Modified corn starch is made from the endosperm of corn kernels and is chemically altered to dissolve quickly so it can act as a thickener or binding agent. It has no flavor and is added to foods to improve texture and consistency.
Corn starch has two major components: amylose (a straight chain polymer of glucose) and amylopectin (a branched chain polymer of glucose).
Modified corn starch, itself, is not unhealthy and nor is it healthy. It does not have any negative effects on your body, but it also does not have any nutritional value.
Modified Corn Starch Uses
As mentioned before, corn starch thickens various food products. It is also added to frozen foods to attain the right creamy consistency when heated. When thawing frozen foods, it’s the modified corn starch added that keeps them stable.
An emulsifier helps two “repelling” liquids to mix well. For example, modified corn starch emulsifies oil and water in salad dressings.
In fat-free products, modified corn starch is added to impart a lovely, creamy texture. It is also added to instant desserts, like puddings, to add thickness to its consistency.
Modified corn starch is great at keeping powdered foods from clumping together, like instant gravy powder.
Modified corn starch is added to low-fat meat products so the meat binds instead of falling apart.
Modified corn starch is a cheap way to keep foods moist. The phosphate in modified corn starch absorbs water, which helps retain moisture in foods.
Modified corn starch is added to ice creams and other frozen foods to prevent melting. It is also added to read-to-eat frozen foods, which prevents the food from becoming soggy when microwaved.
Making Modified Corn Starch
There are various methods to making modified corn starch. Including:
- Treating it with acid
- Roasting it
- Treating it with sodium hydroxide
- Treating it with potassium hydroxide
- Adding a positive electrical charge
- Treating it with emulsifiers
- Treating it with starch ether
Modified food starch are starch derivatives from various sources, including corn, potato, tapioca, rice and wheat. If you are following a gluten-free diet, you should avoid foods containing modified food starch, as it could have been made with wheat. Foods containing modified food starches include: chips, canned soups, instant pudding, low-fat ice cream, cheese sauces, powder coated foods, candy and capsules that contain medication.
Modified food starch may be made from genetically modified maize, therefore starch from this type of maize is considered genetically modified. If you are attempting a GMO-free diet, you should steer clear of foods labelled modified food starch, as the source of the starch is unclear.