Is Cornstarch Really As Bad As You Think?

From soups to sauces to desserts, cornstarch is a common thickening agent used in a variety of recipes. Although it is used frequently, cornstarch has developed a reputation for its negative health benefits. Let's take a look at why.

Cornstarch is mostly made up of starch and has a relatively high calorie count, but little nutritional content (via Medical News Today). It can be detrimental to those with type 2 diabetes, as its high glycemic index and low fiber content can lead to spikes in blood sugar, according to Healthline.

Those trying to reduce their risk of obesity, lower their cholesterol, or maintain a specific low-calorie or low-carb diet may also want to skip the cornstarch. 

However, there are some positive benefits to using cornstarch. It is gluten free, meaning it can be a good option, especially as a thickening agent, for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. It can be a quick source of glucose and calories for athletes or for those who are underweight looking to pack on some pounds (via Livestrong). Cornstarch can also be applied topically for skin issues like pruritus, which is caused by blood, kidney, liver, and thyroid disorders, or cancer.

Alternatives to using cornstarch

So is cornstarch really as bad as you think? It depends. If you are trying to maintain a specific diet or have underlying health issues, it may be best to choose another ingredient as a thickener in your recipes. It is also important to note that cornstarch is consumed in small doses — typically around 1 to 2 tablespoons — meaning that cornstarch can generally be enjoyed in moderation with a well-rounded diet.

But if you would prefer to replace cornstarch in your recipes, there are some substitutes that contain more nutritional benefits. Flours like oak, tapioca, or wheat flour, and xanthan gum are a few popular alternatives. 

You can also cook foods for longer to promote natural thickening, or add in ingredients like coconut milk, cow's milk, or yogurt.