in carbs and has a high glycemic index, which measures how much a specific food affects your blood sugar levels.

It’s also low in fiber, an essential nutrient that slows the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream.

For this reason, cornstarch is digested very quickly in your body, which may lead to spikes in your blood sugar levels.

Therefore, cornstarch may not be a great addition to your diet if you have type 2 diabetes or hope to manage your blood sugar levels better.

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Cornstarch may harm heart health

Cornstarch is considered a refined carb, meaning that it has undergone extensive processing and has been stripped of its nutrients.

Studies show that regularly consuming foods rich in refined carbs, such as cornstarch, may negatively affect heart health.

According to one analysis, diets rich in refined carbs and foods with a high glycemic index may be linked to a greater risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Another study in 2,941 people found that following a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with increased triglyceride and insulin levels, along with lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol — all of which are risk factors for heart disease.

However, further research on the specific effects of cornstarch on heart health is needed.

Cornstarch lacks essential nutrients

Besides calories and carbs, cornstarch brings little to the table regarding nutrition.

Although large amounts of it provide small amounts of micronutrients like copper and selenium, most people only use 1–2 tablespoons (8–16 grams) at a time.

Therefore, it’s crucial to pair cornstarch with a variety of other nutrient-dense foods as part of a balanced diet to ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs.

Summary: Cornstarch is high in calories and carbs but low in essential nutrients. It may also increase blood sugar levels and harm heart health.

Should you include cornstarch in your diet or avoid it?

Although cornstarch may be associated with several downsides, it can be enjoyed in small amounts as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

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If you have diabetes or are following a low-carb diet, you may want to consider moderating your intake of cornstarch.

Ideally, stick to 1–2 tablespoons (8–16 grams) at a time and consider swapping in some other cornstarch substitutes, such as arrowroot, wheat flour, potato starch, and tapioca, whenever possible.

Additionally, while pure cornstarch is naturally gluten-free, select certified gluten-free varieties to avoid cross-contamination if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Summary: Cornstarch can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Stick to 1–2 tablespoons (8–16 grams) at a time, and be sure to select certified gluten-free varieties if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Summary

Cornstarch is a thickening agent often used to improve the texture of soups, sauces, marinades, and desserts.

Each serving is high in carbs and calories but low in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.

Consuming high amounts regularly may increase your blood sugar levels and be associated with adverse effects on heart health.

However, it can fit into a healthy, well-rounded diet if used in moderation and enjoyed alongside a variety of other nutrient-dense foods.

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