Organic Heirloom Blue Cornbread (Gluten Free + Dairy Free Options)
This cast iron cornbread gets its ancient flavor from two heirloom corn flours. It comes together quickly and tastes heavenly with butter, raw honey or your favorite jam or compote. I always enjoy it with some scrambled eggs or protein to balance out the carbohydrates.
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Antioxidants in food are one of nature's gifts to help us combat the myriad of toxins we battle in our modern world. From air pollution to water contamination to heavy metals to plastics and other chemicals, we all face daily exposures to plenty of toxic stuff.
Unfortunately, these toxins stimulate the production of free radicals in our bodies. When free radicals build up they can damage our DNA and cells. Sadly, this damage can lead to dreaded diseases like cancer, heart disease, cognitive deterioration (dementia and Alzheimer's) and even loss of vision.
Thankfully, there are some magical compounds found in delicious foods and herbs that help clean up this damage!
We've all heard of antioxidants and maybe even know of some superfoods that top the charts in this area, like blueberries, green tea and turmeric. These foods contain special compounds that can clean up free radical damage, stop disease progression and even repair damaged DNA. Pretty miraculous!
Different superfoods contain different antioxidants with different jobs. For example, vitamin C, taken as a supplement or eaten in fresh fruits and veggies, may help prevent cardiovascular damage and defend against cancer. While beta-carotene, found in orange and red foods like carrots, has been shown to prevent liver damage, suppress tumor growth and promote longevity. Anthocyanins, found in foods like blueberries and strawberries, are associated with preserving memory, preventing cognitive decline and even strengthening tissues.
And while berries, teas and spices get lots of attention when it comes to high antioxidant values, what about blue corn?
Blue Corn = Mega Antioxidants!
Blue corn, and all corn for that matter, is one of those fun foods that gets people all mixed up. Is it a grain or veggie? Is it a heavy carb source or a superfood? Is it better to eat it on the cob or can I get a benefit from chips and tortillas? Please say yes to that last one!
Corn is both classified as a grain and vegetable. It is primarily a starchy carbohydrate with a much lesser amount of protein and fat thrown in the mix. However, blue corn is less starchy and happens to have 20% more protein than white corn. You can eat all varieties so many ways including fresh on the cob or processed into flour-- hello, chips, tortillas and cornbread!
As far as its superfood status and the benefits in various incarnations, read on! For now, we'll zoom in on the blue corn species.
Blue corn happens to be a very special form of this ancient food. It is indeed a superfood that packs some pretty amazing benefits. Like other deeply colored foods such as berries, red onions, purple cabbages and pink radishes, blue corn is rich in free-radical fighting antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give certain fruits and veggies their blue, red and purple colors. These colorful compounds have been heavily studied and are shown to be extremely potent against various diseases including heart disease, cancer and brain decline. Sign me up!
Blue corn is no exception. Studies have shown some awesome benefits to blue corn. The good news these studies have not only looked at blue corn extract, but also.... tortillas! While corn processing does change the nutrient profile, the antioxidant activity of the anthocyanins in tortillas is still formidable.
How amazing is that!?
In an exciting animal study, blue corn tortillas were also shown to improve both short and long term as well as spatial memory in rats. While it's not a human study, it is encouraging to hear about potential value of blue corn antioxidants on our learning and memories!
Lastly, blue corn has shown potential for helping to manage high blood sugar and obesity. It has a lower glycemic index than white corn making it more appropriate for those with blood sugar issues. This is great news for those whose cultural staples include corn. Scientists studying this superfood even believe that the lower glycemic index in combination with blue corn's antioxidant rich-profile may lower risks of metabolic issues like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
To be sure, corn grain isn't for everyone. Some find it causes bloating and inflammation and even cross-reacts with wheat proteins like gluten. This is important to keep in mind if you have avoided corn for a while or have ever noticed digestive distress from corn products or even wheat products.
As always, all nutrition is bioindivdual. Just because something has great benefits doesn't mean it's right for YOU! Listen to your body. Try things out, observe your reactions, take a break, try a again. If you are having trouble figuring it out, work with a nutrition professional to get to your root cause!
Why Non-GMO, Organic Corn Flour?
If you ARE feeling confident about trying some corn products, I strongly recommend you get high quality organic corn meal and flour sources. I can't emphasize enough to go organic or local (if you can verify your farmer is using non-GMO seeds) when it comes to corn products.
Around 90% or more of the corn produced in the U.S. is genetically modified. Monsanto's Roundup Ready® crops (genetically engineered to resist the spraying of the pesticide glyphosate) are widely used for massive corn production so the crops can be heavily sprayed with glyphosate while killing weeds.
The problems with these types of GMO crops and glyphosate spraying are endless ranging from superweeds to multiple, massive cancer lawsuits.
The video on this page includes a farmer giving a great 1 minute summary on GMOs and why you would want to avoid these unnatural foods. This is easy to do if you buy USDA certified organic products, look for the non-GMO label or ask a trusted local farmer if he uses non-GMO corn seeds.
Here are some great mills who safely produce organic, non-GMO grains, including corn flours:
Anson Mills is South Carolina is my favorite (no affiliation) artisan grain milll. Their grains are heirloom and organic milled in small batches so they are extremely fresh, including their corn meals and flours. The Native Fine Blue Corn Meal ranges from shades of blue to deep purple from season to season. This and the Antebellum Coarse Yellow Corn Meal are what I used in this recipe. Both are phenomenal!
War Eagle Mill in Arkansas is also awesome. I have used their grains for this recipe multiple times. You can now get their corn meal products on Amazon which saves on shipping directly from the mill. I recommend the stone ground blue and yellow corn meals for this recipe. Very tasty!
Gold Mine Natural Foods also carries USDA certified organic blue corn masa and yellow corn masa harina. I haven't used these in a while, but from my memory they will do the trick if you can't get the others listed above -- which will both have more texture than finely ground masa.
Now grab your skillet and let's cook some crazy-good cornbread!
Organic Heirloom Blue Cornbread (Gluten Free + Dairy Free Option)
Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Total: 35 minutes Servings: 8
The links below are affiliate links chosen for product quality and purity. Anson Mills is not an affiliate partner, but is my top choice for small farm, organic heritage grains and flours.
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
8 tablespoons of pastured butter (whole regular cube) or coconut oil (yes, you read that right!*)
1-1/3 cup of buttermilk (or 1 cup of yogurt + 1/3 cup of water) or dairy free milk of choice
1 teaspoon of vanilla
*Side note: If you are concerned about the high fat content in this delicious cornbread, be sure to check out my article: Low-Fat Diets: A Good or Bad Idea?
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place a 9-10 inch cast iron skillet on low heat on the stove. Slowly melt ALL the butter or coconut oil in the pan. This greases the pan nicely while also melting the healthy fat.
While your fat is melting, mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Keep an eye on your fat and turn it off when its almost entirely melted-- a teaspoon or so can be left to melt with the heat off. Allow it to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in buttermilk (or yogurt + water which I usually mix in a measuring cup to thin it out) or dairy free milk.
Swirl your butter or coconut oil around the sides of the cast iron pan to coat it. Dump the rest of the melted butter or coconut oil into the bowl of wet ingredients (egg + milk mix). Whisk in vanilla and honey or maple syrup.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and gently mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Mix evenly, but not wildly. If it's looking dry add a tad more milk; if it's super runny add more corn flour.
Pour entire batter into your greasy cast iron skillet and shake it into an even layer.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until the top begins to brown. You can also insert a fork or a toothpick into the center and see if it comes out clean and then you'll know it's done cooking.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes so it sets and doesn't crumble too much when serving.
Serve hot with more butter, your favorite raw honey or jam or a healthy dark berry compote like the one featured below. Enjoy as a snack or side dish with some huevos rancheros, chili or even a salad!
You can also slice and store in fridge for a few days. It reheats nicely!
Like your cornbread with some jam?
Check out this easy recipe for Dark Berry Chia Compote (No Added Sugar)
Let me know if you try out this heritage cornbread and how you like it! You can post in comments below or tag me in any photos on Instagram @nourishandcherish.ntp!
Aguirre López LO, Chávez Servia JL, Gómez Rodiles CC, Beltrán Ramírez JR, Bañuelos Pineda J. Blue Corn Tortillas: Effects on Learning and Spatial Memory in Rats. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2017;72(4):448-450. doi:10.1007/s11130-017-0642-1. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29098641/
Cohen, P. (2020, June 24). Roundup Maker to Pay $10 Billion to Settle Cancer Suits. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/business/roundup-settlement-lawsuits.html
Eatingwell.com. (n.d.). What Does Genetically Modified (GMO) Mean? Retrieved from http://www.eatingwell.com/video/6923/what-does-genetically-modified-mean/
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2019, November 14). Antioxidants. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/
Herrera-Sotero MY;Cruz-Hernández CD;Oliart-Ros RM;Chávez-Servia JL;Guzmán-Gerónimo RI;González-Covarrubias V;Cruz-Burgos M;Rodríguez-Dorantes M;. (n.d.). Anthocyanins of Blue Corn and Tortilla Arrest Cell Cycle and Induce Apoptosis on Breast and Prostate Cancer Cells. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31448633/
Herrera-Sotero, M., Cruz-Hernández, C., Trujillo-Carretero, C., Rodríguez-Dorantes, M., García-Galindo, H., Chávez-Servia, J., . . . Guzmán-Gerónimo, R. (2017, October 30). Antioxidant and antiproliferative activity of blue corn and tortilla from native maize. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5662526/
Ranilla, L., Huamán-Alvino, C., Flores-Báez, O., Aquino-Méndez, E., Chirinos, R., Campos, D., . . . Shetty, K. (2019, June). Evaluation of phenolic antioxidant-linked in vitro bioactivity of Peruvian corn (Zea mays L.) diversity targeting for potential management of hyperglycemia and obesity. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6542874/
Society of Chemical Industry. (2007, August 01). Blue Tortillas May Help Dieters And Diabetics. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070730092559.htm
Wikipedia. (2020, June 18). Anthocyanin. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthocyanin
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Roundup Ready Crops. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Roundup_Ready_Crops
About the Author
Roxie Daggett is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) with a virtual practice in Sedona, Arizona. Her passions include studying nutritional research pertaining to memory, brain health, genes and longevity. When she is not geeking out on nutrition she enjoys messing around in the kitchen with old world recipes, reading and hearing stories from elders and farmers about traditional food sourcing, and wandering around the Red Rocks with her heroic husband and Staffordshire bull terrier.
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