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What Are Grits And Are They Healthy For You?

7 mins read
Viktoriia Volyk
Written by Viktoriia Volyk on September 30, 2022
Ievgeniia Dobrynina
Fact checked by Ievgeniia Dobrynina
Ievgeniia Dobrynina

Fact checked by Ievgeniia Dobrynina

Ievgeniia Dobrynina is the Head of Nutrition and a fact checker at Unimeal.

The Unimeal team works to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information. All texts are reviewed by a panel of experts and editors and updated according to the latest research. Only evidenced-based and verified sources of leading medical publications and universities get into the article materials.
Dr. Olena Avdiievska, MD, RDN
Medically reviewed by Dr. Olena Avdiievska, MD, RDN
Dr. Olena Avdiievska, MD, RDN

Medically reviewed by Dr. Olena Avdiievska, MD, RDN

Dr. Olena Avdiievska is a nutritional and medical expert at Unimeal. She is an MD and RDN in Dietology and nutrition and a university professor with 76 scientific publications. 

Unimeal provides articles with trustworthy and experts-proved information. Our health content is reviewed by professional nutritionists and trainers to extract for users the most verified and medically checked data.

If you usually eat oatmeal for breakfast, maybe it's time to bring diversity and try grits. They are helpful for the stomach, positively impact eye health, burn fat, and are delicious.

Table of content

What are grits?

grits with milk or water
grits with milk or water

Grits are porridge made from cornmeal. As oatmeal, cornmeal is also boiled with milk or water; it depends on the taste preferences. While cooking, it is very important not to overdo liquids; grits taste better when they are thick and creamy.

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Variations

Common grits
Common grits

Generally, the variations of grits depend on grain milling: fine, medium, and coarse. Here is the list of the most common grits:

  • Instant (quaker instant grits)

Instant grits can be quickly cooked at home or work in a couple of minutes by pouring boiling water. This type of grits is the least helpful; during production, the outer layer and germ of the kernel are removed, and all the valuable properties of the product are gone.

  • Stone-Ground

Stone-ground grits are finely crushed grain, white or yellow in color. They are the least processed form of grain, have a more rough texture and richer corn taste. Stone-ground grits contain more fiber and are rich in vitamin B.

  • Hominy

Hominy grits are very popular in Mexican food culture. It is made from field corn, also called maize. Corn grains are soaked in an alkaline solution; therefore, grains swell and take the form of big corn kernels.

  • Yellow grits

Yes, no wonder they are called so because of color. Yellow grits are saturated yellow and have a rich taste of corn. Compared with white grits with a removed hull, yellow corn uses the whole kernel of corn.

Are grits gluten-free

gluten-free
gluten-free

It depends on the grits and their manufacturer. Naturally, grits are gluten-free products. However, some companies produce grits with other grains; therefore, this component gets into the package.

For the overwhelming number of people, gluten is entirely harmless, but if you have a gluten intolerance, always check the label and consider the packaging when you purchase grits.

Are grits good for you?

grits for health
grits for health

Grits are very useful for the stomach: they eliminate toxins and positively impact the whole gastrointestinal tract. They are also a good source of iron: according to the National Institutes of Health, a cup of grits contains more iron than a man needs for the entire day and just 0.1 milligrams short of what a menstruating woman needs.

Here are the nutrients for grits cooked on the water (per 100 g):

  • Energy: 65 kcal

  • Protein: 1.38 g

  • Fat: 0.4 g

  • Carbohydrates: 14.8 g

  • Fiber: 0.8 g

  • Sugars: 0.29 g

Grits health benefits and hazards

grits benefits
grits benefits

Grits contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which boost your health differently. Firstly, grits are a source of important eye health antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin. According to research, both protect against eye disorders like cataracts.

Antioxidants in the composition of grits improve blood circulation and mitigate cellular damage from free radicals. Simply put - the consumption of grits reduces the risk of heart diseases and even can protect your body against cancer.

Insufficient oxygen saturation of the blood can make you tired and trigger diseases like anemia. In this case, grits help fight this problem. Cornmeal is a source of iron that helps your body produce hemoglobin, allowing red blood cells to carry oxygen.

not for people with diabets
not for people with diabets

As mentioned above, grits are a source of iron but contain many carbs. There is no problem if your body absorbs glucose correctly, but for people with ínsuline sensitivity, it is better not to intake this product. A 2016 study found that different types of corn flour and grits affect blood sugar differently. The researchers noted that porridge prepared from fermented maize grits had a lower glycemic index (65.4) compared to whole corn flour and grits (94 to 109).

Not all types of grits are good for your body. Due to the method of processing, regular or instant grits are not useful for your health because they don't include all the nutrients like stone-ground grits. So when buying grits at the store or market, choose a package with whole grains.

Best ways to cook healthy grits

how to cook grits
how to cook grits

Avoid toppings to make your porridge healthier. Flavorings significantly increase the amount of fat and calories, whereby you consume extra calories. To keep grits healthy, use low-fat milk or better cook on water. Serve grits with fruit or honey instead of sugar. Instead of meat, combine grits with vegetables. You can also sprinkle the porridge with a pinch of cinnamon or other spices to add flavor and keep it nutritious.

Try to cook this easy and delicious cheese grits recipe with only four simple ingredients.

How healthy are grits compared to oatmeal

grits vs oatmeal
grits vs oatmeal

Grits and oatmeal are both beneficial for your health, are equal in price, and have many similarities in composition. What is better to eat depends on your purpose. If you want to lose weight, grits give you a full feeling, but at the same time, they have fewer calories and three times less fat than oatmeal. Usually, grits are not prepared with sugar, while oatmeal is often served with unhealthy sweeteners. Oatmeal, in its turn, lowers your appetite and increases fat burning because it is higher in fiber and protein than grits.

Another major benefit is folic acid. It helps prevent major congenital disabilities of the baby's brain and spine. For pregnant women, it is better to eat grits; they contain five times more folic acid than oatmeal. 

Are they healthy for weight loss

for weight loss
for weight loss

Grits are low in fat and calories. They are often used as a garnish or they can easily replace the main course. So if you want to lose some kilos, eating grits contributes to satiety without significantly increasing calorie intake. But be careful with toppings and flavorings. In the different recipes you can find advice on how to make grits more delicious by adding sugar, honey, butter, jam etc. Always remember these supplements increase calories and promote weight gain.

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Unimeal does not diagnose or suggest treatments. Any description of the diet, training plan or supplement should be discussed with your current physician or nutritionist. This article does not address specific conditions and is simply meant to provide general information on healthcare topics. Following any advice is at your own initiative and does not impose any responsibility on the blog authors for your health and safety.

Sources:

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Buscemi S, Corleo D, Di Pace F, Petroni ML, Satriano A, Marchesini G. 18 September 2018. The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health. Nutrients. DOI:10.3390/nu10091321.
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Coates TD. July 2014. Physiology and pathophysiology of iron in hemoglobin-associated diseases. Free Radic Biol Med. DOI:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2014.03.039
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Mlotha V, Mwangwela AM, Kasapila W, Siyame EW, Masamba K. 7 October 2015. Glycemic responses to maize flour stiff porridges prepared using local recipes in Malawi. Food Sci Nutr. DOI:10.1002/fsn3.293.
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Devika J. Suri,Sherry A. Tanumihardjo. 28 June 2016. Effects of Different Processing Methods on the Micronutrient and Phytochemical Contents of Maize: From A to Z. Journal of Food Science. DOI:10.1111/1541-4337.12216