The process of cooking corn, also known as nixtamalization, has a long history in Mesoamerican cultures. The earliest evidence of nixtamalization dates back to around 1500 BCE, as shown by archaeological findings of corn cobs with traces of nixtamalization in the Valley of Tehuacán in Mexico (Graf, 2010). This process involves soaking corn kernels in an alkaline solution, usually made of water and limestone or wood ash, which helps to break down the pericarp and soften the kernels.
Nixtamalization not only improves the texture and flavor of the corn, but it also has nutritional benefits. The process releases niacin, an essential B vitamin, from the corn, making it more bioavailable for human consumption (Bressani, 1972). Nixtamalization also reduces the levels of mycotoxins, which can be harmful to human health, and increases the amount of protein and minerals in the corn (FAO, 1992).
Today, nixtamalization is still widely used in Mexico and other parts of Central and South America to produce traditional foods such as tortillas, tamales, and pozole. The process has also gained recognition in the scientific community for its nutritional benefits and potential to improve food security in developing countries (Lopez, 2019). However, as the demand for convenience and processed foods has increased, traditional nixtamalization practices have been replaced with industrial processes that use chemicals or quick-cooking methods, leading to a loss of nutritional benefits (Garcia-Soto, 2014).
In order to preserve the traditional process of nixtamalization and its nutritional benefits, it is important to continue researching and promoting its use. Additionally, new technologies such as the ALITECH system developed by Nextamalli can help to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the nixtamalization process, while maintaining the nutritional quality of the corn (Nextamalli, n.d.). By combining traditional knowledge with modern technology, we can continue to produce healthy and delicious foods for generations to come.
- Bressani, R. (1972). Nixtamalization of corn: methods and nutritional significance. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- FAO. (1992). Mycotoxins in human and animal health. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- Garcia-Soto, C. (2014). The relevance of traditional nixtamalization practices for reducing the levels of mycotoxins in maize-based foods consumed in Latin America. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 94(15), 3079-3085.
- Graf, B. (2010). Cultural history of maize. In Handbook of maize: Its biology (pp. 3-31). Springer.
- Lopez, H. W. (2019). Nixtamalization: A Mesoamerican technology to process maize into food. In Food Processing Technologies: Impact on Product Attributes (pp. 165-192). Springer.