Is cornstarch bad for your health? Effects on nutrition and health

Cornstarch is a white powder made from the endosperm of finely ground corn. It is a popular ingredient used to thicken soups, stews, sauces, desserts, and various other recipes. It is also used for non-culinary purposes, such as in adhesives and textiles, as an anti-caking and non-stick treatment, and in the treatment of glycogen storage disease.

This article explores whether cornstarch is good for you through nutritional information, health effects, and who should consider avoiding cornstarch in their diet.

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Cornstarch Nutrition

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the following are the nutritional facts for 100 grams (g) of cornstarch:

  • Energy: 375 calories (kcal)
  • Protein: 0 grams (g)
  • Total lipids (fats): 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 87.5 g
  • Sodium: 0 milligrams (mg)
  • Fiber: 0.9g
  • Calcium: 2 mg
  • Zinc: 0.06 mg
  • Vitamin C: 0 mg
  • Vitamin A: 0 mg
  • Vitamin B12: 0 mg
  • Vitamin D: 0 mg

Remember that 100 grams is significantly more cornstarch than most people would eat in one serving. Recipes typically call for a few tablespoons of cornstarch at most. One tablespoon contains 8 grams of cornstarch.

As you can see, cornstarch is not a nutrient-dense food. It is mainly composed of carbohydrates from starch. This doesn’t necessarily make cornstarch “unhealthy,” but it doesn’t qualify it as a “healthy” food.

The effects of cornstarch

Below are some of the neutral and potentially negative effects of cornstarch on the body.

May increase blood sugar levels

Like many foods, cornstarch affects blood sugar. Blood sugar refers to the amount of glucose (simple sugar) moving through the body at a specific time.

Let’s look at its glycemic index to understand the effect of cornstarch on blood sugar. The glycemic index measures how quickly certain foods can cause a person’s blood sugar level to rise when eaten.

Raw cornstarch is a low-glycemic food that is broken down and absorbed slowly in the intestines. This means that cornstarch can consistently raise and stabilize blood sugar. For this reason, it is used as a treatment for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) among people with type 1 diabetes, glycogen storage disease, autoimmune insulin syndrome, and other conditions.

In contrast, cooked cornstarch has a high glycemic index. Older studies have estimated the glycemic index of cooked cornstarch to be between 77 and 97.

Combined with its low fiber content, high amounts of cornstarch could quickly raise blood sugar, which may not be desirable. However, most people eat cornstarch in small amounts, like a tablespoon, to thicken a soup that serves several people.

Highly processed

Cornstarch is a highly processed food. It is created by wet grinding corn kernels and separating the starchy inner part from the fiber, protein and oil. In other words, what is left is essentially pure starch (a complex carbohydrate).

Scientists generally agree that a diet based on ultra-processed foods is harmful to health. However, most people who consume cornstarch do not do so in large quantities, which could make up a significant part of their diet.

Lacks essential nutrients

Cornstarch is high in calories and carbohydrates, but has little to offer in the way of vitamins and nutrients.

It does not contain vitamin C, D, A, B12, B6, A or other vitamins that we should consume daily for optimal health. It also has little or no minerals.

Because it is refined, the dietary fiber in cornstarch is also negligible; 100 grams of cornstarch contain only 0.9 grams of fiber. Considering that the recommended daily intake of fiber for adults is 25 to 30 grams, and that most people do not consume cornstarch in amounts close to 100 grams, cornstarch is basically fiber-free.

Who should limit or avoid cornstarch?

Cornstarch is high in carbohydrates and calories, is highly processed, has no nutritional value, and can increase blood sugar.

Most people don’t need to worry about limiting or avoiding cornstarch.

For the most part, cornstarch is consumed in minimal quantities (think: a tablespoon or two in a recipe for six or more people). It is a useful ingredient for changing the texture of foods, whether to make a thicker soup or crispier chicken nuggets.

In fact, cornstarch is not a healthy food. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid cornstarch, an ingredient that can make food more palatable.

If you have a corn allergy, diabetes, glycogen storage disease, or another condition that affects your blood sugar, consider talking to a dietician or other health care provider about when and how much cornstarch you eat.

Cornstarch Substitutes

You will need a substitute if you don’t have cornstarch in your pantry or would like to use less cornstarch.

Some cornstarch substitutes include:

  • tapioca starch
  • Rice flour
  • cassava flour
  • potato flour
  • arrowroot flour
  • Wheat flour


Cornstarch is a white powder made from the starchy innards of corn kernels, used in recipes to add thickness or texture to foods such as soups, stews, puddings, and more. Cornstarch has few nutritional benefits and can potentially increase blood sugar. It is okay to eat cornstarch in small quantities, but it should be avoided in large quantities due to its highly processed nature and lack of essential vitamins or nutrients.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts contained in our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we check the facts and keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

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By Sarah Bence, OTR/L

Sarah Bence, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and freelance writer. She specializes in a variety of health topics including mental health, dementia, celiac disease and endometriosis.

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