Journal of Undergraduate Research


nutrient deficiencies, Malawi, nixtamalization, maize fortification method


Life Sciences


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science


The purpose of this study was to address several nutritional deficiencies in a typical Malawian diet through an ancient Mesoamerican process known as nixtamalization. Calcium and niacin, both crucial micronutrients, are both increased through this maize treatment process. It requires an alkaline solution, which we created from wood ash, to process maize and incorporate these nutrients into a new product. Since the taste, texture, flavor, and appearance of the maize changes with nixtamalization, a panel of native Malawians were invited to taste several variants of the nixtamal product in contrast to one made with traditional maize and relay their opinions of them. The nixtamalization process commonly entails a 1:4 ratio of whole kernel maize to water, with an addition of calcium hydroxide or ash to produce an alkaline solution. The ash or lime source is brought to a boil with the water before the corn is added, at or around boiling temperature, or 92-100 degrees Celsius. The mixture is held at a boil for 30-90 minutes. To allow for maximum calcium percolation of the corn, the mixture is steeped in solution for 8-24 hours; 12 hours has been shown to provide maximum integrity of the corn. At this point, the corn is ready to be rinsed twice with cold water and dried thoroughly before being milled into flour, ready for consumption.

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