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Are Grits Healthy? Calories and Nutrition Facts
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Are Grits Healthy? Calories and Nutrition Facts

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on November 8, 2022
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7 min

Grits are a warm comfort food from corn widely consumed in the American South. But is corn as reliable a source of fiber as any other whole grain? Are grits healthy or not worth trying? We explain everything below.

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All varieties of whole grains offer many options for use in homemade recipes, and corn is no exception. Whether in the form of grits from white corn or polenta from yellow corn, corn provides a host of health benefits.

Grits are a very versatile food since they can be used in both savory and sweet dishes because the corn used in their preparation has a mild flavor that combines with many ingredients.

In addition, it is very easy to prepare since you just add a little milk to a cup of grits, cook it for a few minutes, and get a mixture similar to a puree that is the base for different combinations – with aromatic spices or just a touch of sweetener as you would do with your oatmeal dish.

But are grits healthy enough for you?

In this article, the Health Reporter team has focused on collecting the most relevant nutritional data on corn grits and see if they’re worth adding to your daily diet.

What Are Grits?

Grits are ground whole grains made from a variety of white corn that has been processed to produce fine flour. It is a product of an old Native American origin since this society used to crush corn kernels by hand on a stone mill.

In order to process the corn into flour, the husk and germ, which are part of the grain, are removed. This flour is mixed with water and cooked to a mashed consistency, which can be sweetened or used to make savory cakes baked with meats or cheese.

There are different types of grits on the market that differ in their fiber, vitamin, and mineral content due to the way the grain is processed. The ones that conserve more fiber and nutrients are the stone-ground corn and the hominy variant.

On the other hand, the quick-cooked or instant versions contain fewer nutrients because they are more processed and pre-cooked. The pre-cooked version is dehydrated and marketed to be cooked in a few minutes for convenience.

Are Grits Healthy?

Yes, eating grits is healthy and suitable for many diets as they are considered low-calorie food.

Grits are mainly a source of carbohydrates, but they also contain protein and a small amount of good fats. In addition, it offers a variety of vitamins and minerals, making it a complete and nutritious dish with many health benefits.

Corn is an important source of soluble and insoluble fiber, so choose minimally processed grits to retain the natural nutrients the whole grain contains.

5 Health Benefits of Grits

Corn is an important source of antioxidants that help fight multiple diseases and prevent premature aging. Thanks to its fiber content, it helps control appetite and is therefore so appreciated as a food that has fed hundreds of generations over the years.

Corn grits are characterized for being a gluten-free sweet grain that can be dried and milled to make grits or polenta. These are some of the benefits:

#1 Control cholesterol levels

Thanks to their unsaturated fatty acid content, grits help raise good cholesterol or HDL and lower bad cholesterol or LDL. Grits are naturally cholesterol-free and are a safe choice for a low-fat diet.

#2 Good for your heart

Corn contains high levels of potassium, which is a mineral that supports the health of the cardiovascular system by controlling blood pressure and preventing harmful cardiac events.

#3 Stimulate the bowels to prevent constipation

Corn kernels, like other grains, contain a large amount of fiber. Fiber, being a residue, stimulates the digestive system to try to remove it from the body and therefore increases intestinal motility, forming ideal feces for release.

#4 Contain slow absorption carbohydrates

This property allows the consumer to obtain greater satiety since the metabolic process of using complex carbohydrates is slower than simple carbohydrates. This favors blood sugar control and weight loss if consumed in moderation and with light ingredients so as not to increase its caloric content.

#5 Easy to cook and quick to digest

Grits are a convenient and complete meal despite being “fast food” because they cook in a short time. In a simple recipe, you get a great nutritional value that gives you the energy and nutrients you need to carry out your daily chores, and, in addition, it avoids stomach heaviness because it is easy to digest.

Grits Nutrition Facts

Nutritional value (per 100g)

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount 
Calories (kcal)343
Sodium (mg)1,120
Net Carbs (g)78.4
Fiber (g)4.2
Sugar (g)1.51
Fats (Total)2.14
Protein (g)7.31
Cholesterol (mg)0

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

Low in calories and fats

Plain grits are low in calories because they contain no extra ingredients that are usually added for flavor and consistency. They are also very low in fat and are free of saturated fat.

Relatively high in proteins

Like other cereals, corn provides a small amount of reduced-quality protein because it does not contain all the amino acids that animal protein contains. However, this is not a limitation for its consumption since it can be combined with other protein-rich foods to achieve a balanced and healthy meal.

High in carbohydrates

Corn is mainly a source of complex carbohydrates. By processing the grits in an artisanal way without removing the fiber, these carbohydrates are easily digested because they are already processed, but they are metabolized slowly, avoiding high glycemia peaks and favoring satiety.

High in vitamins and minerals

Grits contain a large number of B vitamins, which are ideal for supporting the nervous and muscular system, and vitamin A, which promotes visual health. It is also a good source of iron, selenium, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.

Healthy Grits Recipe

Grits cake with cheese

Among a wide variety of recipes that can be made with grits either savory or sweet, we wanted to bring the best of both worlds and create fluffy sweet corn and cheesecake. This is definitely a different, fun, and balanced way to consume corn grits!

Ingredients

  • 250g of old-fashioned grits
  • 100ml of melted cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 2 sachets of granulated stevia
  • 200ml of skim milk
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 150g fresh cheese or paisa cheese

Directions

Mix the grits with the baking powder and cold-pressed coconut oil and stir until well integrated.

Gradually add the liquid ingredients, including the egg, until you obtain a homogeneous mixture similar to the pancake mix. If it is still too thick, add a little more skim milk.

In a hot non-stick pan, add a little coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil and spread it evenly over the entire surface.

Add the mixture until it covers the entire bottom of the pan (do not use a very large pan so that your cake is thick and fluffy; otherwise, you will get a giant, thin pancake).

Add the fresh cheese or paisa cheese cut into small cubes and spread them all over the cake. You can also use mozzarella cheese since it will melt, and together with the sweet mixture, you will have a delicious combination.

Cook covered over low heat for 5 minutes or until the bottom of your cake is golden brown.

Carefully peel off the edges of your cake with a silicone spatula and transfer it to a large flat plate, sliding it slowly to prevent it from breaking.

Place the pan on the plate and quickly flip it over in one motion to return the cake to the pan to cook on the other side. Replace the lid and cook until golden brown and fluffy.

To avoid the cumbersome process of flipping, if you are not very handy with these pirouettes, you can add the mixture to a small square baking pan. Grease the pan, add your grits and cheese mixture, and cook for 20 minutes or until the tip of a knife comes out dry.

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FAQs

What are grits made from?

Grits are made from white or yellow dried corn kernels processed in a mill into flour.

Which is healthier, grits or oatmeal?

Oatmeal has a better nutritional profile as it contains 13.2g of protein and 10g of fiber. However, in a balanced diet, you can eat grits and several types of whole grains to get the benefits of each.

Are grits good or bad?

Plain grits are healthy foods as they contain only ground corn with no added ingredients. It is also important that you choose the stone ground grits and old-fashioned versions as they retain their nutrients.

Are grits good for weight loss?

If consumed in moderation, you can include this whole grain in a weight loss diet by using light products in its preparation, such as skim milk and no added sugar.

Are grits good for diabetes?

Grits are not good for diabetes due to their high carbohydrate content.

Are grits good for cholesterol?

Yes, grits are cholesterol-free food. In addition, being rich in fiber and unsaturated fatty acids, grits favor the reduction of bad cholesterol or LDL.

What is the normal serving size of grits?

The serving size of grits is ¼ cup, which corresponds to approximately 37 grams. This amount provides about 130 calories from the unprepared food; therefore, the calories of the ingredients added to the recipe should be taken into account.

A Word From a Nutritionist

You can eat grits in all kinds of recipes since they are not only a breakfast food, but they can also be combined with animal protein to obtain a better nutritional balance. Even if you follow a low-carb diet, you can include a portion of grits as it provides 30g of carbohydrates.

Because it is part of the gluten-free whole grains group, it is suitable for special diets for patients with celiac disease and gastrointestinal problems.

In addition, grits contain 38.8mg of iron, which makes them an important source of this mineral, helping fight anemia. To improve iron absorption, accompany grits with foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli.

Conclusion

Grits are a food derived from ground-dried corn. These corn kernels have their germ and husk removed and are ground using different methods by which their natural nutrients may or may not be preserved.

When they are further processed to facilitate cooking, vitamins and minerals are commercially added to fortify the cereal. The latter are less healthy as they also lose much of their fiber content.

To take advantage of the benefits of cooked grits, which include cardiovascular health, constipation prevention, and cholesterol reduction, it is preferable to eat stone ground grits that are plain, without additives or flavorings.

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 by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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