What is Nixtamalization?

Nixtamalization is a traditional process used to prepare maize for consumption in Latin America, particularly in Mexico. It involves boiling maize in an alkaline solution, usually made from lime (calcium oxide), to soften the kernels, remove the outer hull, and release the nutritional value of the grain. The nixtamalization process is an essential step in the preparation of various traditional Mexican foods, including tortillas, tamales, and other masa-based dishes.

According to studies, the nixtamalization process improves the nutritional value of maize by increasing the bioavailability of essential amino acids, such as lysine and tryptophan, and niacin, which is crucial for preventing pellagra, a nutritional deficiency disease. Nixtamalization also enhances the flavor, aroma, and texture of maize-based products, making them more appealing to consumers. Additionally, the alkaline solution used in the nixtamalization process has been shown to reduce levels of mycotoxins, harmful substances produced by fungi that can contaminate maize and cause health problems.

Despite the health and culinary benefits of nixtamalization, the process is declining in popularity in Mexico and other Latin American countries due to the increasing availability and consumption of industrialized, pre-cooked corn flour. However, efforts are being made to revive the traditional practice, as it is an important part of Mexican culinary heritage and cultural identity. In conclusion, the nixtamalization process is a crucial step in the preparation of various traditional Mexican dishes, and its preservation and promotion are essential for ensuring the health and cultural sustainability of Mexico and other Latin American countries.


  • Bressani, R. (2003). Nixtamalization and quality protein maize. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 83(9), 835-841.
  • Clegg, M. R., & van Soest, P. J. (1996). Nixtamalization: A Mesoamerican technology to process maize. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 44(3), 615-625.
  • Bello-Pérez, L. A., Agama-Acevedo, E., & Tovar, J. (2010). Nixtamalization of maize: A review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 50(6), 489-498.

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Nixtamalization is a traditional process used in Mexico and other Latin American countries to prepare maize for consumption. It involves soaking and cooking maize in