Ingredients

Are Grits Healthy for You?

Reviewed by Madhu Sharma, Registered Dietitian
by
Are Grits Healthy for You? Hyderabd040-395603080 December 4, 2019

Grits are widely popular in the southern part of the United States. They taste like tofu, but more often, they soak up the flavor of the food they are mixed with. They are made of dried and ground corn that is cooked in water or broth and blended until it reaches a thick and creamy consistency.

Grits are replete with various nutrients, making them a popular breakfast option (1). While more research is being done on their impact on human health, here, we have collated a few ways grits may add value to your diet.

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.

1. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

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 a better dietary fiber composition of corn grits. These grits 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

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 degeneration (4).

3. May Help In Treating Anemia

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 fortification (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

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 disease, 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
Thiamin1.271mg
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

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.

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.

Conclusion

Grits are delicious and nutritious and could be your go-to breakfast option. Ensure you do not have them with other high-calorie ingredients, like butter or syrups. Adding them to salads or having them with fresh veggies could be a good option.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ 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 add grits to your weight loss diet.

9 sources

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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Ravi Teja Tadimalla

Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a Senior Content Writer who specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the field for well over 4 years now. His work involves extensive research on how one can maintain better health through natural foods and organic supplements. Ravi has written over 250 articles and is also a published author. Reading and theater are his other interests.