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Are Grits Good for Diabetes? Nutrition and Glycemic Index
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Are Grits Good for Diabetes? Nutrition and Glycemic Index

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on 2022 September 20
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4 min

This breakfast dish is prepared with boiled cornmeal that melts in your mouth. It includes a lot of iron, a vital mineral, particularly for menstruating women, but is also processed and high in carbohydrates.

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Grits are a traditional Southern dish with a porridge-like consistency made from cornmeal. Grits can be made simply by adding a glob of butter and a pinch of salt, or they can be transformed into something much more intricate and flavorsome.

To make grits, bring four to five times the amount of water to grits to a boil, add the salt to the water, and then cook the grits for 45 minutes, stirring constantly.

Are Grits Good for Diabetes?

Grits are not good for people with diabetes. Since grits are made with cornmeal, they are high in carbohydrates and can raise your blood sugar. Harvard Health Publishing recommends whole grains over grits.

In comparison to this Southern dish, whole oats, whole wheat, and other unprocessed grains are higher in fiber and have a lower glycemic index.

However, you can still have them as an occasional treat as long as you watch your portions. Try to eat grits that are plain, cooked with water, and have zero sugar. They have just 74 calories in a 100g serving.

Do Grits Affect Blood Sugars?

Grits are high in carbohydrates because they are made from corn. One pack of instant corn grits (29g) has nearly 22.7g of carbs. Carbohydrate-rich foods can cause an immediate spike in blood sugar in people who have diabetes. Consuming it in moderation, on the other hand, does not affect your blood sugar.

Also, plain grits are healthy as they are low in sugar. But, adding extra ingredients will add up to the calories in grits.

Prepare the following ingredients for grits: 1 tablespoon butter, 2 eggs, 1 cup whole milk, and 2 pieces of bacon. Each tablespoon of butter contains about 100 calories. Two eggs will offer 120 calories, as one egg has 60 calories. Compared to two slices of fried bacon, which have 90 calories each, a cup of whole milk has 150 calories.

These additives add up to an additional 460 calories.

The processing methods of grits

The method by which grits are processed also affects your blood sugar levels. Here are the 4 types of grits and their processing methods:

1. Stone-ground: Grits are typically made by pounding whole corn kernels between two stones in a grist mill. Stone-ground grits are coarsely processed and have a deep maize flavor because the whole corn kernel, including the germ, is pulverized.

Stone-ground grits are less processed and, therefore, more perishable.

2. Hominy: Hominy is produced from corn kernels soaked in alkali solutions like lime to soften the stiff outer hulls. The outer hulls are then removed by rinsing the corn kernels.

3. Regular or quick grits: Most quick and regular grits undergo processing to remove the hull and germ, leaving only the inner starch. Despite having a longer shelf life, processing also results in them losing a lot of their nutritional value.

4. Instant: Instant grits are made by just adding hot water, as they have already been processed, boiled in advance, and dried. The majority of the nutrients are lost when the corn kernel’s outer layer and germ are removed.

Stone-ground grits have more fiber than processed varieties and are less likely to produce blood sugar rises than hominy, regular, or instant varieties.

Nutritional Value of Grits

Numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can be found in grits. Grits weighing 100g contain the following nutrients:

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount 
Calories (kcal)343
Sodium (mg)400
Net Carbs (g)78.4
Sugar (g)1.51
Fiber(g)4.2 
Fats (Total)2.14
Protein (g)7.31
Niacin (mg)9
Vitamin B-6 (mg)0.14
Folate (mcg)176

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171656/nutrients

Grits Glycemic Index

A measurement known as the glycemic index (GI) is used to calculate how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. Foods are rated from 0 to 100 and categorized as low, medium, or high glycemic foods. The lower a food’s GI, the less it will affect your blood glucose levels. The three GI ratings are as follows:

  • Low: 55 or less
  • Medium: 56–69
  • High: 70 or above

The glycemic index of grits differs based on the method of processing.

The glycemic index of porridge made from fermented corn grits is 65.49, while the score of porridge made from regular grits is 109.64.

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Healthier Methods to Make Grits

Although grits are frequently served with ingredients high in calories, there are numerous healthier ways to make them. Here are some suggestions for healthier grits:

  • Use less butter and cheese.
  • Swap the butter for extra virgin olive oil.
  • Add more veggies and healthy fats.
  • Replace any sweeteners with fresh fruit.
  • More water or broth should be used instead of milk.

FAQs

Are grits good for type 2 diabetes?

Plain grits are low in sugar, making them the ideal food for those with type 2 diabetes. While white corn grits offer a few more calories per serving, they still contain only 0.2g of sugar.

Given these details, it’s reasonable to conclude that grits are a healthy option if you want to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Just watch out for sugary toppings like chocolate, dried fruit, and other additions.

How many carbohydrates are in a cup of grits?

There are nearly 78.4g of carbohydrates in a 100g serving of instant grits.

Are grits good or bad for diabetes?

As they are high in carbohydrates, you can eat grits in moderation when you have diabetes. However, it is not good for you to eat grits made out of unhealthy ingredients. Try to include stone-ground grits. Even though they take a long time to cook when compared to quick grits, stone-ground grits tend to contain more fiber as they are minimally processed.

A Word From MD

Grits can occasionally be added to a healthy, diabetes-friendly diet comprising healthful foods and restricting sweets and refined carbohydrates.

Instead of full milk or cheese, try cooking grits with just plain water. Even though these two ingredients are nutritious, they will raise the overall calorie total.

Eating stone-ground grits is beneficial as they are minimally processed and have a high amount of fiber.

Grits are inherently gluten-free, making them an excellent carbohydrate alternative for those who avoid this gluten. Grits should be avoided on a ketogenic diet as they are very high in carbs and low in fat, which is the complete opposite of the macronutrients needed for keto.

Conclusion

As long as you monitor your portion sizes, you can add grits occasionally to a balanced diet. Limit your portions and avoid including sugary additions. Eat nothing but the stone-ground varieties.

Hominy grits, instant, and quick grits should be avoided because of the possibility of a blood sugar spike brought on by their lack of fiber. For more flavor, consider adding stevia, cinnamon, raw cocoa, or vanilla extract.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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