Cornstarch is more than just a thickening agent for your gravy or fruit pie. Although the soft powder made from the kernel of the corn is not a rich source of vitamins and minerals, it may help boost calories for those who need it, act as a source of energy and prevent low blood sugar in people with nocturnal hypoglycemia.
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Although most people are trying to cut calories, some need to add calories to help with weight gain. A 1-tablespoon serving of cornstarch has 30 calories. As a nearly flavorless powder that mixes well with a number of different foods, cornstarch can help boost your calorie intake without having much of an effect on your appetite. It does thicken the consistency of the foods you add it to, however, so you may be better off mixing it in foods that you want to thicken or foods that are already thick. Good options include yogurt, hot cereal, pudding, mashed potatoes and gravy. Add in small increments to prevent making your foods too thick to eat.
Source of Energy
All the calories in the cornstarch come from its carbohydrate content. A 1-tablespoon serving contains 8 grams of carbs. Carbs are the macronutrient you need in the largest amount, says the McKinley Health Center. That's because carbs are your body's preferred source of energy. While carbs from foods such as cornstarch help give you the energy to get up and go, those carbs are also used to fuel your basic body functions, including your heartbeat, breathing and brain activity.
Treatment for Hypoglycemia
Cornstarch also has medicinal benefits and has been used to help manage low blood sugar in people with diabetes and glycogen storage disease, which is an inherited metabolic disorder. Uncooked cornstarch digests slowly and supplies a slow, steady stream of glucose, which may help to prevent low blood sugar, especially at night during sleep. While cornstarch offers this medical benefit, you should not add cornstarch to your diet for helping with blood sugar control unless directed to do so by your doctor or dietitian.
Cornstarch offers some health benefits, but the high-calorie starch is not a good source of protein or vitamins. It contains only a small amount of some essential minerals, including phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. While you might be able to use it to up your calorie intake or as source of energy, there are healthier options, such as nonfat dried milk powder, that provide additional nutrients your body needs for good health.
- Food.com: Cornstarch
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cornstarch
- Internal Medicine: Insulin Autoimmune Syndrome in a Health Supplement User: The Effectiveness of Cornstarch Therapy for Treating Hypoglycemia
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohdyrates, Protein and Fat
- Association for Glycogen Storage Disease: Glycogen and Glycogen Storage Diseases