Mealie-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 maize's version of cake flour.
I like it with butter and milk; the good wife prefers natural-honey and yoghurt. Both ways it makes a delicious, wholesome breakfast.
"Spiking food inflation is driving people in 2023 to spend 50% more on groceries than they did in 2019."
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.
Mealie 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.
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.
Mealie-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.
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 mealie-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.
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 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 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.
None of this is true of refined starches though; and the loss of fibre contributes to constipation and a poorly-fed microbiome.
Diabetics and in fact all of us should strictly limit refined-starches from our food.
Published data on various super refined maizemeals in South Africa is limited. So the following perhaps has limited value. The following points are noteworthy.
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, even this made from 100% meal for the obese.
Or take only a 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 mealie meal; the protein, enzymes 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.
Mealiemeal porridge is only worth making with freshly-ground whole corn; if you can get it. Add some fresh berries for extra benefit.
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; but their website is down at the moment.
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.
"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, minerals and vitamins that are present in those kernel structures."
- Food Reviews International 35(4), April 2019
Maize in Mexico and some parts of Africa is cooked with either lime or wood ash. There are numerous nutritional benefits.
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