Grits: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, and How to Prepare Them

Grits are a porridge made from ground corn. They are popular in the American South where they are often served at breakfast in either savory or sweet preparations. They are typically boiled with water, broth, or milk until they reach a creamy consistency. They can be either white or yellow in color.

Grits, like all whole grains, have kernels with three main components: the hull, the germ, and the inner starch. There are several types of grits available for purchase, each of which treats the whole kernel a little differently:

Stone-Ground Grits

Sometimes known as old fashioned grits, these grits are the most nutrient-dense and high in fiber. They qualify as whole grains because the entire kernel is ground without further processing, leaving the germ and hull as part of the final meal. They cook the slowest and spoil the quickest.

Quick or Regular Grits

Both quick and regular are processed to remove both the hull and the germ, leaving behind only the inner starch. Without the oily germ, this refined-grain product can last much longer on shelves. Because they lose much of their nutritional value, these grits are then sometimes fortified or enriched with vitamins and minerals.

Quick grits are ground fine, making them much quicker to cook than the medium-ground regular grits.

Instant Grits

Instant grits are quick grits that have then been cooked and dehydrated. As a result, they can be reconstituted quickly and cook in a couple of minutes.

Hominy Grits

Hominy grits leave the germ intact but use an alkaline solution (for example, a mixture of baking soda and water) in order to remove the hull. As a result, they retain most of grits’ nutritional value, the nutrients found in the germ, but lose the fiber provided by the hull.

Grits are naturally gluten-free, making them a good choice for people who have gluten intolerances or celiac disease

Health Benefits

Grits have vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can provide health benefits, including:

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease , Type II Diabetes , and Some Cancers

As a whole grain, grits provide several antioxidants that help mitigate cellular damage from free radicals, unstable atoms in the body.

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Eye Health

Two of the antioxidants found in grits, lutein and zeaxanthin, are known to contribute to better vision and eye health, protecting against age-related eye diseases. However, be aware that lutein easily dissolves and is lost in heating oil. Frying grits will reduce their lutein content.

Reduced Risk of Anemia

Grits are loaded with iron, which helps guard against the development of iron deficiency anemia, which is more common in older people. They also have a large amount of folate, the lack of which can produce vitamin deficiency anemia.

Nutrition

One serving of stone ground grits provides 10% of the recommended daily intake of iron. They are also an excellent source of multiple B-complex vitamins, including:

Nutrients per Serving 

A ¼ cup serving of dry grits (about a cup when cooked) contains:

Things to Watch Out For

In order to get the whole-grain benefits that grits can provide, choose stone-ground, old-fashioned grits. You should also be aware that different processing methods can increase or decrease the availability of certain nutrients.

Grits are often served in high-fat or high-sugar preparations or with other unhealthy foods. If including grits in your diet, make sure to keep meals balanced and healthy.

How to Prepare Grits

The time of preparation will vary depending on the type of grits you’re cooking, but in general, grits are boiled with water, milk, or stock until creamy. In order to keep grits healthy, try one of these tricks:

  • Serve with fruit instead of sugar.
  • Try adding roasted vegetables rather than unhealthy breakfast meats.
  • Instead of loading up with butter and cheese, add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.
  • Use low fat milk or water.

You can also search out healthy recipes for grits on the internet. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 07, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Archives of Internal Medicine: “Vitamin B12 and folate and the risk of anemia in old age: the Leiden 85-Plus Study.”

Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: “Effects of Different Processing Methods on the Micronutrient and Phytochemical Contents of Maize: From A to Z.”

Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: “Health Benefits of Whole Grain Phytochemicals.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Grits, hominy, old fashioned, Quaker.”

Journal of Food Science and Technology: “Compositional variability of nutrients and phytochemicals in corn after processing.”

World Health Organization: “WHO Guideline: Fortification of Maize Flour and Corn Meal with Vitamins and Minerals.”

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