What compound can be used as both an anti-stick agent on medical products as well as being a thickening agent in some of your favorite foods?
As strange as it may sound, cornstarch is widely used in a variety of dishes while also providing special properties that make it a top anti-stick agent in medical products made of latex. Ever wonder why latex gloves feel rather soft and powder-like on the inside?
Yep, that’s cornstarch.
What is Cornstarch and Why Isn’t it Low Carb Friendly?
Cornstarch is a smooth, white powder used for a variety of different things ranging from a cooking and baking ingredient to being a possible substitute for talcum powder (similar to baby powder). Cornstarch is just that — the starchy part from the kernel of the corn plant. This part is referred to as the endosperm.
So, what is cornstarch used for exactly?
As mentioned above, cornstarch is a fine, white powder that is used as a thickening agent. You see it especially in liquid-based foods such a soups, sauces, custard or gravy. Some companies use cornstarch as a way to reduce production costs by adding it to certain products such as cheese and yogurt.
The first discovery of cornstarch was made in 1840 by Thomas Kingsford, the superintendent of a wheat starch factory located in New Jersey. However, it wasn’t until 1851 that cornstarch was actually used for consumption. For those first eleven year it was used for industrial purposes only.
Weird to think about, huh?
When it comes to choosing flour or cornstarch, some people prefer cornstarch due to its lack of pigment, making it translucent for a variety of baking and cooking needs.
Most of the calories from cornstarch come from carbs. In fact, there’s a rather insignificant amount of fats and protein in cornstarch. When it comes to macronutrients, a one ounce serving of cornstarch is a total of about 106 calories, including 25.6 grams of carbs, 25.3 grams of net carbs, less than one gram of fiber and less than one gram of protein.
While cornstarch does not provide many vitamins or minerals, it can help those individuals who are actually in need of some calories. However, when it comes to benefits, the advantages end there.
4 Low Carb Substitutes to Cornstarch
So what are some other substitutes you can use as a thickening agent to create your favorite keto dishes without the worry of getting kicked out of a ketogenic state? Some of the alternatives to cornstarch include:
Glucomannan is a type of dietary fiber derived from the root of the konjac plant. Glucomannan powder (or konjac fiber) has ben used for thousands of years as both a dietary supplement and as medicine by the cultures in East Asia.
Being a tasteless substance, glucomannan powder can be added into almost anything without a noticeable difference. But what are the other benefits of this low carb thickening agent?
Due to it’s high fiber content and low calorie count, it’s no surprise that glucomannan powder is extremely beneficial for weight loss and managing your appetite. Another benefit of this powder includes being a natural prebiotic, which is linked to better cholesterol, improved digestion, improved hormone levels, improved gut health and a decrease in inflammation and other immune system functions. Ingesting konjac fiber also provides a relief from any existing digestive or constipation issues, helps lower cholesterol and helps aid in the management of diabetes.
A one cup serving of glucomannan powder provides a total of only ten calories including zero grams of fat, zero grams of protein, zero grams of both carbs and net carbs and five grams of fiber. Yep, that’s right. This low carb substitute for cornstarch is not only good for you but it contains absolutely no carbs.
One of cornstarch’s main uses is as a thickening agent during the production of soups, stews and other foods of that nature. However, almond flour or almond meal is capable of providing you with the same texture and consistency without the high carb count or any adverse health effects.
If you’re an individual following a low carb or ketogenic diet, chances are you’ve at least seen several keto friendly recipes using almond flour if you haven’t yet used it yourself. Almond flour is become increasingly popular, and for good reason too.
Almond flour contains less carbs than it’s other fellow low carb substitutes, however it provides you with drastically smaller amount of carbs and fiber. In each serving you can expect a health dose of some key compounds including vitamin E, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium and calcium.
A quarter cup serving of traditional almond flour contains 160 calories including six grams of carbs, three grams of net carbs, three grams of fiber, 14 grams of fat and six grams of protein.
With the macro and micronutrients almond flour provides, it’s no wonder how it has the ability to improve your health in a multitude of ways. For example, almond flour has been shown to improve the health and function of the heart, decrease the risk of the formation of cancer cells, help manage blood sugar, help individuals struggling with diabetes or obesity as well as improving energy throughout the day.
While low carb flours can provide a great alternative to cornstarch, another option is chia. Chia seeds are not only low carb friendly, but they are jam-packed with some amazing health benefits as well. If you’re following a low carb or keto diet and don’t want to use cornstarch, simply add one teaspoon of chia seeds a ta time to your recipe until you’ve reached your desired consistency.
You see, when added to water (or any liquid for that matter), chia seeds begin to form a thick gel, absorbing the liquid and expanding. Instead of cornstarch, chia seeds can be a great substitute, especially in side dishes such as hot sauce or homemade jelly.
One ounce of chia seeds contains about 137 calories including almost nine grams of fat, around four grams of protein, twelve grams of carbs, two grams net carbs and almost eleven grams of fiber. Chia seeds also provide some key compounds including manganese, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, copper and potassium.
Another factor that these seeds are known for are the abundance of omega-3 fatty acids they provide. Chia seeds contain the essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid as well as being a strong source of antioxidants.
Chia seeds aren’t the only magical seed that has a variety of uses. Flaxseed is another great low carb alternative to any thickening agent. Flaxseed works like a glue, binding certain ingredients together to make the perfect keto friendly recipe.
Similar to chia seeds, flaxseed also provides an abundant amount of omega-3 fatty acids. However, their benefits don’t stop there. They are also the number one source of lignans, a group of polyphenols found in plants.
Flaxseed helps improve the health of your hair, improves skin health, helps decrease cholesterol levels, provides an abundant amount of antioxidants and helps with the management of weight loss.
One serving, or about two tablespoons, contains a total of 110 calories, including eight and a half grams of fat, six grams of carbs, six grams of fiber, zero rams of net carbs and four grams of protein.
When it comes to finding a thickening agent to use in your low carb or keto recipes, you may feel stuck. But no need to worry. There are plenty of low carb substitutes to cornstarch and flour that will not only keep you in ketosis, but will provide you with a number of important health benefits as well.