Mealie-meal porridge is a very basic, nutritious starch to cook but made using the refined grain is very fattening and devoid of any value; I wouldn't call it food unless a person was in dire straits.
It is maize's version of cake-flour.
Mealiemeal porridge is traditionally enjoyed with a lump of butter, milk or cream, and maas, a thick, fermented yoghurt made by the Zulu people.
There is no need for sweetening, but one could add a teaspoon of natural honey. Certainly do not use sugar.
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, into glucose molecules which are then absorbed in the small bowel and carried by the blood stream to the liver.
Cooling a starch after cooking 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 less of an effect on blood glucose; literally, it is less fattening.
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.
Mealie-meal porridge, like many foods, also tastes better when allowed to cool and retrograde. For greater understanding of this complex, important subject, read about the virtues of reheating resistant starch.
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, a half is a poly and a tenth saturated; there is zero cholesterol.
Enjoyed in whole mealiemeal, or a fresh ear of corn, it makes for a very nutritiously meal, albeit deficient in some important amino acids, notably lysine.
Once extracted from the grain, because of the large proportion of polyunsaturated oils, it 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.
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 their farmyard animals.
Alas, to their great detriment, most South Africans eschew the coarse whole grain in our mealie-meal porridge, opting instead for the highly refined option, making us one of the most obese nations in the world.
It's refined grain, and sugar, not fat in the main that has made humans obese in the last few decades.
With 100% mealie-meal now simply being unavailable, as with wheat, we have opted to buy a new grinder, the KoMo Mio, that will handle corn.
Unrefined mealies are a good source of fibre, numerous B vitamins, and phytonutrients, especially lutein and zeaxanthin that help prevent adult onset blindness.
Food that is high in refined carbohydrate and low in dietary fibre is regarded as being of high risk, limiting the production of these 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 reduces the insulin produced in response the glucose carried via the portal vein to the liver; it is helpful for diabetics.
None of this true of refined starches, low in fibre, though.
Diabetics, in fact all of us, should strictly limit refined starches from our food.
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 mealie-meal porridge for the obese.
Mealiemeal porridge is only worth making with freshly-ground whole corn.
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World's healthiest foods gives a lot more detail on the virtues of using whole corn in making a mealie meal porridge, or enjoying it fresh on the cob.
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 about to do the same with corn. The 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 that are coming are non-GM white maize. We will have some answers by the middle of 2021.
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