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Nixtamalisation: Technique of Maize Fortification

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    Science & Technology
  • Published
    16th Jun, 2022


Recently, a study has thrown light on how Maya people fortified their maize with the chemical process known as ‘nixtamalisation’.

About Nixtamalisation Method

  • Nixtamalisation is a method by which the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica like the Maya used to soak and cook their maize in an alkaline solution and make it more palatable, nutritious and non-toxic.
  • The process ensures that the maize contains amino acids, calcium and Vitamin B2, which can be utilised by the human body.
  • It also eliminates certain mycotoxins present in maize.

Significance of Nixtamalisation technique

  • The researchers noted that the key reason for the spread of maize in the Americas was nixtamalisation.
  • It also eliminates certain mycotoxins (toxins produced by certain moulds (fungi) and can be found in food) present in maize.
  • Without this treatment, maize-dependent populations were at elevated risk of pellagra (Vitamin B2 deficiency), calcium deficiency and mycotoxin poisoning.
  • Moreover, researchers have also found that Nejayote, wastewater from nixtamalisation may have been used to lime the chultunes while they were used as latrines. This was done to control odours and inhibit insect and microorganism growth.

About Maize Crop

  • Maize is the primary crop of the Americas and has been cultivated in the region for millennia.
  • Maize, beans and squash are called the ‘Three Sisters’ and formed the basis of diets throughout pre-Columbian North and Mesoamerica.
  • They built indoor toilets in pits they dug into the limestone bedrock of the Yucatan peninsula in Mesoamerica.

About Maya people

  • The Maya Classic Period (c. 250–900 CE) was the golden age of the Maya Empire in Central or Meso-America.
  • The Maya peoples are an ethnolinguistic group of indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica.
  • The ancient Maya civilization was formed by members of this group, and today's Maya are generally descended from people who lived within that historical civilization.
  • They inhabit southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras.

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