Maize-meal porridge

Maize-meal porridge is a very basic, nutritious starch to cook but made using the refined grain it is very fattening, tasteless and devoid of any real value; I would not call it food unless a person was in dire straits. It is corn's version of cake flour.

I love maize-meal porridge with butter and milk; the good wife prefers natural-honey and yoghurt. Both ways it makes a delicious, wholesome breakfast. Cream too is fine provided you are eating a high fibre diet rich in salads and whole grains.

It's the refined grains that give us problems with high cholesterol.

Mealie-meal porridge

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Ingredients

  1. Freshly ground 100% whole maize-meal
  2. Salt
  3. Boiling water

Go for it

Mealie meal and cold water.Make a paste of maize-meal and cold water.

You can see this is whole-grain from the small bits of husk; no harm in straining them off. Weight loss research has shown conclusively that it's refined starches and not fat in the main that make us obese.

Strain off the husk
  • To a cup of maize-meal in a bowl slowly add warm-water, stir vigorously, until you have a thin paste.
  • Pour 3 cups of boiling water from a kettle into a heavy-bottomed pot, adding half a teaspoon of coarse salt; with the lid on turn the stove onto high heat until it comes to a rapid boil.
  • Then turn it down to low.
  • Slowly pour the maize-meal paste into the hot water, stirring continuously and scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon until it comes back to the boil.
  • Put the lid back on and leave on very low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • This is best done the night before and left on a wood-stove or in a hot box. No less than half an hour on low heat if you are going to eat it directly.
  • In the morning add a little hot-water and bring it back to the boil on moderate heat, stirring frequently.
Mealie-meal added to boiling water.Add maize-meal paste to boiling water.

In Europe this would be called polenta; always check that it is true wholegrain.

An alternative method

  1. Pour a cup of maize-meal and 1 teaspoon of salt into a large pot.
  2. Add a cup of warm-water and stir until it forms a thin paste.
  3. Add three cups of boiling-water and turn to moderate heat.
  4. Stir continuously until it starts to boil and then turn the heat right down.
  5. Cook for at least half an hour, and preferably longer.
  6. Best is to let the porridge gelatinise overnight; refrigerate half and bring the remainder back to the boil for ten minutes with a little hot water.
Cooled gelatinized corn gritsCooled gelatinised maize-meal; corn grits.

Enjoy

Maize-meal porridge is traditionally enjoyed with a lump of butter, milk or cream and maas; a thick, fermented yoghurt made by the Zulu people. They are often lactose intolerant so all dairy products must first be soured before eating. Alternatively today we recommend using kefir, a probiotic that has a much wider range of friendly bacteria, viruses and yeasts.

How to make kefir is very simple; it takes only five minutes.

There is no need for sweetening but one could add a teaspoon of natural-honey. Certainly do not use sugar.

Retrogradation

All starches particularly if they are made from refined meal, are glycemic; they are digested in the intestine by the enzyme amylase, starting in the mouth. They break down into glucose molecules which are then absorbed in the small-bowel and carried by the portal blood stream to the liver.

Cooling a starch after it has been cooked allows the molecules to retrograde; they curl into a configuration that makes it more difficult for the amylase to do its work. Consequently the sugars are produced more slowly and there is a smaller effect on blood-glucose; literally, it is less fattening.

Starches that have been cooled and allowed to retrograde are also thus less threatening to diabetics; they do not produce the surge in blood glucose of refined carbs.

Consequently more of the starch passes through the small intestine undigested, reaching the colon where it acts as a prebiotic, providing nutrients for the teeming billions of bugs that turn it into very important short-chain fatty acids.

Maize-meal porridge, like many foods, also tastes better when allowed to cool and retrograde. For a greater understanding of this complex and important subject, read about the virtues of reheating resistant starch.

Hence we recommend cooking it in the evening for consumption the next day.

A wholegrain maize-meal porridge that has been retrograded would be allowed on one of these four distinct keto diets.

The fat in corn

Corn or maize as we call it in South Africa, has 2.1 grams of nutritious fat per cup (164g); not a lot. Roughly one-quarter is monounsaturated, and a half is a poly.

About a tenth of that fat is saturated; there is zero-cholesterol.

Enjoyed in whole maize-meal porridge, or a fresh ear of corn, it makes for a very nutritiously breakfast; albeit deficient in some important amino acids, notably lysine.

Once extracted from the grain, because of the large proportion of polyunsaturated oils, that fat becomes a highly inflammatory substance if used as a salad-dressing.

To keep the fatty acids in our food in balance we should make sure we are enjoying those that have a high monounsaturated content, notably from the olive and avocado.

In addition we want to keep the omega-3 fraction high; flaxseeds and cold-water fish are the simplest sources.

Traditionally

Komo Mio mill for grinding mealies.

However once the kernel is split and oxygen gets in, the fats will start to go rancid. So traditionally, farmers would grind their maize once a week and use it as soon as possible as a feed both for themselves, their staff and animals.

Alas to their great detriment, most South Africans eschew the coarse whole grain in our maize-meal porridge, opting instead for the highly refined option; it's  made us one of the most obese nations in the world.

It's refined grain and sugar, not fat in the main that have made humans obese in the last few decades.

Obesity in man.

With 100% maize-meal now simply being unavailable, as with wheat, we have opted to buy a new grinder, the KoMo Mio[2] that will handle corn.

Nutrients

Corn in flower will soon make very fine mealie meal porridge.

Unrefined mealies are a good source of fibre, numerous B vitamins, and many phytonutrients; especially lutein and zeaxanthin that help prevent adult-onset blindness.

Food that is mostly refined carbohydrate and low in dietary fibre is regarded as being of high risk, limiting the production of those important short-chain fatty acids; they protect the lining of the gut from toxic compounds.

One of them, butyrate, not only supplies energy for the epithelial cells lining the colon but reduces oxidative-stress and inflammation, precursors of neoplastic change. It also inhibits the insulin produced in response to the glucose carried via the portal vein to the liver; it is helpful for diabetics[1].

None of this is true of refined starches though; and the loss of fibre contributes to constipation and a poorly-fed microbiome[3].

Diabetics and in fact all of us should strictly limit refined-starches from our food. This whole grain maize-meal is quite different.

Published data on various super refined maize-meals in South Africa is limited. So the following perhaps may not be strictly correct. The following points are noteworthy though.

  • Most of the fat has been extracted from all varieties except Polenta.
  • In particular the healthy monounsaturated fats in comparison with 100% wholemeal is minimal.
  • Some protein has been removed in the refining process; less than expected.
  • The price rises dramatically after milling, by around four times for most brands, and over 10x for Polenta, the only one that comes even vaguely close to the whole grain in terms of nutrition.
  • There is little data but some may have been "enriched" with synthetic vitamins and minerals that were extracted in the milling.

100g

Energy

Protein

Glyc carb

Total sugar

Total fat

Saturated

Mono

Poly

Price/kg

Vitamin A

B1

B2

B3

B6

Folate

Iron

Zinc

Calcium

Potassium

Magnesium

100%

1615

9.9

75

5.4

5.2

0.8

1.4


R4.10

1mcg

0.2mg

0.07mg

3.3mg

0.4mg

77mcg

1.9mg

3mg

15mg

0.9mcg

124mg

Polenta

1615

8.9

82

0.6

2.5

0.4

0.9

1.2

R54.95

Ace

1380

7.5


2g

1.7

0.2



R14.00

White star

1456



1g

1.6

0.4



R13.90

Woolies


7.6

80

0.7

0.8

0

0.1

2.1

15.60

123

0.5

0.3

3.8

0.3


5.2

2.5

Obesity

Whilst whole grains have enormous benefits for us, and are not fattening, if you need actually to lose weight you have to get your daily carbohydrate intake below 50g; thus I would not recommend maize-meal porridge, even this made from 100% grain for the obese.

Or take only 2 tablespoons to keep the glycemic-load down; 1.6g of carbs per TBSP.

Why whole-grain is better is a question everyone should be able to answer.


“Health remains a fundamental building block of the humane society we are determined to create through the implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme.”

- Nelson Mandela


South Africa will never be a humane and healthy society as long as millers are allowed to dominate the market with super-refined number one maize meal; much of the protein, vitamins and phytonutrients, the best parts, have been extracted and sold off as pig food.

It should attract a sin-tax; same as sugar, alcohol and tobacco.

Maize-meal porridge

Maisemeal porridge is only worth making with freshly-ground whole corn; if you can get it. Add some fresh berries for extra benefit.

100pc cornmeal with yoghurt and blueberries.

There is little information on white mealies which is considered animal-feed. Humans are expected to eat sweet corn which personally I am less fond of.

Our green journey has meant a life of experimentation and fun with different foodstuffs and, where possible, trying to grow as much of our own as possible. Having discovered the vast benefits of 100% wholemeal from wheat, we are now doing the same with corn. A roller mill has been ordered, and the mealies sourced.

But there is another issue at play; this is our first real attempt to find out for ourselves some answers on genetically modified foods. These mealies are coming are non-GM white maize. We will hopefully have some answers before the end of 2021.

We have in 2022 sourced non-GM yellow maize; it's certainly more nutritious and has greater flavour. The chickens also prefer it. The seeds planted in our green garden yielded exceptional corn on the cob.

Rollers sans the hopper

"In the milling the pericarp and germ of maize are usually sieved out as chaff in the preparation of most traditional foods, leading to loss of a large portion of proteins, lipids and minerals that are present in those kernel structures; and vitamins too."

- Food Reviews International 35(4), April 2019

Nixtamalization

Maize in Mexico and some parts of Africa is cooked with either lime or wood ash. There are numerous nutritional benefits[4].

  • Increased availability of niacin; reduced risk of pellagra.
  • Increased calcium availability.
  • Increased resistant starch.
  • Reduced mycotoxin contamination due to removal of the pericarp.
  • Lower levels of phytic acid that inhibits iron and zinc absorption.

This is an area of interest for the future.

Semolina, grits and polenta

These terms are used interchangeably and confusingly.

Semolina is coarser, has a slightly sweeter flavour and nutty aroma.

Polenta is ground finer, and may yet be partially refined; sometimes using a stone mill. It is usually cooked with water or a vegetable stock and made into porridge. It may be sweetened with raw honey, apple compote or plum jam; or fresh fruit.

Grits is ground in a different way to a roller or stone mill.

Bramata is cooked with herbs like rosemary or thyme.

Usefulness

I hope you have found this page about maize-meal porridge useful in your search for better health. Certainly the commonly used super refined grits eaten today does not supply the nutrients and energy that define a good food.

What is maize meal good for?

Totally unrefined maizemea in hands

Refined maize meal is good for nothing. It's a junk food that makes us fat, diabetic and knocks years off our lives.

Ironically unrefined maize meal is one of God's great gift to the planet. First appreciated by the Incas in Central America it is an amazing source of energy, important nutrients and wonderful flavour; but it is increasingly difficult to source. It certainly has a shelf life, so millers extract the fat.

You may have to purchase your own mill if you are serious about the benefits of maize-meal porridge.

SUMMARY

  • Unrefined maize-meal porridge is a true wholegrain.
  • It is a rich source of fibre, important minerals and vitamins; and phytonutrients.
  • It has a low glycemic index but it is still "starchy." The glucose is released more slowly if it is allowed to retrograde overnight.

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