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Argentinean flint maize

Argentinean flint maize has more nutritional quality for human health than regular maize

An Argentinean research group did the first detailed characterization of traditional Argentinean maize kernel carotenoid profiles.

Flint maize (also known as Plata) is preferred by the dry-milling industry to elaborate food products, such as breakfast cereals, cookies, polenta, and beer. This hard endosperm maize type is produced as a specialty in Argentina, where most maize is yellow soft endosperm dented kernel type. Flint maize preference is related to its hardness, which results in high dry-milling yields, and the natural color that provides to food products. In order to guarantee the physical kernel characteristics of this specialty, SENASA created the Flint Standard, which regulates minimum hardness values.

Carotenoids play a major role in maize kernel color. These compounds have antioxidant properties, and are located mainly within the kernel endosperm. In humans, some carotenoids are precursors of retinol or vitamin A, which is important in multiple biological processes. Because of their antioxidant activity, carotenoids are major contributors to free radicals reduction. This characteristic results in positive effects on consumers’ health as well as chemical and sensory food attributes by preventing lipid oxidation. These pigments occur naturally, and are highly valued by the food industry because they provide a natural coloring source, reducing the need of artificial food colorants.

Commercially available flint hybrids used for human consumption have total carotenoid concentrations up to 45% greater than regular dent maize. Moreover, they have a higher concentration and proportion of β-branch carotenoids (zeaxanthin, β-cryptoxanthin, and β-carotene) compared to dented genotypes. These carotenoid types have higher nutritional value than those from the α-branch (lutein, α-cryptoxanthin, and α-carotene) because two of them are vitamin A precursors.

The nutritional characteristics of flint maize grains were recently described by Ezequiel Saenz, Lucas Borrás, and José A. Gerde from the National University of Rosario and CONICET (Scientific Research Council of Argentina). Results were published in the Journal of Cereal Science. This study is the first carotenoid profile characterization in Argentinean flint maize, and its findings increases the value-added of flint maize that is currently destined for human consumption.

Worldwide, consumers demand natural, non-genetically modified foods with abundant micronutrient content. The antioxidant and vitamin properties of carotenoids naturally present in Argentinean flint maize kernels offer a great opportunity to the dry milling industry to develop more nutritious food products, which will allow them to explore new markets.


flint maize

The original article can be downloaded from the link (until May 5, 2021):