Are Grits Healthy for You?

Clear your doubts about whether this fiber-rich food can alleviate your ailments.

Medically reviewed by Madhu Sharma, RD Madhu Sharma Madhu SharmaRD
Written by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health linkedin_icon Experience: 8 years
Edited by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , BEd, MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition Aparna Mallampalli BEd, MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition linkedin_icon Experience: 5 years
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Are grits good for you? Yes, the various benefits of grits are related to their high nutritional content. The southern United States has a large market for grits. Although they taste like tofu, they usually absorb flavors from the paired food. The thick and creamy texture is achieved by cooking the ground dried corn in broth or water.

This quick breakfast and comfort food is packed with essential nutrients, thus becoming a favorite for everyone, especially vegetarians (1). According to anecdotal evidence, the benefits of eating grits for breakfast are numerous. However, experts are still studying grits to learn more about their health benefits. Here, we have compiled a few ways grits may enrich your diet. This article discusses the importance of grits, their benefits, nutritional profile, and possible side effects. Take a look.

protip_icon Know Your Ingredient: Grits

What Is It?
A kind of porridge made of ground corn.

What Are Its Benefits?
May help manage diabetes and prevent macular degeneration and prevent anemia.

Who Can Use It?May Aid Diabetes Treatment”
Can be consumed by everyone including women during pregnancy.

How Often?
Can be consumed in moderation daily.

Caution
Excess consumption may cause stomach upset.

protip_icon Trivia
The area stretching from Texas to Virginia is called the “Grits Belt”, which accounts to over 75% of the total grit sales in the U.S..

What Are The Health Benefits Of Grits?

Grits are good sources of fiber, making them a good option to include in a diabetes diet. Their zeaxanthin content may help promote eye health. The lack of gluten in grits means they could be consumed by those who are sensitive to gluten.

protip_icon Trivia
The area stretching from Texas to Virginia is called the “Grits Belt”, which accounts to over 75% of the total grit sales in the U.S..

1. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

Grits may aid diabetes treatment as it has a low glycemic response
Image: Shutterstock

Studies show that pure, high-quality corn grits have a lower glycemic response compared to milled rice or other varieties. This could be partly related to the fiber composition of cornmeal grits, which helps with diabetes management and may be more beneficial for those with diabetes (2).

However, grits could be higher in carbs. Also, grits made from non-fermented corn flour may have a low glycemic index of 90 (3). Hence, it is important to pick the right variety. Try using stone-ground grits and try cooking them with water or broth as they are healthier options.

2. May Help Boost Vision Health

Grits may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration
Image: Shutterstock

Corn is one of the few food sources rich in dietary zeaxanthin, as per a report. Zeaxanthin is a major carotenoid that is thought to protect against the development of age-related macular degenerationi  An eye condition involving reduced clarity of central vision due to age-related macular depletion. (4).

3. May Help In Treating Anemia

Grits may help in treating anemia due to its iron content
Image: Shutterstock

Grits are a good source of iron (1). The most common form of anemia is one that is caused by iron deficiency (5). Although there is no direct research correlating grits and anemia, consuming grits may help in mitigating iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency can be prevented through food diversification, supplementation, and fortificationi  The process of increasing a food’s nutrient content through the addition of micronutrients to prevent deficiency-related diseases. (6). Corn grits can also be fortified with iron for better nutrition. In a rat study, the addition of 2 grams of ferric citrate to corn grits increased their content by an additional 3.1 milligrams of iron per gram of diet (7).

4. Are Gluten-Free

Grits are gluten-free
Image: Shutterstock

One major advantage of grits is that they are gluten-free. Grits belong to the same family as wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. But if you are gluten intolerant or have celiac diseasei  An auto-immune condition causing inflammation in the small intestine upon consumption of foods containing gluten. , you can include corn grits in your diet (8).

These are a few major benefits of corn grits. As more research unfolds, we will have more information on how this food can help better your health.

We saw a couple of important nutrients in grits. But there is a whole range of other nutrients that you may want to look at.

What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Grits?

NameAmountUnit
Water10.92g
Energy370kcal
Energy1549kJ
Protein7.65g
Total lipid (fat)1.75g
Ash0.6g
Carbohydrate, by difference79.09g
Fiber, total dietary4.6g
Sugars, total including NLEA0.57g
Sucrose0.57g
Starch68.23g
Calcium, Ca4mg
Iron, Fe3.05mg
Magnesium, Mg36mg
Phosphorus, P111mg
Potassium, K141mg
Sodium, Na1mg
Zinc, Zn0.72mg
Copper, Cu0.03mg
Manganese, Mn0.145mg
Selenium, Se17µg
Thiamine1.271mg
Riboflavin0.339mg
Niacin4.465mg
Pantothenic acid0.253mg
Vitamin B-60.233mg
Folate, total171µg
Folic acid132µg
Folate, food39µg
Folate, DFE263µg
Choline, total14.4mg
Betaine1.1mg
Carotene, beta1µg
Cryptoxanthin, beta1µg
Vitamin A, IU3IU
Lutein + zeaxanthin5µg
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)0.21mg
Tocopherol, beta0.01mg
Tocopherol, gamma0.7mg
Tocopherol, delta0.04mg
Tocotrienol, alpha0.35mg
Tocotrienol, gamma0.97mg
Fatty acids, total saturated0.34g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated0.315g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated0.875g
Tryptophan0.057g
Threonine0.277g
Isoleucine0.288g
Leucine1.154g
Lysine0.156g
Methionine0.182g
Cystine0.172g
Phenylalanine0.444g
Tyrosine0.175g
Valine0.383g
Arginine0.282g
Histidine0.234g
Alanine0.67g
Aspartic acid0.508g
Glutamic acid1.716g
Glycine0.26g
Proline0.883g
Serine0.375g

Source: USDA, Cereals, corn grits, white, regular and quick, enriched, dry

Looking at this nutritional profile, it is no wonder that grits would make for a healthy breakfast or dinner. But how do you make them?

How To Prepare Grits At Home

A delicious bowl of grits made with milk and butter
Image: Shutterstock

Preparing grits at home is simple.

What You Need

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 ¼ cups of milk
  • ½ cup of butter
  • 1 cup of quick-cooking grits

Directions

  1. In a small pot, bring the water, salt, and milk to a boil. Stir them to a boiling mixture, continuously, until they are well mixed.
  2. As the mixture comes to a boil, cover it with a lid and lower the temperature. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in half of the butter. Once the grits achieve a smooth consistency, you know they are done. You can serve with the remaining butter.

You can have grits as they are or try out different variations. You may mix a mashed banana into your grits and top it all with chopped walnuts. Or you may add a handful of blueberries and chopped almonds to your grits.

You can also purchase grits, either at your nearest supermarket or online. It is budget-friendly, easy-to-prepare, and versatile.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Grits are the official state-prepared food of Georgia, the state meal of Oklahoma, and the state food of South Carolina.

Though grits are healthy and preparing them is simple, there is something else about them you need to keep in mind.

Do Grits Have Any Side Effects?

Grits do not have any serious side effects. But they have certain disadvantages.

They are made by a process that removes the outer skin (called pericarp) and the embryo (the germ), leaving behind the endosperm, which is the starchy component (9).

The outer skin and the embryo are loaded with nutrients. The outer skin is also a good source of fiber.

Also, since grits are served along with ingredients like milk, butter, and syrups, which are high in calories, excess intake can lead to obesity in the long run.

Using more vegetables, fruits, and extra virgin olive oil, and less cheese or butter can be a healthier way of eating grits.

Infographic: Top 3 Health Benefits Of Grits

To recap, grits are a breakfast superfood, popular especially in the south of the United States. This dried and powdered corn is a mild, neutral tasting food item that is like a blank canvas, absorbing the flavors of all that it is paired with. Moreover, it is a nutritional food option that is incredibly beneficial for your health. Check out the infographic below for a brief rundown of its top three health benefits.

top 3 health benefits of grits (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Grits are fiber-rich foods made from dried, ground corn in various liquids that promote satiety, thus ensuring you stay full for a long time. They have a rich nutritional profile that helps treat many ailments. The intake of vegan and gluten-free delicious food sources like grits benefits your health in several ways. For example, they may aid in diabetes treatment, and their zeaxanthin content may help improve vision health and protect against age-related macular degeneration. Anecdotal evidence also suggests its positive impact on skin health, heart health, bone health, immune system, and brain function due to its thiamine and vitamin B content. Grits may also treat anemia, and they are an excellent food option for people with celiac disease. However, excess consumption of grits may lead to obesity in the long run due to their high calorific value. Hence, practice moderation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are grits different from polenta?

While grits belong to South American cuisine, polenta belongs to Italy. Grits are made of white corn, and polenta is made from yellow corn. Both are made from ground corn, though. Also, both are often used interchangeably and are similarly nutritious.

Are grits better with milk or water?

Grits absorb both milk and water the same. You can have them along with a half-milk-half-water combination. That way, you can cut down the calories and enjoy the nutritional goodness of milk too.

Should you rinse grits?

It does not make a lot of difference, even if you do. If you are rinsing, you can gently clean them 4 to 7 times.

Are grits bad for a low-carb diet?

Grits may not be a great option for a low-carb diet as they are comparatively high in carbs. A cup of grits (156 grams) contains about 123 grams of carbs (1).

Are grits better than oatmeal?

Both are nutritious and offer unique nutritional profiles. Oatmeal is comparatively richer in antioxidants, but instant oatmeal can come with sugar that adds unnecessary calories. Grits, however, are not made with added sugar (in most cases).
You can have each, every alternate day. Be wary of the sugar in the oatmeal. As grits are not as high in antioxidants as oatmeal, you can have them with fresh veggies.

Can grits help with weight loss?

There is no research on this. Also, grits are comparatively higher in calories and are usually taken with ingredients that could also be calorie-dense. Hence, we do not recommend you to add grits to your diet for weight management.

Are grits an anti-inflammatory?

There is a lack of scientific evidence suggesting that grits have anti-inflammatory properties.

Are grits good for cholesterol?

There is a lack of scientific evidence suggesting that grits have an effect on cholesterol levels or may assist in cholesterol-lowering.

Are grits hard to digest?

Possibly not. In fact, some believe that grits cooked in water are easier to consume, assist digestive health, and can be easily digested by those with an upset stomach.

Which are better: yellow or white grits?

Both seem to be equally good. The color difference between these grit variants has to do with the type of corn that was milled. Yellow grits have a pronounced corn flavor and are slightly sweeter than their whiter counterparts. There is a negligible difference in their nutritional values.

Key Takeaways

  • Grits produced from non-fermented corn flour induce a lower glycemic response which might be beneficial for people with diabetes.
  • Fortifying grits with iron may help tackle anemia caused due to a lack of iron in the diet.
  • Grits lack gluten protein, making them a desirable, nutritious carbohydrate option for those with celiac disease.
  • Grits are high in zeaxanthin content which can aid in improved vision and help avoid age-related macular degeneration
grits benefits

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Cereals, corn grits, white, regular and quick, enriched, dry, US Department of Agriculture.
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171654/nutrients
  2. Glycaemic Response to Quality Protein Maize Grits, Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2938446/
  3. Glycemic responses to maize flour stiff porridges prepared using local recipes in Malawi, Food Science and Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4779488/
  4. Xanthophyll (lutein, zeaxanthin) content in fruits, vegetables and corn and egg products, Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, ScienceDirect.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157508001336?via%3Dihub
  5. Iron-Deficiency Anemia, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
    https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/anemia/iron-deficiency-anemia
  6. Review on iron and its importance for human health, Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3999603/
  7. THE INFLUENCE OF DIET ON IRON ABSORPTION, Journal of Experimental Medicine.
    http://jem.rupress.org/content/jem/90/2/137.full.pdf
  8. Gluten-Free Diet, Celiac Disease, Center at Columbia University Medical Center.
    https://celiacdiseasecenter.columbia.edu/treatment/diet/
  9. Effects of Different Processing Methods on the Micronutrient and Phytochemical Contents of Maize: From A to Z, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, Wiley Online Library.
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12216
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Madhu Sharma is a member of the National Executive Committee of IDA. She has been associated for almost three decades with Pediatric Nutrition at PGI while serving in the Gastroenterology Department (20 years) and then the Advanced Pediatric Center (10 yrs) at PGIMER, Chandigarh.

Read full bio of Madhu Sharma
Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Ravi Teja TadimallaSenior Editor
Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a senior editor and a published author. He has been in the digital media field for over eight years. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University.

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Arshiya Syeda
Arshiya SyedaSenior Editor
Arshiya Syeda is a senior editor at StyleCraze with 7 years of experience. Prior to that, she was a content writer and combined her writing and research skills to write over 200 high-performing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and skin care.

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Aparna Mallampalli
Aparna MallampalliHealth & Wellness Writer
Aparna is a professor-turned-content writer with over 5 years of experience in life sciences. Her passion for writing and interest in the healthcare and wellness industry pushed her toward a career in content writing. She has a master’s degree in microbiology from Osmania University, Hyderabad, and a diploma in nutrition from Fab Academy.

Read full bio of Aparna Mallampalli